20th Century Fox has been struggling for some time to find a director for its upcoming film Zorro Reborn.
The movie has been in development – script ready – for a few years already. Typically, casting the lead is the first job for a director on an original film (one that wasn’t pre-cast due to being a part of a franchise), but the studio has already signed Mexican actor Gael García Bernal to fill the role of the masked revolutionary.
Although Bernal isn’t very well known to American audiences, he does boast an extensive résumé of Spanish-language films and television shows.
Zorro Reborn is a new take on the Zorro tale, rather than just a retelling, as the two recent Antonio Banderas films were. Rather, this tale takes the audience to a dystopian future, where a masked man steps up to fight injustice and wreak vengeance for wrongs against his family and people.
The original Zorro was a pulp novel character created by Johnston McCulley around the same time that characters like Tarzan, Allan Quartermain, and Lone Ranger were getting their mass market pulps. The character was dressed all in black with a cape, cowboy hat, and black veil – the domino and goucho hat came later. He used whip and rapier to defeat and humiliate the government officials who were oppressing the populace during the Spanish colonial period of California.
Originally only a single novel, The Curse of Capistrano, published in a five-part serial, the first film adaptation, The Mark of Zorro – staring Douglas Fairbanks as a not-very Mexican looking swashbuckler – created a demand for more stories in this often overlooked setting. Zorro has been a staple of Hollywood ever since, with 11 more Zorro films having been made since that first one in 1920, as well as several television series. In addition, his ‘cape, mask, and secret identity’ motif is often credited for being the inspiration for early super hero comics’ character design.
20th Century Fox is not the only studio working on a new Zorro film. As these things often go, Sony Pictures is also developing a film working under the title of Zorro, which is based on the book of the same name by Isabel Allende. That story goes in the other direction, however, being a prequel to the original Zorro tales.
No production or release dates have yet been announced for Zorro or Zorro Reborn.