Steven Spielberg Had To Talk Martin Campbell Into Making 'The Mask Of Zorro'

The Mask of Zorro is pure swashbuckling fun. It's a movie fully packed with energy, from Antonio Banderas' exuberant performance as the title hero to the thrilling and practical set pieces. Director Martin Campbell's film is endlessly entertaining. It's also a film not too many people were originally keen on producing, including the director and studio behind it.

During a career-spanning new interview, Campbell told us all about it, and why he was reluctant to take it on.

Wooed by Spielberg

Before Campbell was offered The Mask of Zorro, he coming off directing Goldeneye. He wasn't interested in the Zorro picture, mostly because of the script, which written by the writing duo behind Pirates of the Caribbean, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Campbell told /Film:

"With Zorro, the script wasn't good. Robert Rodriguez, I replaced him, because I don't think [producer] Steven Spielberg and he got on that well. I'm not sure what the background of it was. I came in and thought the script was just not good enough. I said no. They asked me a second time. I said no."

The third time was the charm, thanks to Spielberg. "The third time I said no," Campbell continued. "I went back to the office and my phone rang. It was Spielberg, who blew smoke up my ass. At that time, and I still am, very impressed with Steven. So, I opted to do it, and very reluctantly. It turned out okay."

All That Nonsense

Okay is an understatement. The Mask of Zorro is grand spectacle even when there's no action on the screen. Despite Campbell's initial resistance, the director had fun once cameras started rolling:

"The great thing about Zorro is, it's the classic story of the peasant and aristocrat coming together and all the shenanigans that go on when that happens. Zorro is one of the first superheroes if you will. He doesn't have superpowers, but his power lies in his commitment to the people. It's fun to do. It was a tough film to do with time and budget, but it was fun shooting it in Mexico with sword fighting, horse riding, and all the nonsense you do in those movies."

During production, TriStar's higher-ups didn't have high hopes for The Mask of Zorro. "What happened on that film was the studio changed management," Campbell said:

"The new management didn't like the project. They just didn't like the project, as simple as that. They were already in it for $12 million because of delays, scripts, actors, and so forth. They went ahead with it because they were forced into it because they would've lost that money. I don't think they had any faith in the project. It wasn't a question of me or anyone else. They just didn't want to make it."

The studio's disinterest wasn't all bad, though. Due to their ambivalence, Campbell was left alone creatively, which he thinks is why the film turned out, as he modestly put it, "Okay." "We were always getting notes from the budget, and once we were shooting, I barely saw someone visit," he said. "Once or twice, yes. When we finished the editing, the editor went, 'Where is everybody?' [Laughs] Nobody rings. God knows where they were. However, when they saw the film, it was an entirely different story."