Robert Rodriguez is best known for three things, his El Marachi
series, his Spy Kids
series and his close friendship with Quentin Tarantino
. Yet Rodriguez's work and talent spans far and wide from his seven actual "written and directed by" films. He has been a part of some of the most fascinating collaborations in Hollywood
, he works on multiple aspects of his and other director’s films, he is a musician, a chef and yet still finds a way to be a family man
Most of Rodriguez’s collaborations have been with his longtime friend and one of the greatest filmmakers working today, Quentin Tarantino. The first collaboration between the two was actually in Tarantino's 1994 breakout smash Pulp Fiction. While Rodriguez is uncredited, he served as director for many of the scenes in which Tarantino was in front of the camera performing. The very next year, Rodriguez's first modestly budgeted film Desperado was released, in which Tarantino played a character only known as Pick-up Guy. Their first actual directorial collaboration came that same year with Four Rooms, which had segments directed by Allison Anders (Gas, Food Lodging), Alexandre Rockwell (In The Soup) and Quentin and Robert.
Perhaps their finest collaboration (and the most hands-on from them both) came with the 1996 splatterfest classic From Dusk Till Dawn, which featured Quentin as writer and actor and Robert as director. They served as co-executive producers for the film's two direct-to-video sequels.
Smaller collaborations have continued between the two since that film. Tarantino helped think of the title of Rodriguez's 2003 film Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Tarantino thanked Rodriguez in the Kill Bill: Volume 1 credits, calling him "My Brother." In 2004, Tarantino asked Robert Rodriguez to do the musical score of Kill Bill: Volume 2 for a dollar, in return, Tarantino was paid a dollar to direct a scene involving Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the Robert Rodriquez cinematic translation of Frank Miller's Sin City comics. The footage that Tarantino shot in the film marks the first time he has ever shot on HD. He also loaned Rodriguez some swords from Kill Bill to use for the character of Miho. Not to mention that Sin City and its upcoming sequels marks an unprecedented collaboration between a comic artist and a filmmaker, as Frank Miller was on the set of the film everyday and receives a co-director credit. Rodriguez and Tarantino are planning to release a film in spring ’06 titled Grind House, in which both filmmakers will write and direct a 60-minute horror film that will be cut together as a two hour cinema experience.
Rodriguez also has collaborated with once red hot Hollywood writer Kevin Williamson (who wrote all three Scream films and a bulk of the Dawson's Creek TV series) on two separate occasions. The first was in 1997 when he directed the movie-within-a-movie “Stab” sequence in Scream 2. The second collaboration saw him directing the 1998 teen horror film The Faculty, which had a script written by Williamson.
Rodriguez has also had some fascinating experiences in the business that aren’t exactly collaborations, but are fascinating regardless. Kevin Smith called upon Rodriguez to direct scripts he had written twice in his career. The first was when Smith wanted Rodriguez to direct his 1999 film Dogma, yet Rodriguez declined, citing that it seemed like a personal project Kevin should take on his own. He also turned down the offer to direct Smith’s script Superman Lives, the now-dead project that has been replaced by Superman Returns. Rodriguez also had a fascinating encounter with George Lucas. Rodriguez was doing post-production work on Skywalker Ranch for the first film in his Spy Kids trilogy when Lucas introduced him to hi-def digital filmmaking. Every film he’s made since then has been shot on digital.
Rodriguez is known for his multi-talented work on his films, he frequently not only writes and directs, but operates the camera, edits, composes the music, mixes the sound and supervises the special effects for his films. In addition to these talents, he also plays guitar in a Mexican rock band titled Chingon (Spanish for “bad ass”) that recently released their first album Azteca de Oro and had their song “Malaguena Salerosa” play over the credits for Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2. He also directed, shot and edited Del Castillo Live, a concert film for a Mexican band that shares many members with Chingon. He is also an accomplished chef, having put a feature on the Once Upon a Time in Mexico DVD in which he taught viewers how to cook a Mexican dish called puerco pibil, which Johnny Depp’s character enjoyed in the film.
Other less notable collaborations by Rodriguez include serving as the second unit director for the 1997 film Mimic and supervising the post-production for the made-for-Showtime film The Outsider. Like Tarantino, he’s also shown some acting chops in small independent productions Famous, Bullfighter and Delayed as well as making an appearance as a SWAT Officer on an episode of the ill-fated NBC drama Deadline and appearing as a commercial director on an episode of Nash Bridges.
As for actors, some of his most frequently used performers have been Antonio Banderas, Steve Buscemi, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Carla Gugino and Robert Patrick. Also his cousin Danny Trejo has become something of a cult icon after having frequently appeared as various muscular men with black tattoos in his films.
And while the multi-talented, frequently-collaborating Robert Rodriguez is absolutely in love with the filmmaking process, his real investment in life is in his children: Rocket Valentin, Racer Maximilliano, Rebel Antonio. All of whom he had with his wife of 15 years, and frequent producer, Elizabeth Avellan. He has written and illustrated books that he reads to his children that he does not intend to use for any commercial purposes. His children were also a great motivation behind him devoting time to his kid-friendly Spy Kids trilogy and he even went as far to film The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D, which is based on a story conceived by his 7-year-old son Racer, who receives a story credit for the film.
He’s a filmmaker with full creative control over his films and has frequent collaborations with great talents. He’s a six-string wielding rock star. He’s a master chef. And perhaps most notably, he’s a family man who can still make movies involving dismembered limbs and four-letter words. Robert Rodriguez has quite a life.