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Screen Style

About the Mask, and More, of 'Zorro'

July 23, 1998|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Movie: "The Mask of Zorro."

The Setup: Remake of Zorro tale finds the aging folk hero, a.k.a. Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), training his handpicked successor, a low-life bandit named Alejandro Murieta (Antonio Banderas), who is also in training for romance.

The Costume Designer: Graciela Mazon, whose credits include "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Desperado."

The Plan: The mask is securely in place. So are the hat and the cape, the latter made of cashmere, for weight and movement. But there is nothing else stereotypical or expected. As producer Doug Claybourne put it, small choices loomed large. "We knew Zorro was going to be in black, we knew he was going to wear a mask and cape, and we knew he was going to carry a sword. You want to retain as many icons as possible." Still, "you try 14 different masks, and everyone has opinions."

The Look: Mazon's romantic interpretation of the two Zorros relies as much on virile-looking suede trousers and tall leather boots as it does on the many influences in early 19th century Alta California, home to Russian, French, English, American Indian and Spanish cultures. "It is such an interesting period," says Mazon, who searched libraries and museums to study period portraiture, including the work of Mexican painters Miguel Cabrera and Ignacio Maria Barreda. She also took into consideration Hollywood's previous Zorro incarnations and steered clear. "I wanted to know what they wore before but to feel free to change," Mazon says. "Zorro is a myth," she adds, meaning he can look any way one desires. She determined that Zorro No. 1--Don Diego, who is Spanish--would be readily distinguishable from Zorro No. 2 with a rakish, flat, Spanish-style hat, tall, unadorned black boots and soft leather mask. Young Zorro, Murieta, is conspicuous for his flashier Californio style--part Spanish, part Mexican--with a mask made from a fringed rebozo tied around his face with holes for his eyes, a thick silver-studded leather belt, embroidered cape, tooled leather boots and a gold-embroidered hat.

You Should Know: All the costumes were made in Mexico using craftsmen from around the country for embroidery and leather tooling, as well as specialists in silver (for buttons, chains and studs), jewelry, hats and boots.

Triumph: Nearly every dress and blouse worn by Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the love interest, is breathtaking. Because the character was raised in Spain, but quickly warms to the Mexican culture, Mazon saw her clothing as a "cocktail of both cultures," evolving from European to Californio style, with flourishes of lace, magnificent embroidery and ruffled sleeves and hemlines. One standout is a blue silk taffeta dress embroidered with pink and red carnations, a typical Spanish motif of the period.

Trivia: The sexy duel in which Elena loses her dress, corset and camisole to Murieta's sword was not done through computer imaging. The garments were cut beforehand, gently taped back together and then stitched over with clear plastic thread. Off camera, Mazon and two special effects people pulled the threads, and the clothes dropped to the ground. It worked on the first take.

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