Robert Rodriguez is a multi talented Writer, Director, Producer, Editor - just an all around fantastic film maker. That definitely came through in 2005's mega-hit film Sin City. Well, now Robert's working on the sequals to the movie and we sat down with him to talk about that as well as his career, his friendship with Quentin Tarantino, and his life in Austin, Texas. He walked into the room with his trademark bandana, ripped shirt and jeans, and was ready for anything. Check out the genius that is Robert Rodriguez:
Is the green screen style the way you will shoot Sin City 2?
Robert Rodriguez: Probably, I’d probably do ‘em all in green screen. We did a bar set, a lot of stuff in a bar, but you couldn’t get the same look, yeah; the look would be so stylized even more probably in the second one then we’d want to shoot it. We’d have to shoot it green screen.
You like to work fast, but do you have any desire to make a long, drawn out film?
Robert Rodriguez: (motions a gun to his mouth and pulls the trigger)
So that’s a no? (laughter)
Robert Rodriguez: Nah, I’m going to do something, but it’s still fast. I’m doing an exploitation movie with Quentin, a double feature called Grind House. There’ll be a lot of locations, but we’ll shoot it pretty fast cause it’s supposed to be like an old 1970’s drive in movie; you have to shoot those quick.
When will that start?
Robert Rodriguez: As soon as we finish the script; I’m at his house right now writing our scripts, so probably the Fall.
No casting yet?
Robert Rodriguez: No, we’ve thrown a few ideas around, but it’s really gravy.
Are you writing your scripts separately?
Robert Rodriguez: Well, yeah, cause they’re two separate movies. He reads out his stuff and acts it out and I tell him stuff that I do. But I’ve got one of the best characters in mind, so it’s so cool! They’re two separate movies, but it’s like seeing a double feature.
Is it easy to work with Quentin where you can bounce material off him because you both approach it basically the same way?
Robert Rodriguez: Well, that’s what I was thinking of doing before I did Sin City, I was thinking of doing a double feature. And I kind of forget about an old double feature poster which had two movie posters on the same poster ‘Two Hot Rod Flics Together: Drag Stip Girl and Rock All Night’ something like that and I thought that was cool and I should do something like that, show two features – each one’s like an hour. I forgot about it and I went to Quentin’s house to show him the Sin City DVD, his section, scene for Sin City. And I saw the same poster on his floor, and I was like ‘Hey, I was thinking about doing a double feature, you should do one and I’ll do the other.’ And he was like ‘F*ck yeah! And we’ll put fake trailers in the middle of them for movies that don’t exist.’ (lots of laughter) So we were like, ‘Awe, this is going to be great!’ So we’re just having so much fun right now.
Is there a studio attached to it so far?
Robert Rodriguez: It’ll be the new Weinstein company.
What’s the basic plot for your half?
Robert Rodriguez: I can’t say, but it’s really cool, I’m so excited, it’s got some – I’ve come up with a lot of good stuff.
What about Quentin’s stuff?
Robert Rodriguez: I really can’t say.
Who’s is going to be more violent?
Robert Rodriguez: I really can’t say; it depends.
Is Quentin going to return for some directing in 2 or 3?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I haven’t finished the script yet.
Do you think Sin City benefited from the comic book boom?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I thought it was just be something people discover on DVD. You don’t know how people are going to react to, you know, black and white. I knew it was going to be something different and people might not discover right away, but later would find that it was something really cool. So I was surprised that people found it right off.
Was it hard for the actors to perform to the way this was shot?
Robert Rodriguez: No, it was pretty much like the stage. It was pretty new for a lot of people that came in not knowing what to expect. And I told them it’s going to be like theater and you’re going to be on a really blank stage with very few props and the rest is imagined and they were like ‘Oh, ok, that’s fine.’ It became easier to get the performances cause that’s all you were concentrating on. The visuals I had already done tests on so I knew we could make that look good. So I’m doing the effects and the photography so I’m taking care of that, so they don’t have to worry about that. I’m just getting the performance and all the other stuff I do later. And I had already done enough tests that I knew it was going to look fine.
Is it comfortable to know that you have those actors who can come in and do those scenes where nothing’s around?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, people always ask how they do the seen when there’s no car and there’s only a steering wheel, isn’t that weird? And we’ve all driven a car before and when you’re shooting a movie, they’re not really driving there either, sometimes it’s being towed, and there’s lights all around, sometimes it’s a partial car, so they’re always having to act that stuff and this is just taking it that extra step so they get into it right away. They’re actors, they really can pretend.
Were any of the actors surprised at the end result
Robert Rodriguez: Oh, they all were, when they saw it, they were like ‘Wow, when did that happen, when were we there? I shot it so fast, I hardly remember even doing it. Benicio [Del Toro] was there four days, Brittany [Murphy] was there one day, Jaime King was there a day and a half. Bruce [Willis] was there ten days; it was very quick.
What drives you to work so hard and fast, it seems like you’re always working, though?
Robert Rodriguez: Well, I’m on vacation writing and it’s funny, I kind of skipped the vacation part. And I was talking about it that when all these movies are done, I’m going to have the whole summer off; somehow we’re still working. What are we doing? We didn’t do anything for vacation. I just feel like making stuff, it doesn’t feel like working, it’s very life-giving to be that creative all the time. When you have that many projects, you’re forced to be that creative so you’re forced to be that alive and awake cause when it all goes away, you’ll say ‘Now what do I do, watch tv? I gotta get another project, my life support is going out.’
Are we going to see Sin City in 3-D?
Robert Rodriguez: That would be a great 3-D movie! You’ve got the panels coming off and stuff.
When are you going to get around to doing a special edition of the original Spy Kids?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh, we’re doing that now. I think that comes out around Christmas. I just did commentary for it and they did a whole bunch of interviews with the kids (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) and I’ve got all kinds of deleted scenes which didn’t make it to the special edition.
Are there any more films in that series?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, we might do an animated, straight to DVD thing, but that would be it; we couldn’t do a live action cause the kids are too big.
What would be the film school and cooking school for the first one be?
Robert Rodriguez: The film school I already cut for the first one, and the cooking school, I can’t remember if they ate anything in that. But the Sin City Breakfast Tacos I’m excited about. It’s like when I made flour tortillas with my grandmother, no one makes them anymore.
Are you going to have the same kind of working relationship with Frank on the [Sin City] sequels?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah.
And is he ready to direct on his own?
Robert Rodriguez: He wants to, he loves it now. He says ‘I can see why you want to do this all the time; he can’t wait to get back on the set.
What are you guys working on story wise for the sequels?
Robert Rodriguez: A Dame to Kill For is the basis for the second one.
So which characters would be returning?
Robert Rodriguez: I think Marv (Mickey Rourke) will come back, before he died and Dwight’s (Clive Owen) in that one, Gail’s (Rosario Dawson) in that one, both Goldie and Wendy (Jaime King) are together, you see the twins together – one blonde, the other black and white, Miho’s (Devon Aoki) in that one, and then there’s a bunch of new characters.
And for the third?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, we’re still writing the script to see if there’s enough for a third one or we might just stick with the second one.
When is that going to start?
Robert Rodriguez: We’re supposed to start in January, but we might start earlier if we keep working up this clip.
Are there any actors you’re thinking of bringing on?
Robert Rodriguez: No, not yet.
Do you have a bigger budget this time around?
Robert Rodriguez: No, I’m going to make the sequel cheaper then the one before so it’ll probably be less.
So does that mean that the technology has improved that quickly?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, we did that on each Spy Kids, they just got cheaper; the third one had the most effects and was in 3-D and was less expensive then the first one which was made three years later.
Have you looked at To Hell and Back which has a lot of that color and thought about that technology?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh, totally, totally thought about Hell and Back and Family Values and there’s so many good books, it’s all about picking and choosing. We’re starting with Dame to Kill For and a couple other shorts and see how they work together.
Where did you come up with this concept to do a film completely on green screen?
Robert Rodriguez: It was gradual; in Spy Kids, I did a little on green screen and on Spy Kids 2, there was a little more sequences that were done in green. And then for Spy Kids 3, it was in the video game so it had to be done all in cg; we didn’t even worry about props, they would just hold their hands out and I would put a prop in there so it would look like it was generated by the video game. And that was so much fun that when I went to look at Sin City, I thought ‘Oh I know how to do this now, it’s all green screen, it’s the only way to photograph this; you can’t photograph, you can’t bend light like that on a normal set, you have to do it green.
What kind of challenges are there to shoot these two completely different styles of movies at the same time?
Robert Rodriguez: It’s easier; I did it by accident when I shot Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Sky Kids 2 & 3 and I like doing two different projects at the same time. Doing Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Sin City together might be a little confusing – ‘Who’s head did we cut off, who’s arm is that?’ It’s just so different to do that and it is easier cause you’re not fixated on one project and not over thinking it; it gives you a lot of distance to switch to a kids movie for a half a day and say ‘Oh, I know what to do here.’ And you go cut, cut, cut, and you get a lot more objective; it’s like your mind went on vacation.
What’s the film school going to be for Sharkboy and Lavagirl?
Robert Rodriguez: It’s actually called ‘Creating Sharkboy and Lavagirl with Racer Max.’ All this footage that I had taken of my son since he was little, his fascination with sharks, he’s always loved sharks, just showing him conceptualizing the movie and showing me his first drawings of the bad guy and Sharkboy and Lavagirl and acting out certain sequences as he was coming up with them and intersect that with the final movie and you’ll see how close it is. And then there’s the one in the pool, cause I was just recording him when he would come up with ideas and I kept getting the paper all wet so I just recorded it and you could see he was just coming up with the ideas in the pool. And in real time, you put it up with the final pictures and I think it’ll inspire a lot of kids to draw and make home movies together cause you just see how fun it is and close it makes you.
Do you have a cooking school for that one?
Robert Rodriguez: We did have a cooking school, but we didn’t finish it in time. We wanted to make these chocolate chip volcano cookies that have peanut butter chips, white vanilla, it’s just full of sh*t. It’s just so good, but a sugar overload.
Do you have outtakes from Sharkboy?
Robert Rodriguez: A couple of outtakes that are pretty funny, and also in the commentary, it doesn’t credit him, but half way through the commentary, my son comes in and he does the rest of the commentary with me.
How was that experience?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh, it was hilarious, he said some pretty funny stuff.
What’s going on with the El Mariachi franchise?
Robert Rodriguez: No, not unless someone comes along and says ‘Hey, we want another one.’
If that happens, would you bring Johnny [Depp] back?
Robert Rodriguez: Well, I’ve thought about doing a PSP game with that character, so that would be cool – a Once Upon a Time in Mexico game for the PSP, a man with no eyes, blind gun fire.
Your name was attached to a few big franchises like Conan.
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, and A Princess of Mars. It’s hard to do the studio stuff now that I’m out of the DGA (Directors’ Guild of America) cause they develop a project, I can’t do it cause I’m not a member. I’m just doing more original material like Grind House and Sin City.
Is that more creative?
Robert Rodriguez: Yeah, cause you get to create your own franchises, that’s cool. You make Spy Kids or Once Upon a Time in Mexico instead of a James Bond film, you make your own franchise you own and control.
Is that why you like working with Bob and Harvey (Weinstein) because they give you that control?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh totally yeah, that’s why I like working with them. You go to a studio with something like Sin City and you tell them it’s all black and white and voice over and it’s an anthology, what do you think about that, rated ‘r,’ ‘No!’
Do you ever see yourself doing any tv directing?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I might direct an episode of The George Lopez Show for George just cause it sounds like fun.
Would you try to stay true to the show or would you do what Quentin did with CSI and go in a whole different direction?
Robert Rodriguez: No, you’d know I was there! (lots of laughter) George jumping over the counter (acting out shooting a gun while jumping).
George Lucas is doing a Star Wars tv series, is that something you’d be interested in directing?
Robert Rodriguez: George Lucas is directing a tv show? Nah, that’s George’s baby.
Well, he’s talked about getting other directors in? Something like 100 episodes.
Robert Rodriguez: Well, that sounds cool.
After El Mariachi, did you ever imagine you’d have your own studio and be calling your own shots?
Robert Rodriguez: No, never; I didn’t even think that movie was ever going to be seen. I had no aspirations at all.
So was that a dream of yours to go from there to where you are now?
Robert Rodriguez: No, I would never thought that, you know, like someone’s making straight to video, action movies in Mexico and you want me to direct one? They spend about $30, 000 on them, so they must sell ‘em for about $40 or $50. Sh*t, I’ll make ‘em for five grand and I’ll be rich, and make Mexican exploitation movies for the rest of my life and make money on the video market. And I’ll never have a real job ‘Hey, that’s great!’ I just started with small goals.
So at what point did you start to dream bigger?
Robert Rodriguez: It was all gradual; we started renting out this studio space by the old airport hanger and it just looked like they weren’t going to take it away from us so we kept building and building and just a few years ago, we started putting all our props in there and hanging up movie posters and we looked at it like ‘Sh*t, this is starting to look like a real studio. Francis Ford Coppola came down to see it and said ‘Oh, this was my dream for Zoetrope’ and I was like ‘Sh*t, I got a Zoetrope!’ (laughter). It was really cool and just kind of gradually appeared and now it’s just a really cool place where people come and make movies, experimental movies.
Where do you and Quentin meet and where do you two pull away in your styles?
Robert Rodriguez: I think we just have an enthusiasm for the material and we both have our own approach to it, but we borrow from each other. He likes to learn from me on things I’m doing and vice versa.
Is there anything you would do and he says ‘I don’t want to go there?’
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I think we’re willing to try anything at this point. We had dinner with Tony Scott last night and he was asking us that same thing and trying to pull out of us how we’re doing these movies; we’re trying to get out of him how he makes his movies and he’s trying to get out of us how we make our movies – ‘I don’t understand how you guys do all that green screen and I want to get into that, you gotta show me!’
Do you rent out your studios?
Robert Rodriguez: I have my own two stages and then right next door we have Austin Studios that we got from the city and it’s non-profit, and city run and that goes to any outside filmmakers who want to come in. Mine are just used for my own productions.
Audiences seem to react more to the way you use green screen to others. What are you doing differently then them?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I think they’re just unusual movies, just different and quirky and weird, that’s my stuff, they’re all fantasies and they’re all ridiculous, people really like that stuff. And they’re inexpensive so they have a chance to make a profit.
Do you have all those actors signed up for the sequels?
Robert Rodriguez: No, but they would come do it; it was like two days of their life – ‘Yeah, I’ll come do it, I have a free weekend this weekend.’
For Sharkboy, did your son come on set with you?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh yeah, they’re schooled there with the other kids and they’re in the movie and would come in and look at the dailies and he would come in while I was editing and look at that.
Did he ever go above you and start directing over you?
Robert Rodriguez: No, but he did ask for a couple of his scenes to be in, but I had already cut them cause I started running out of money; I felt like such a bum.
Quentin always has a part for himself in all his movies, does he have a cameo in Grind House?
Robert Rodriguez: He said ‘If I have a part for me, I’d love to do it.’ He loved what he did on From Dusk Till Dawn with me, something different from what he normally does.
Are you going to write anything for him?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t know, I’ll have to finish writing it first and see if there’s anything that fits him. I wrote the Danny Trejo part for him in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and he was going to play the Mexican guy and I wrote the line ‘Are you a Mexican or a Mexican’t?’ so he could go ‘I’m a Mexican.’ But he couldn’t do it because he was doing Kill Bill so Danny did it, but originally that was for Quentin; he was going to have a fu Manchu and everything.
Do you have anything in Sin City for him?
Robert Rodriguez: Oh, I’m sure, I’d have to look at the characters and I’ll thumb through it and I’d probably find someone who looks like him and maybe he could play that guy.
Sin City 2 and Grind House are set for release sometime in 2006, Sin City 3 (if it's made) has a 2008 release year.
The Sin City DVD will hit stores August 16th.
Dont't forget to also check out: Sin City 2