Having just broken into the mainstream in the U.S. with films like Philadelphia, Interview With The Vampire, and Desperado, Antonio Banderas had still not reached the big time. What hung around in his head, which he explained in an interview with Yahoo!, was something that was told to him in his first American film back in 1992, The Mambo Kings.
“Get ready to be the villain. Villains are always played by Spanish guys or black people.”
This statement would hang in Banderas’ mind through these next few films. While Desperado made him the protagonist hero, he was still battling bad guys of Mexican heritage. It wouldn’t be until 1998 when Banderas would attempt to prove that statement wrong and accept the role that would make him a star. He accepted the lead role in a film produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Martin Campbell, who had just made a name for himself in directing Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond in Goldeneye.
The movie was The Mask Of Zorro.
In what could be called the Batman Beyond of the Zorro mythology, Banderas would inhabit one of the most famous characters of the early pulp fiction years of literature. This tale would be one of the original Zorro, Don Diego De La Vega (Anthony Hopkins), passing the mask of Zorro on to this young man from Mexico, Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas), who is seeking revenge against the evil American Captain that murdered his brother. The film not only was a success, but presented the American audience with a literary Spanish hero in a manner that pleased and entertained the viewing public. Moreover, Banderas was able to rip apart that statement he was told back on the set of The Mambo Kings. Banderas explained that moment to Yahoo!:
“I was with my cape and my mask and I was looking at the bad guy, Capt. Love. He was blond and had blue eyes and spoke perfect English. I thought, ‘Hmm something is changing here!’”
If you have never seen The Mask Of Zorro, do yourself a favor and add it to your queue. It’s an adventurous period piece featuring the character who would be the inspiration for a certain Caped Crusader. The story of an aging hero passing the torch to an unlikely pupil. A story in the heart of pre-statehood California, where a masked vigilante protects his people by bravely fighting against the oppressive forces that wish to exploit them.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the film. In honor of it, go find this movie wherever possible: DVD, BluRay, Digital, OnDemand. The Fox in the night deserves your attention. Because…
“You know Zorro. He could be anywhere.”
Happy 20th anniversary to The Mask Of Zorro.
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