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Zeta-Jones rejoins Banderas for ''The Legend of Zorro''

The Virginian-Pilot
© October 28, 2005

JUST TO PROVE that you can't keep a masked man down, Zorro returns to the screen today with a big-budgeted sequel, "The Legend of Zorro." It stars the winning duo of the 1998 hit “The Mask of Zorro” – Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. An icon to four generations of fans, Zorro is one of the most durable fictional characters of 20th century literature, dating from 1919 when he first appeared in a serialized novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” by Johnson McCulley. By day he remains Alejandro de la Vega, a foppish nobleman of 19th century California, but by night? That’s another thing. Even with no special powers, he’s a crime fighter to rank right up there with Indiana Jones, Batman and Rudy Giuliani. Always for the common man, he needs only a fast horse, a cape and a sword.

But is the fox still so cunning and free? The new movie has the masked avenger married and with a 10-year-old son. Could wedding bells cramp his style? Will the fans rebel? There is no blood, perhaps to ensure a PG rating rather than the PG-13 of the 1998 edition. This is obviously designed as a family-style Zorro.

Since her breakthrough role in the previous Zorro movie, Zeta-Jones, Mrs. Zorro as well as Mrs. Michael Douglas in Hollywood royalty, has won an Academy Award for "Chicago” and become a major star.

She was determined that there would be more action for her in this new Zorro film, and, now, she has the clout to get what she wants.

“I wasn’t going to be a damsel in distress. “Yes, I wear one of those corsets, the whalebone and the works, but it amazes me the way those women dressed back then. Three petticoats on top of everything else! And on top of it all, I’m fighting with a sword? Would you like to try it? Finally, I picked up the petticoats and carried them in one hand while I handled the sword with the other. The director (Martin Campbell) kept saying, 'Catherine, you’ve got to look like a woman. Put the petticoats down.’ I was more interested in the fight.

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“The first Zorro movie was really a special moment in my life. It was in that movie that the public first noticed me and, more importantly, Michael saw me. And here I am, two kids later. He followed me around the world. He seduced me. He married me.” Douglas, winner of his own Academy Award for “Wall Street,” is the son of screen legend Kirk Douglas (“Spartacus,” “Gunfight at the OK Corral’’). Zeta-Jones is 33. Her husband is 61.

“I think the difference in our ages helps the marriage,” she said. “We have different interests, which is good. Of course, we have similar interests, too.” Doesn’t her husband resent that she runs off much of the time to make love to other men – such as Antonio Banderas – onscreen?

“He has his films. Have you seen 'Fatal Attraction?’ I’m just carrying on the family tradition.” She says she’s “overly protective” of her children, Dylan Michael, 5, and Carys Zeta, 2. “I go into a panic if they fall or get a cut or bruise, or anything. I’m told I have to loosen up, particularly when they start playing rough. I don’t know if I can.” She was born in Wales, where her father managed a candy factory.

“I have a laugh about the fact that everyone thinks I’m Spanish since 'Zorro.’ When Anthony Hopkins and I were working in the first 'Zorro’ film, I asked him, 'What’s two Welsh people doing in Mexico playing Spanish roles?’ Then, people would recognize him, and I’d be standing right by him. No one knew me. In the second film, the paparazzi were around. I couldn’t go to the cantinas anymore.” Director Campbell, who will next direct the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, in “Casino Royale,’’ said the success of 1998’s “The Mask of Zorro” took the studio by surprise. It eventually grossed more than $200 million worldwide. Its continued big sales in home rentals prompted the studio to think of a sequel. “It was four years before we even considered a sequel,” Campbell said, “but it was clear that we had to have both the stars if we were going forward. What the public liked about the first film was the chemistry between Antonio and Catherine. If the studio had any idea that it might become a franchise, perhaps they wouldn’t have married them off at the end of the first film. It presented problems. It took three years to get the right script.” The new film has Zorro battling to urge California to accept statehood – even though international forces are against it. Zeta-Jones, returning as Elena de la Vega, is blackmailed into going undercover as a U.S. spy. She, in fact, divorces Alejandro de la Vega because he insists on continuing his nighttime activities as Zorro rather than becoming a family man. They end up, of course, fighting side by side.

Banderas candidly admits there’s a difference between the swashbuckling of Zorro now and seven years ago. “I’m 45 now, and, yes, you do hesitate a little before jumping off moving trains and things like that.” His director said he’s being modest. “None of the stunt men could match him,” Campbell said. “He’s careful. He’s not foolish, but he’ll go for it every time. The most dangerous thing he did was run atop the moving train for the final scene.” Banderas said the secret to his performance in “The Legend of Zorro” is nine trained horses that, indeed, largely steal the show as his trusty steed. In a recent national Western trivia contest, the most frequently missed question involved the name of Zorro’s horse. They know Trigger and Champion but, often, made the mistake of identifying Zorro’s horse as Diablo. Wrong.

The correct name of Zorro’s stead is … Tornado.

Reach Mal Vincent at (757) 446-2347 or mal.vincent@pilotonline. com.

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