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Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez: Interviews

Edited by Zachary Ingle
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Robert Rodriguez
    Book Description:

    Rogue filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (b. 1968) rocketed to fame with his ultra-low-budget filmEl Mariachi(1992). The Spanish-language action film, and the making-of book that accompanied it, were inspirational to filmmakers trying to work with the most meager of resources. Rodriguez embodies the postmodern auteur, maintaining a firm control of his projects by not only writing and producing his films, but also editing, shooting, composing, as well as working with the visual effects. He was one of the first American filmmakers to wholeheartedly adopt digital filmmaking, now the norm.Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over(2003) helped bring back 3-D to mainstream theatres. He is as comfortable making family films (theSpy Kidsseries) as action (Sin City) and horror films (Planet Terror). He has maintained his guerilla filmmaking approach, despite increasing budgets, choosing to work outside of Hollywood and even founding his own studio (Troublemaker Studios) in Austin, Texas. He has also arguably become the most successful Latino filmmaker.

    In this, the first book devoted to Rodriguez, interviews and articles from 1993 to 2010 reveal a filmmaker passionate about making films on his own terms. He addresses the subjects central to his life and work: guerilla filmmaking, the digital revolution, his family, and his disdain for Hollywood. An easy and frank subject, these portraits depict the rebel director at his most candid, forging a path for others to break free from Hollywood hegemony.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-273-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Robert Rodriguez achieved a legendary status among independent filmmakers by his story of checking himself into a drug-testing clinic for the cash necessary to make his debut feature film,El Mariachi, released in 1992. Allegedly produced for just $7,000—surely one of the most famous budget figures in cinema history—El Mariachicounts as its progeny micro-budget films such asClerks(1994),The Blair Witch Project(1999),Primer(2004), andParanormal Activity(2007). While his production budgets may have grown from $7,000 to $40 million (Sin City), Rodriguez indicates in his most recent interviews that he still strives for cost-saving...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. A Borrowed Camera, $7,000, and a Dream
    (pp. 3-5)
    Gregg Barrios

    Robert Rodriguez’sMariachi, an action-adventure about a musician mistaken for a gunslinger, has had audiences queuing up at film festivals from Telluride to Toronto and, more recently, Sundance. The twenty-four-year-old film maker never expected that his home-made Spanish-language feature, produced for the video market with a budget of $7,000, would become a film-festival success.

    “It wasn’t until we won the Audience Award at Sundance that I became convinced Columbia should be releasing this movie,” Mr. Rodriguez said while attending the Miami Film Festival, the last stop before Columbia releasesEl Mariachion Friday. “My film has a good story,” Mr....

  7. Mr. Mariachi
    (pp. 6-10)
    Kenneth Korman

    From42nd StreettoRocky, Hollywood loves a good success story. But the incredible tale of twenty-five-year-old Robert Rodriguez, and his home-made movieEl Mariachi, has taught Tinseltown a lesson in filmmaking it won’t soon forget. Rodriguez cut his teeth on consumer video gear, teaching himself how to communicate with basic pictures and sound. And when he found himself in a position to borrow a rudimentary film camera, he proceeded to make one of the year’s best action movies in fourteen days and with a total budget of $7,000.

    A lengthy interview with Rodriguez revealed an affable and modest young...

  8. A Killer Sequel
    (pp. 11-15)
    Jason Cohen

    It has been two and a half years since Robert Rodriguez inadvertently joined the ranks of America’s hottest young movie directors withEl Mariachi, the Spanish-language film he put together with little more than a 16mm camera and $7,000. To sayEl Mariachiexceeded all conceivable expectations is akin to saying thatForrest Gumpwas a little bit popular: Rodriguez’s homemade action flick ended up as a national release from Columbia Pictures, and along the way he picked up rave reviews and the prestigious Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. He even found time to write a book,Rebel without a...

  9. From Rags to Riches
    (pp. 16-19)
    Michael Haile

    Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s rags-to-riches story has become this decade’s Hollywood legend. In 1992, a twenty-three-year-old Rodriguez directed, wrote, produced, photographed, sound-recorded and edited an eighty-minute 16mm Spanish-language action feature calledEl Mariachi, with money earned from a stint in a research lab as a test subject for cholesterol medication. Shot in fourteen days with amateur actors and a budget of only $7,000, the film tells the story of a traveling Mexican musician who wanders into a border town looking for work, only to be mistaken for a dangerous killer.

    Rodriguez naively sent a tape ofEl Mariachito an agent...

  10. The Reformation of a Rebel without a Crew
    (pp. 20-29)
    Rustin Thompson

    Russ Thompson (MM): IsDesperadoa sequel, or a remake ofEl Mariachi?

    Robert Rodriguez (RR): When I first madeEl Mariachi, I got a deal with Columbia to make more movies. The first project I suggested was a remake ofEl Mariachi, with Antonio Banderas and music by Los Lobos, for about five or six million dollars. And that was the course we were going to take, until we decided to put it in film festivals to test it with an audience and see how it played before remaking it. It did so well, they decided to just release...

  11. The Power Couple: Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan
    (pp. 30-32)
    Joe Nick Patoski

    They are the power couple of Texas film. He writes, directs, and edits. She produces and takes care of the most minute details. He’s a shining hope of the do-it-yourself filmmaking ethic, totally fearless and a major player in Hollywood, California, and Hollywood, Texas, as well as the standard-bearer of the new Latino cinematic sensibility. She’s the unsung behind-the-scenes facilitator, making sure he stays focused and acting as a den mother for the cast and crew.

    He spent a recent March morning rehearsing lines with the actors in their untitled $15 million horror movie while she was mapping out a...

  12. Before Dusk Till Dawn
    (pp. 33-34)
    Jon Keeyes

    With the aid of Robert Rodriguez, the legacy ofFrom Dusk Till Dawnwill continue with not only a sequel (Texas Blood Money) but also a prequel (The Hangman’s Daughter). How did the moderately successful 1996 release come to have back-to-back follow-ups?

    “Quentin [Tarantino], Lawrence Bender, and Scotty Spiegel had an idea for the second one,” said Rodriguez, who directedFrom Dusk Till Dawnfrom Tarantino’s script. “We were meeting about it, and my cousin and I had come up with an idea for a possible third one. It would be set back in the 1800s, more like a spaghetti-western...

  13. The Faculty
    (pp. 35-38)
    Jon Keeyes

    Like a Texas tornado sweeping across the land, director Robert Rodriguez and the creative forces at Miramax Films have spent the last few years tearing down and rebuilding the cinematic thriller genre. And now, for a third Christmas season, this explosive team will be reinventing the genre once again.

    Scream 2hadn’t even come out yet when Bob Weinstein sent me the script [forThe Faculty] and he said, ‘This is our movie for next Christmas. You need to shoot this before you do your other movies.’ And I could understand that because they’ve staked out Christmas as being theirs,”...

  14. The Mariachi Aesthetic Goes to Hollywood
    (pp. 39-57)
    Charles Ramírez Berg

    Robert Rodriguez is one of the more successful of the wave of young directors of the last seven or eight years, and to date arguably the most successful Latino director ever to work in Hollywood. Because they were made so cheaply, all his films have made money.Four Roomsmay have been a critical bomb, but Rodriguez’s segment, “The Misbehavers,” was the most successful, and it was the project that allowed him to edit and to have final cut on future films. And he managed to leverage the directing ofThe Facultyfor Miramax into a multifilm deal in which...

  15. Deep in the Heart of Action
    (pp. 58-63)
    Christian Divine

    Although known for the kinetic, blood-soaked genre filmsEl Mariachi(1992),Desperado(1995),From Dusk Till Dawn(1996), andThe Faculty(1998), writer/director Robert Rodriguez also has a flair for the antic humor as evidenced by his wonderful segment inFour Rooms(1995) featuring a brother and sister trapped in a bizarre hotel room with a dead body. The children rush from calm to carnage in about fifteen minutes, and this celluloid comic stands as one of the best short films of the nineties. Rodriguez has the skill of Spielberg and Shyamalan when it comes to eliciting honest child performances....

  16. Robert Rodriguez
    (pp. 64-74)
    Keith Phipps

    Texas native Robert Rodriguez shot to fame in the early nineties as the man who made a movie for $7,000. Intended as a practice film for the Spanish-language direct-to-video market,El Mariachibecame an art-house hit. Though crudely made, it displayed a breathless joy that continued through each of Rodriguez’s subsequent films. After making the B-movie homageRoadracersfor cable, he returned to the big screen with theEl Mariachiremake/sequelDesperado, starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, who became regulars in Rodriguez’s films. After contributing a segment to the little-loved indie anthologyFour Rooms, Rodriguez collaborated with Quentin Tarantino...

  17. A Digital Desperado
    (pp. 75-77)
    Brian McKernan and Bob Zahn

    Director Robert Rodriguez burst upon the filmmaking scene in 1992 with his self-financed featureEl Mariachi, which he made in three weeks with a borrowed camera and $7,000. When the then-twenty-four-year-old, Texas-born filmmaker took the movie to Hollywood, Columbia Pictures bought it and signed him to direct a sequel,Desperado, for $3.1 million.

    Rodriguez recounted the experience in his 1995 book,Rebel without a Crew, and went on to score additional triumphs with such fast-action films asFrom Dusk Till Dawn(1996),The Faculty(1998), and his family-friendlySpy Kids(2001).

    A true “renaissance” filmmaker, Rodriguez not only writes and...

  18. Secret Agents and Desperadoes
    (pp. 78-82)
    Christian Divine

    Robert Rodriguez is on an action roll. His unique family film,Spy Kids, was deservedly one of 2001’s biggest hits. Rodriguez’s sincere, kinetic style connected with kids of all ages, and the script’s lack of postmodern cynicism was refreshing in a year of smart-ass children’s films. Although a sequel was certain, Miramax had actually greenlitSpy Kids 2before the first film’s release, as Rodriguez’s original draft already contained both stories.Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreamsis a wonderful title for what promises to be an even more exciting adventure tale.

    On the other end of Rodriguez’s...

  19. Working at the Speed of Thought
    (pp. 83-101)
    Jody Duncan

    WhenSpy Kidswas released in spring 2001, it proved to be the rarest of movie experiences—a surprise.

    It was a surprise that the man behind the family-friendly action-adventure was Robert Rodriguez, an independent, low-budget filmmaker responsible for the gritty and violentEl Mariachiand its sequel,Desperado, as well asFrom Dusk Till DawnandThe Faculty, both horrific thrillers with comedic undertones. It was a surprise that, without a star-filled cast or an overblown marketing blitz by its distributor, Dimension Films, it did excellent business, bringing in $113 million domestically and $168 million worldwide. It was a...

  20. Robert Rodriguez’s New Toy
    (pp. 102-106)
    Mel Rodriguez

    “They” is a four-letter word for Robert Rodriguez, writer-director of the groundbreaking indie filmEl Mariachi. The reason? Most times he utters the word, he’s referring to a place he’s shown no small degree of disdain for: Hollywood. Ironically, the story of his success in Hollywood has reached legendary status for aspiring moviemakers. He chronicled his early rise and bootstrap moviemaking methodology in his 1995 book,Rebel without a Crew. Now he’s adding a new chapter to his career, and the title is made up of only two letters: HD.

    Having a conversation with Rodriguez is not unlike having a...

  21. Moving in Stereo
    (pp. 107-108)
    Phil LoPiccolo

    Q: Why did you decide to use stereoscopic visual effects inSpy Kids 3-D?

    A: I wanted to bring stereo 3-D effects back to theaters. And I thought doing a sci-fi movie for kids and setting it in a video game would be a great way to do it. The first thing I did was get Chris Olivia, a lead artist at Troublemaker Digital, to work up some test shots using footage fromSpy Kids 2. It was astounding. We had this rush of adrenaline. It worked so well that we ended up making 90 percent of the movie in...

  22. “I’m Able to Write the Score as I’m Shooting the Script”
    (pp. 109-112)
    Leila Cobo

    Film director/producer/writer/composer Robert Rodriguez made history in 1993 with his debut feature film,El Mariachi. Made as a student flick for only $7,000, it would become the lowest-budget movie ever released by a major studio. Ten years later, Rodriguez is once again setting the pace—as a film director who not only writes and produces but also scores his own movies. Rodriguez’s work currently can be seen and heard inSpy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the third installment of hisSpy Kidsseries, which he scored in its entirety.Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the third film of the...

  23. Once Upon a Time in Moviemaking
    (pp. 113-118)
    David Hochman

    The adventure begins, as so many do, with the artist as a young man. At age seven, he is already a fixture at the revival movie house in San Antonio. The MGM musicals and Hitchcock double features deliver cheap thrills for a Mexican-American family that would soon number ten children. Mother encourages the kids to sit through multiple showings. One day, they watchGone with the Wind. Three times. By eleven, he has commandeered his dad’s Super-8 movie camera, and by thirteen he has converted his adolescent lair into a primitive control room: Two aging VCRs are hooked together by...

  24. Triplets in Sin
    (pp. 119-123)
    John Allina

    A one-man moviemaking machine, Robert Rodriguez is the flip side of Charlie Chaplin, who early on had the clout to control every aspect of his productions. Rodriguez did so out of necessity, being a barebones, independent filmmaker. But Rodriguez has continued filling virtually every role on his productions, even though his reputation as a director can now secure him healthy, even oversized, studio budgets.

    But when Robert Rodriguez’s wife,Sin Cityco-producer Elizabeth Avellan, asked if he needed any help writing the music—there was still a lot of money in the music budget—it sparked the idea for Rodriguez...

  25. Finding Redemption
    (pp. 124-126)
    Lisa Y. Garibay

    On a day in early March, Robert Rodriguez is feeling good aboutSin City, his latest groundbreaking work of cinematic art. “The movie isinsane!” Rodriguez exclaims from his home in Austin. “The trailers are pretty cool but the movie is everything I hoped for. I was hoping not to make a movie at all and just make a living comic book. This really feels like something different than a movie.”

    Fans of Frank Miller’s comic book depicting the dark urban world from which the film’s stories are taken have been buzzing for some time over the prospect of it...

  26. Double Trouble
    (pp. 127-131)
    Ann Donahue

    It’s Friday night at Robert Rodriguez’s compound, located in the hills outside Austin—far enough outside the city that you wonder, while driving there, whether you’re more likely to hit a deer, see a boy with a banjo, or get kidnapped by aliens. Inside the property’s stone gate, down a twisty driveway surrounded by brush, the only beacon of light is the glow of the director’s high-tech equipment through a window.

    Rodriguez, thirty-eight, is ensconced in the two-story editing bay/composing room/sound-mixing studio he calls Los Cryptos, next to his castle-like home, Casa Grande—and what’s going on inside is scarier...

  27. Moving at the Speed of Thought
    (pp. 132-137)
    Brian O’Hare

    ¡Tierra y libertad!Land and liberty! Emilio Zapata’s rallying cry during the Mexican Revolution could well be the moviemaking philosophy of director Robert Rodriguez. He’s been called an outsider, hooligan, rebel, rogue, and troublemaker. But to Rodriguez these labels are badges of honor—potent symbols of his refusal to compromise, make nice, or play by anyone’s rules other than his own. To Rodriguez, moviemaking is a guerilla movement rooted in seizing power from the bloated Hollywood empire and distributing it, like Zapata’s Tierra, amongst the people.

    Like any good revolutionary hero worth his cartridge belt, Rodriguez is engaging, generous, and...

  28. Exclusive Interview: Robert Rodriguez Talks Shorts
    (pp. 138-142)
    Silas Lesnick

    It’s rare—if not utterly unprecedented—to have a filmmaker who moves so effortlessly between hard-R action films and the family-friendly fare. Robert Rodriguez, whose name stands simultaneously withSin CityandSpy Kids, returns to the big screen this week withShorts, a series of intertwining short films that, told out of linear order, tell a bigger story about the children of Black Falls community and what happens when a magical wishing rock enters their lives.

    CS: This is a return-to-form for one of your earliest works, your short filmBedhead. Was that something you were consciously going for?...

  29. Two Days at the World’s Coolest Studio
    (pp. 143-147)
    Nick De Semlyen

    The reception area at Troublemaker Studios does not resemble that of your average movie-making facility. For one, the art on the walls is notably hipper, including an ultra-rareFrom Dusk Till Dawnposter by fantasy artist Frank Frazetta (only five in existence), a lurid painting calledShotgun Messengerby George Yepes, and a sepia mugshot of George Clooney. Then there are the toys: an explosion of movie memorabilia and geeky gizmos that would make Harry Knowles weep. (And probably has, since he lives around the corner.)

    To the right, beneath an ornate table, a pair of the gun-packing guitar cases...

  30. Robert Rodriguez and Nimród Antal Talk Predators
    (pp. 148-159)
    Peter Sciretta

    On July 1, I got a chance to participate in a roundtable interview with writer/producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal about their upcomingPredatorsequel,Predators. I’m really excited about this film, and hope people get a chance to see it in theaters. I feel like I haven’t really seen a lot of marketing for the film, and most of my friends didn’t even know it’s being released this Friday (although I’ve been told they are doing a heavy push of television advertisements during sports programming).Predatorsis a return to form for the series, which in recent years...

  31. Robert Rodriguez, Film Director
    (pp. 160-162)
    Stephen Applebaum

    In Arizona earlier this year, a controversial new law was launched that targeted undocumented immigrants; a recent report suggested it may have provoked the voluntary departure of one hundred thousand Hispanic people from the United States.

    Provocative timing, then, for the release of Robert Rodriguez’s splattery “mexploitation” movieMachete, in which the eponymous Mexican hero (grizzled former jailbird Danny Trejo) and a colorful roster of Latino characters violently fight for their rights against a gallery of right-wing baddies, including Don Johnson as a murderous vigilante and Robert De Niro as an anti-immigration Texas senator.

    To some outraged U.S. conservatives, the...

  32. Additional Resources
    (pp. 163-164)
  33. Index
    (pp. 165-170)