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Weta to put mark on Zorro

17 December 2004
By SOPHIE NEVILLE

Wellington's Weta Workshop has landed a top project on big-budget Hollywood movie The Legend of Zorro, but the film's leading stars are staying home.

The Miramar special effects studio, responsible for special effects in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, will start work on The Legend, the sequel to The Mask of Zorro, next month.

Four-time Oscar winner Richard Taylor will guide the work on the multimillion-dollar film, which already has a Kiwi connection. Director Martin Campbell and producer Lloyd Phillips both come from New Zealand. Steven Spielberg is the executive producer.

"We will be making the final elements of the film, like action sequence and scenic shots. It's very exciting work," Taylor said yesterday.

A team of 12 Weta technicians have spent the past seven months creating miniature sets where most of the filming would be done, and the project had been a closely guarded secret.

The movie will open worldwide in September 2005. It reunites Mask stars Antonio Banderas as the swashbuckling Alejandro "Zorro" Murrieta and Catherine Zeta-Jones as his wife, Elena.

Anthony Hopkins, in New Zealand filming The World's Fastest Indian, reprises his role as Don Diego, and Rufus Sewell, on New Zealand television recently as the womanising Charles II, is expected to excel as the sleazy French aristocrat, Count Armand.

Banderas originally turned the project down, despite reports he would be getting close to US$25 million (NZ$34.8 million).

Understood to have an $US80 million budget, The Legend is expected to pull more than US$200 million at the global box office.

Taylor said yesterday he was delighted to be approached by Columbia Pictures to work on Zorro. It was "hugely gratifying" that big international film companies trusted Weta with their projects.

"It's really lovely for us to be getting work from outside New Zealand. It's terrific that they have the confidence in the New Zealand effects fraternity."

Though it would have been nice to meet Banderas and Zeta-Jones, most of the movie had already been filmed in Mexico, he said.

"The best thing is Martin and Lloyd are coming out to be with us."

Filming would start in January and was expected to take three weeks.




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