Originally, Sir 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.
Legendary sword trainer Bob Anderson, who had trained Errol Flynn, remarked that Antonio Banderas was the most gifted swordsman, with whom he had worked, since Flynn. Banderas had also trained with the Spanish Olympic team for four months.
Sir 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).
Legend has it that Director Martin Campbell didn't want to use Zorro's famous bullwhip in any sequence in the film. However, Sir Anthony Hopkins felt the whip was an important part of Zorro's equipment. So Hopkins practiced daily, and learned to manipulate the whip, and persuaded Campbell to film certain tricks with the whip (after Alejandro steals the black stallion, Vega is seen whipping out candle flames).
According to an account in book "Tales from the Script" (2010) by Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman, David S. Ward re-wrote approximately eighty-five percent of the dialogue, but received no on-screen credit, a predicament that spawned enough controversy to merit a front page article in the Los Angeles Times.
There is a distinct difference between the costumes for Don Diego de la Vega as Zorro, and Alejandro as Zorro. The Costume Designer for the film claimed, that de la Vega's costume portrayed his Spanish heritage, while Alejandro's portrayed his Mexican heritage.
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). Sir Anthony Hopkins provided the voice of Crassus during the restoration of the earlier film.
Antonio Banderas provided the voice of Puss in Boots in Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007), Shrek Forever After (2010), and Puss in Boots (2011). The character of Puss in Boots is essentially Zorro, in cat form.
Catherine Zeta-Jones later admitted that she became 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 of her.
In October 1992, TriStar Pictures and Amblin Entertainment were planning to start production on Zorro the following year, and hired Joel Gross to re-write 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 re-write in March 1993, and TriStar entered pre-production, creating early promotion for the film at the ShoWest trade show. By December 1993, Branko Lustig was producing the film with Spielberg, and Mikael Salomon was attached as director.
In past incarnations of Zorro in books, and on film, Don Alejandro was the name of the father of Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro). In this film, Alejandro is the name of Zorro's young protégé and eventual successor.
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 television series' secondary characters and plot elements were insufficient to warrant an injunction.
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.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At the end, when Zorro confronts Captain Love, he pulls out his sword, and the sun glints off the blade running the full length. This was not CGI, and was suggested by Antonio Banderas. He had to tilt the sword to catch the sun without breaking eye contact with Love. It only took three takes.
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 played Santa Anna in this scene.
Joaquin Murrieta, Alejandro Murrieta's (Antonio Banderas') brother, and Three-fingered Jack were real-life bandits in Northern California at the time of the 1849 Gold Rush. Joaquin Murrieta 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 Murrieta's sidekick. Murrieta was supposedly killed on July 18, 1853 by Captain Harry Love, who preserved Murrieta's head in a jar of alcohol, along with Three-fingered Jack's hand, as proof that the bandit was dead.
During the post-production phase, Steven Spielberg and Martin Campbell decided that Don Diego de la Vega's death in the arms of his daughter was too depressing. The ending, where Alejandro and Elena are happily married with their infant son, was added three months after filming had ended.