Originally, Anthony Hopkins refused the part of Don Diego de la Vega because he had too much pain in his back. A laser operation made an end on the pain and made it possible for him to accept the part.
Anthony Hopkins impersonates Bernardo, Zorro's butler in the original stories. Zorro was a major inspiration for Batman, and Bernardo became the butler Alfred Pennyworth. Hopkins was also offered this role in Batman Begins (2005).
Legendary sword trainer Bob Anderson - who had trained Errol Flynn - remarked that Antonio Banderas was the most gifted swordsman he had worked with since Flynn. Banderas had also trained with the Spanish Olympic team for four months.
Antonio Banderas was extremely adamant about performing nearly all his own stunts for the purposes of authenticity. The only shot that was a stunt double is the one of Alejandro leaping over a horse and kicking the guard during the chase scene.
When Montero goes to the prison to seek out Zorro, several of the prisoners claim to be Zorro in a scene reminiscent of a similar scene in Spartacus (1960). Anthony Hopkins provided the voice of Crassus during the restoration of the earlier film.
According to an account in book "Tales from the Script" (2010) by Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman, David S. Ward rewrote approximately 85% of the dialogue here, but received no screen credit, a predicament that spawned enough controversy to merit a front page article in the Los Angeles Times.
Legend has it that Martin Campbell didn't want to use Zorro's famous bull-whip in any sequence in the film, however Anthony Hopkins felt the whip was an important part of Zorro's equipment. So Hopkins practised daily and learned to manipulate the whip and persuaded Campbell to film certain tricks with the whip (e.g. After Alejandro steals the black stallion, Vega is seen whipping out candle flames)
There is a distinct difference between the costumes for De la Vega as Zorro and Alejandro as Zorro. The Costume designer for the film claimed, that De la Vega's costume portrays his Spanish heritage while Alejandro's portrays his Mexican heritage.
Catherine Zeta-Jones later admitted that she actually became very genuinely aroused during the stable sword fight scene where her clothes were cut off by Zorro. This effect was accomplished by attaching a wire to the dress and then yanking it off the actress.
The film caught the attention of European Royalty with the film's foreign premieres. Spain's King Juan Carlos I, Queen Sophia, and Princess Elena attended the first Royal premiere in Madrid in seven years. On December 10, 1998, a Royal Command Performance for Zorro was toplined by Prince Charles and his sons.
In past incarnations of Zorro in books and in film, Don Alejandro was the name the father of Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro. In this film Alejandro is the name of Zorro's young protégé and eventual successor.
In October 1992, TriStar Pictures and Amblin Entertainment were planning to start production on Zorro the following year, and hired Joel Gross to rewrite the script after they were impressed with his work on The Three Musketeers (1993). At the time, Steven Spielberg was producing Zorro with the potential to direct. Gross completed his rewrite in March 1993, and TriStar entered pre-production, creating early promotion for the film that same month at the ShoWest trade show. By December 1993, Branko Lustig was producing the film with Spielberg, and Mikael Salomon was attached as director.
The film was initially set for release on December 19, 1997 before the release date was changed to March 1998. There was speculation within the media about whether TriStar changed the date in an attempt to avoid competition with Titanic (1997). In reality Zorro had encountered production problems that extended its shooting schedule. In addition, Sony Pictures Entertainment, TriStar's parent company, wanted an action film for its first quarter releases of 1998.
On January 24, 2001, Sony Pictures Entertainment filed a lawsuit in United States District Court, Central District of California, Western Division, against Fireworks Entertainment Group, the producers of the syndicated television series Queen of Swords (2000). Sony alleged copyright infringement and other claims, saying the series "copied protectable elements from [the] 'Zorro' character and 'Zorro' related works". On April 5, 2001, U.S. District Judge Collins denied Sony's motion for a preliminary injunction, noting "that since the copyrights in [Johnson McCulley's 1919 short story] The Curse of Capistrano and The Mark of Zorro (1920) lapsed in 1995 or before, the character Zorro has been in the public domain." As to specific elements of this film, the judge found that any similarities between the film and the TV series' secondary characters and plot elements were insufficient to warrant an injunction.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At the end when Zorro confronts Capt. Love he pulls his sword out and the sun glints off the blade running the full length. This was not CGI and in fact was suggested by Antonio Banderas. He had to tilt the sword to catch the sun without breaking eye contact with Love. It only took 3 takes.
Joaquin Murieta, Antonio Banderas's character's brother, and Three-fingered Jack were real life bandits in Northern California at the time of the 1849 Gold Rush. Joaquin Murieta was a Mexican born in Sonora who moved to California to find his fortune. But after being beaten and robbed by American gold miners, he swore that he would avenge his dishonor. He was the lead in a group of bandits in the California wilderness, killing anyone who stood in their way. His life was the stuff of legend, used by Mexicans as a source of patriotism and by Americans as reason enough to hang anyone who spoke Spanish. Three-fingered Jack was actually a Mexican by the name of Manuel Garcia, who was Murieta's side kick. Murieta was supposedly killed on July 18, 1853 by Captain Harry Love who preserved Murieta's head in a jar of alcohol, along with Three-fingered Jack's hand as proof that the bandit was dead.
The DVD includes an alternate ending where Alejandro and Elena meet General Santa Anna while walking away from the mine with all the rescued prisoners. Joaquim de Almeida plays Santa Anna in this scene.
During the post-production phase, Steven Spielberg and Martin Campbell decided that Diego de la Vega's death in the arms of his daughter was too depressing. The ending, where Alejandro and Eléna are happily married with their infant son, was added three months after filming had ended.