Director Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with his ultra-indie El Mariachi, and he was in high demand throughout Hollywood. While his 1995 action classic Desperado is considered his studio debut, the filmmaker also made Roadracers, this 1994 homage to 1950s movies, which makes its Blu-ray debut April 17. This 50s drama features some of the first big screen performances from David Arquette, Salma Hayek, and John Hawkes, along with a fantastic turn from William Sadler, who plays Sarge, the cop who is constantly trying to bust David Arquette's Dude Delaney. I recently had the chance to speak with William Sadler about playing this hardened cop. Take a look at what he had to say.
This came out the same year as The Shawshank Redemption, so I was curious if you shot Roadracers before that?
William Sadler: If I'm not mistaken, I think I shot this before I shot Shawshank. I'm not certain about that, to be honest with you. I know they happened in the same year. Shawshank was in the summer, in Ohio. We spent the entire summer there, 11 or 12 weeks or something like that. Maybe it happened right after Shawshank.
It must have been interesting to have these two roles go right up against each other, the prisoner and the cop. There's an interesting duality there.
William Sadler: Well, I'm always on one side of law enforcement or the other, aren't I?
That's true. What I enjoyed about this it's like this 1950s version of The Dukes of Hazzard, almost. What kind of vibe did you get when you first read the script by Robert (Rodriguez) and (co-writer) Tommy (Nix)?
William Sadler: You know, I loved the style he had. It had this sort of gritty style, that you don't see all the time, and I also liked the humor that he brought to it. There were bits that were funny that were designed to be funny. I only knew Robert from El Mariachi, which I had just seen, and he had called and asked me to do it. I was excited to meet him, this wunderkind. He really was. Everybody in Hollywood was talking about him. Everybody. He was this extraordinarily gifted director, who made a movie for like 20 bucks, selling his blood or something to get enough money to make a movie, and the movie turned out great. It was classy, and it was funny as hell. He was really the big draw for me. I liked the script, and I liked the role, and I liked what it was funny about it, but Robert was the reason I wanted to do the film.
I loved the first scene with Sarge, the whole pigs in the blanket introduction. It almost sets him up as this softy, but we learn that he's very much the opposite. Was it tricky to find that balance as this guy who just wants to clean up his town, and this guy who will stop at nothing to get Dude?
William Sadler: Well, it's not hard to get those two flavors in the same ice cream cone. That's like the Nazi who is into his puppies, and then turns around and kills people. People are complex that way, people are that way. He has this soft spot, he can wax poetical about pigs in a blanket, and then turn around and be a motherf*&%er. It's all about mother, and apple pie, and home, pride and country, but don't cross him, man.
They hinted at the history between Sarge and Dude's father. It isn't quite explored fully in the movie though, but was that something that you and Robert developed, just so you could have that history of the character?
William Sadler: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes that stuff is enough that we're on the same page. You can hint at it without going into great detail.
I loved how they kept focusing on that, 'This is God's Country' sign, and so many bad things keep happening right around that sign.
William Sadler: That's the thing. That's his sense of humor. He's always looking for the ironic twist, the unexpected, ironic, funny, and he seasons his movies with that. He makes them incredibly indelible.
William Sadler: You could tell that these were classy folks.
John Hawkes and Salma were amazing. Hawkes was hysterical in this. He was so fun to watch. You know, throwing the knife and sticking in the shoe, that whole sequence. You expect great things from people who are that good. Everybody was just starting out.
Can you give us a sense of how Robert works on the set? What really impressed you about working with him?
William Sadler: There was a great sense of playfulness, that I loved about working with Robert. You often hear this about directors, how it's like having the best set of toys. This fabulous train set, the biggest box of toys that a kid could possibly have. The best directors look like a kid having more fun than you're supposed to have. He was like running from one camera to another. It was his first film after El Mariachi, in which he did everything. He held the camera, he held the microphone, he did the editing, he did everything. Here, suddenly, he had the box of toys. There's a learning curve, and he was like, 'What do you do with this? Oh my God, look at this.' He really did look like a kid on Christmas Day, running around the set, with these huge 35 millimeter film cameras and cranes and special effects and a budget for costumes. It was the best train set a kid could possibly get.
We heard recently there was a script completed for Bill & Ted 3. I was wondering if you have heard anything about The Grim Reaper possibly returning in that sequel?
William Sadler: I'm not sure if it's a done deal yet. I know they're trying to write The Grim Reaper in. (Writer-star) Alex (Winter) said, 'How could we do this without the Reaper?' I'm hopeful. I'd love to go back and play with those guys again. That was one of the most fun roles I've done. I'll be there in a heartbeat, if they want to do it.
What would you like to say to any fans of Robert who might not be familiar with Roadracers, about why they should pick it up on Blu-ray?
William Sadler: Oh, they should absolutely check out the early work of one of our best directors. You have to look at where these people come from, who have gone on to impress you so much with bigger films. All the raw ingredients of greatness are there.
Excellent. That's my time. Thanks so much for talking to me, William.
William Sadler: Thank you, Brian.