Robert Rodriguez on America Online-September 6, 1995

OnlineHost: Robert Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He is the son of Cecilio and Rebecca Rodriguez and the third oldest in a Hispanic Catholic family of ten children (five girls, five boys.) Throughout high school, Robert showed an interest in cartooning and filmmaking. Upon graduation he decided to attend the University of Texas at Austin, drawn primarily by their Film department.

While taking lower division classes, he started a comic strip in the Daily Texan entitled "Los Hooligans", with characters based on his younger siblings. He also prepared to enter film production classes by making his own home movies.

OnlineHost: Realizing early on that a large family meant a virtually endless supply of cast and crew for his video movies, he soon featured his youngest siblings in an award winning short 16mm film, entitled "Bedhead," which has won honors in many national and international festivals.

OnlineHost: Robert went on to write, photograph, sound record, direct, and edit the feature length film "El Mariachi" which was intended for the Mexican Home Video Market. Instead, he was signed on by the powerful talent agency ICM, won a two year writing, directing deal at Columbia Pictures, sold "El Mariachi's" distribution right to Columbia.

OnlineHost: Columbia then sent Rodriguez on an International Film Festival tour including Telluride, Toronto, Sundance (where the film won the coveted audience award for best dramatic film), Berlin (winning the Panorama award), Munich (Second Place), and the Edinburgh and Deauville festivals, as well as the Yubari Film Festival in Japan (Most Entertaining Film.)

OnlineHost: Columbia Pictures went on to do the unthinkable--providing "El Mariachi" with a worldwide theatrical release and making "El Mariachi" the lowest budget movie ever released by a major studio and the first American film released in Spanish.

OnlineHost: Rodriguez went on to write, direct and edit the feature film "Roadracers" as part of Showtime's 'Rebel Highway' series. Rodriguez wrote, directed and edited a segment of the film "Four Rooms;" wrote, directed produced and edited "Desperado" and is currently directing and editing "From Dusk Till Dawn" -- written by and starring Quentin Tarantino which is also slated for release later this year.

OnlineHost: Rodriguez has also written a book entitled: "Rebel Without a Crew, The Making of El Mariachi" published by Dutton Press and now in bookstores. Robert and his wife, co-producer Elizabeth Avellan, are expecting their first child in September 1995 as they begin to produce their own endless supply of cast and crew for future films. Please welcome Robert to Center Stage!

CelebCircl: Robert! Welcome to Oldsmobile's Celebrity Circle!

RobtRodrgz: Hello from the editing room of "Dusk Til Dawn" -- the new picture I'm editing.

CelebCircl: The first comment tonight is from Lutzio.

Comment : I just wanted to say that I was pleased that Carlos Gallardo was in the sequel, "Desperado." I think he is an excellent actor and hope to see more of him in your films.

RobtRodrgz: I appreciate that, he's an old friend of mine and my co-producer on "El Mariachi." He was always the more positive force in the team, I was the realistic person saying we'd never get anywhere. He just finished editing a movie he wrote directed and acted in in Mexico for $13,000.

CelebCircl: The first question is from SDipino.

Question: The movie was great, albeit a "bit" violent. Seems a real starmaker for the star, whose name slips me now. Is a soundtrack available. Did he sing that opening song?

RobtRodrgz: Antonio Banderas is the actor/star. He sang the opening song, he also plays guitar and did all his own stunts. Our soundtrack is available and it's at #53 on the Billboard charts.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Kimberlick.

Question: How'd you learn so much about films...without going to film school?

RobtRodrgz: These days with video camera technology, you can teach yourself how to tell stories and work in the visual medium. Guys like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton--they didn't go to film school, they created their own medium. Video technology puts filmmaking back in the hands of the people--that's how I learned how to make movies, making movies at home.

CelebCircl: The next question is from McCaughan.

Question: I just got back from seeing "Desperado" today! Very good movie, and Banderas was great. What was your most troublesome scene to shoot?

RobtRodrgz: The most difficult scenes were also the most fun. We had seven weeks to shoot so most of the elaborate action scenes were the most difficult because we only had a few days to shoot each one.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Lutzio.

Question: What were some of your favorite movies growing up?

RobtRodrgz: I like all kinds of stuff. I was from a family of ten, so my Mom would take us to see MGM musicals and Marx Brothers comedies and Alfred Hitchcock movies. I liked any movie that had a lot of movement and imagination in it--where the director did more than just direct.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Benj85.

Question: How was it like working with Quentin Tarantino? Did you guys do any "director talk?"

RobtRodrgz: We do more movie fan talk than anything else. We talk about movies we have just seen or movies that we want to make. We don't really talk about technique, because we are both kind of making it up as we go along.

CelebCircl: The next question is from JennLaure.

Question: Are you pleased with your remake of "Mariachi?" I thought the first film was tighter and leaner.

RobtRodrgz: I was leaner too! I am very happy with it--it was everything I wanted it to be. A big action film made in Hollywood with a Latin star, Latin actors and Latin crew. I knew it wouldn't have been made unless I made it.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Lovediese.

Question: What made you want to use Dire Straits, "Six Blade Knife" in "Desperado?" It fit perfect.

RobtRodrgz: It fit perfect first in "El Mariachi." When I was editing "El Mariachi" (one) I played it while editing the movie and it fit, but I couldn't afford then. With a bigger budget we were able to get the song. That one is from their first album.

CelebCircl: The next question is from CBetts287.

Question: How did you go about finding locations for "Desperado?" How was working with Antonio?

RobtRodrgz: Picking locations for "Desperado" was really easy, I just went back to the same town where we filmed "Mariachi." Working with Antonio was amazing because he's made over forty films and no one really knows him in this country. So, he has more experienced than most of our actors here, yet he's someone new and exciting because it's his first action film.

CelebCircl: The next question is from TheFiz.

Question: I saw your book on the shelves. What's it about and when did you write it.

RobtRodrgz: I wrote it at night when I wasn't making movies. It's about how to make a movie with no money. It's called "Rebel Without a Crew" and it teaches you stuff that you can't learn in film school. So, if you buy the book, you save yourself about thirty thousand dollars! It's basically a diary of what happened on "El Mariachi"--how I got an agent, how I got to Hollywood, etc...

CelebCircl: The next question is from BethQ3928.

Question: Do you think that you have opened the doors for fellow Hispanic filmmakers (me, sometime in the future), and actors (Hayek)?

RobtRodrgz: They always say that the door is closed to ethnics in Hollywood (Latins included). I find that the best way in through a closed door is to kick it open. But you have to keep doing it because it slams back at you. I know that there was resistance to put Salma Hayek in the movie by people who had closed minds. That's why you have to make your own movies, so that you can show rather than tell. It's more powerful to demonstrate what you can do than to say what you can do.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MrStandUp.

Question: Robert, it was great to see cameos from the original actors from "El Mariachi" in "Desperado". Were they all happy to appear in the sequel?

RobtRodrgz: Yeah, they were all happy that we came back to the same town--that's where they all live. There are people in the movie that I didn't even recognize until after I finished shooting them.

CelebCircl: The next question is from CLJUNG.

Question: We've seen "Desperado" several times and thoroughly enjoy the humor, the casting, the filming, and the soundtrack. Are you working on a sequel?

RobtRodrgz: It becomes financial at this point. If a lot of people see the movie and it makes money, then the studio will demand another one. Antonio really wants to do another one and I'd like to do one as well.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MF Beta.

Question: Great movies, Robert! Tell me, what's your favorite Mexican beer?

RobtRodrgz: Cerveza Chango. That's my own label of Mexican beer that appears in all my movies--and that I hope to be bottling soon. It contains real bodily fluids.

CelebCircl: Our next comment is from Lutzio.

Comment : I liked the parallels you drew between "El Mariachi" and "Desperado," (i.e. the "Members and non -members only" sign).

RobtRodrgz: Thanks! That's a real sign that was on the building across the street--we stole the idea.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MrStandUp.

Question: Robert. Did you use a non-linear editing system for "Desperado?"

RobtRodrgz: Yes I did. I use non-linear editing systems on all my films. They are faster and more conducive to creativity.

CelebCircl: The next question is from REDDEYE18.

Question: Robert, congrats on "Mariachi." I read your budget in IFP West Filmaker. Impressive. How much could you have done "Desperado" for?

RobtRodrgz: We did the movie for $7 million which is a thousand times more than we had on "El Mariachi," but believe it or not, it's still considered a very low budget for an action film in Hollywood. I could have made 'a' movie for under $7 million, but not that movie.

CelebCircl: The next question is from WAHLA123.

Question: I have several great ideas for feature films and television series. I was thinking of using a Hi-8 video camera to shoot enough of the idea to convey to the powers that be. Do you think this would be a good way to get my foot in the door?

RobtRodrgz: If you have ideas you should shoot them as soon as possible with whatever you can. "Hoop Dreams" was released in theaters and that was shot on video. But more importantly, it will prove to you what you can do. You need confidence before you can walk in the door. By the way for those wondering, "Bedhead" is at the end of the "El Mariachi" videotape and laserdisc.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Lutzio.

Question: Can you give us any previews or comments about "Four Rooms?"

RobtRodrgz: Just that you will throw up laughing--it's very funny. Antonio is really funny in it.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Step707.

Question: Was making a Hollywood picture harder or easier than an independent film? What are the pluses, minuses to each?

RobtRodrgz: It's easier making a smaller film like "Mariachi." There are no budget worries because there is no budget. There is no crew problem because there is no crew. And if you screw up, no one is around to see you screw up--so it's no longer a screw up. You get the picture.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MF Beta.

Question: You have an interest in cartooning--Do you have any plans for an animated feature?

RobtRodrgz: I had a daily cartoon strip for three years called "Los Hooligans." We might turn that into an animated feature.

CelebCircl: The next question is from JonnySokk.

Question: Robert, what was the REAL cost of "El Mariachi?" Was it really 7k?

RobtRodrgz: Yes. Usually when they talk about a movie's budget for an independent film, they talk about the budget up to the point where it gets sold to a distributor. What they teach you in film school and what most filmmakers do is to make a 16mm film print and show that to distributors. A film print costs you anywhere from $20,000 on up. What I did was to edit on videotape and show the videotape to distributors. Columbia Pictures bought the film off of videotape. That's the first time a studio bought a film from videotape. So, you can save a lot of money by using today's technology and not following what everyone else does.

CelebCircl: The next question is from DUDEBLAST.

Question: How many people were on the crew of "El Mariachi?"

RobtRodrgz: Me, Myself and I. Three.

CelebCircl: The next question is from RU EXP2.

Question: RR, Are the names of the two characters in "Desperado" the same as the bros. in Mambo Kings?

RobtRodrgz: We didn't want to say what the Mariachi's name was. That's something only Antonio Banderas and myself know--maybe in the next one. But, it's not the same as in the Mambo Kings.

CelebCircl: The next question is from PKPhloyd.

Question: Hey Robert...Say the world premiere of "El Mariachi" on Keith's show in Austin...ever talk to Keith anymore?

RobtRodrgz: I know Keith's doing cool stuff down in Austin, he must be...Keith is always doing cool stuff. Ben Davis, too. They are about the only two friends I have left in Austin, everyone else has moved away.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MF Beta.

Question: I know your sister Patricia Vonne was in "Desperado"---did any of your other siblings have roles in the film?

RobtRodrgz: My sister Angela Lanza is the tourist girl who complains to Cheech in the movie. By the way, my book "Rebel Without a Crew" is available in bookstores. I like hiring people from my family--you always know they are going to show up and not screw you around.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Benj85.

Question: What kind of computer do you use? Do you go online often?

RobtRodrgz: I'm using a Power Mac. Right now, I don't go online too often. I'm editing "From Dusk Til Dawn" on the other computer across the room.

CelebCircl: The next question is from JonnySokk.

Question: Robert - thanks for joining us! Did you write Quentin's "Desperado" joke, or did he make it up? And who are some directors you admire?

RobtRodrgz: Quentin's joke is a combination of a few old jokes I've heard about bars...and Quentin added his own ad libs to it. No director is really that consistent. It depends on the movie. But just about any director that really seems like he or she is trying something different.

CelebCircl: The next question is from BradfordT.

Question: What is "From Dusk Til Dawn" about?

RobtRodrgz: It's an action-horror film written by Quentin Tarantino. It's about two killers shooting their way through Texas that end up in a Mexican border town filled with Mexican Vampires.

CelebCircl: The next question is from JaredR101.

Question: Is the reason you made "Desperado" so differently from "El Mariachi" because you were trying to cater to Americas lust with heavy action and big explosions?

RobtRodrgz: It's because they gave me a bigger budget and I wanted to spend it. And blow things up real good! Actually, I needed to compete with the other summer action movies because I had anywhere from 1/5 to 1/10 the budget, I had to blow things up more efficiently.

CelebCircl: The next question is from SHIZNIT23.

Question: Can you tell how you came up with the idea for "Four Rooms?"

RobtRodrgz: I had made a bunch of short films with my little brothers and sisters before "El Mariachi." I made mostly family films before "El Mariachi" and "Four Rooms" is just a feature version of those films.

CelebCircl: The next question is from EClaireWi.

Question: Robert, have you ever made any films using your "Los Hooligans" characters? I loved your cartoon strip (worked at Daily Texan from 1984-88).

RobtRodrgz: The characters in "Four Rooms" are based on the characters from "Los Hooligans." "Four Rooms" will be released October 6.

CelebCircl: The next question is from JDGreen99.

Question: Mr. Rodriguez - is it true that you financed "El Mariachi" with pay from volunteering for a medical experiment? And that you wrote most of the screenplay while you were isolated during the weeks of the experiment?

RobtRodrgz: Yeah, I was in a research hospital called Pharmaco back in Austin, Texas. I was in there for a month testing a cholesterol-lowering drug. And I wrote the entire screenplay in the last three weeks that I was there.

CelebCircl: The next question is from MaryDix.

Question: Antonio was a slice of heaven. But will we see you acting in any more movies?

RobtRodrgz: I don't act in my movies.

CelebCircl: The next question is from EWStock.

Question: Do you think your lean style of creating films will result in more films being made? If so, will more films be released/distributed nationally? If so, will there be more good films available, or just more films?

RobtRodrgz: It's up to the filmmaker. If the filmmaker accepts the challenge of making a less expensive film, he/she can enjoy the experience of being forced to be more creative.

CelebCircl: The next question is from RRiekeman.

Question: If someone wanted to send you a script, based on Hamlet, but set in New Mexico, as an outlaw biker tale, how would he do it?

RobtRodrgz: If you want to send anyone a script, you have to send it through their agent--or they can get sued. Actually I'll just be working from my own scripts for awhile. But good luck with your screenplay.

CelebCircl: The next question is from DELTA8PAP.

Question: How great of an influence was John Woo in your work? You have a great bar scene shoot-out straight out of HARD BOILED.

RobtRodrgz: I think John Woo makes the most exciting action movies around today. That's what made me want to make "Desperado." His action is really choreographed and balletic.

CelebCircl: The next question is from Defro.

Question: Robert, your film seems to have a lot in common with some qualities of Latin American fiction--the over-the-top narration, the air of the fantastic, and also some parody. Do you feel an influence from that literature?

RobtRodrgz: I think it's in the blood.

CelebCircl: We have time for only a few more questions, the next one is from Actr4YrFl.

Question: You are one of my favorite young directors. As an emerging director myself, would you please tell me and the other filmmakers here, the secret of your success in a couple of sentences? Also, what have you done that you are most proud of thus far in your directing career?

RobtRodrgz: I just try to follow my own path. And not listen to everybody who said that I could not make a movie by myself with a small budget or get into Hollywood since I was from Texas and didn't have any contacts. There is no one right way to do things. Whatever works for you is the right way.

CelebCircl: The next question is from BethQ3928.

Question: Why is there a monkey on Quino's shoulder in the soundtrack and not in the movie?

RobtRodrgz: That was from a dream sequence that was never used in the film. That was also my cameo.

CelebCircl: The next question is from RWoodrich.

Question: Que paso Robert, I manage a band out of Houston, Tx called TOMORROW who wrote & recorded a song 3 years ago named "From Dusk Til Dawn" about vampires. Think you'd love it, How can I get a copy of it to you?

RobtRodrgz: I would send it to me care of ICM (International Creative Management) in Los Angeles.

CelebCircl: The next question is from KEVBIRD.

Question: How did you make that rocket launcher guitar? That thing is killer!

RobtRodrgz: My FX person Bob Shelley built it out of a sketch that I made. He got it to really work. The other cases worked too.

CelebCircl: The last question this evening is from Acuna ofc.

Question: We heard you had an awesome crew on "From Dusk Til Dawn" (especially the office) any comments?

RobtRodrgz: I had the best crew of all time on "From Dusk Til Dawn." It was made up of people who worked on "Pulp Fiction," "Four Rooms," "Desperado" and a few new hard-working people.

CelebCircl: Robert, thanks for joining us tonight. Is there anything you'd like to say to our audience before you go?

RobtRodrgz: Thanks to everyone for tuning in and good luck with any dreams or ideas that you want to follow. Don't let anyone else keep you down. You've got one shot--don't blow it. Good Night!

OnlineHost: Thanks to Oldsmobile for bringing Robert Rodriguez to Center Stage. For your own transcript of this event, be sure to return to this area in about 24 hours. Thank you and good night!

OnlineHost: Copyright 1995 Oldsmobile; licensed to America Online, Inc.

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