Robert Rodriguez has been really, really busy. But that’s nothing new for the writer/director/producer, and that seems to be the way he likes it. In addition to the 11 features he’s directed since first turning heads with his low budget classic “El Mariachi” (financed largely by Rodriguez’ willingness to submit himself to medical experimentations), Rodriguez has generally had his hands in just about every other area of filmmaking imaginable: writing, editing, producing, doing DP work, composing music and, we’re betting, handling grip and best boy duties at some point too.
Now Rodriguez has decided to expand his Austin-based Troublemaker Studios into his very own one stop shop production house, Quick Draw. On the heels of that announcement, Rodriguez is about to release a reboot of the “Spy Kids” franchise entitled “Spy Kids: All The Time In The World In 4D” featuring new kids Rebecca (Rowan Blanchart) and Cecil (Mason Cook) as well as a new spy mom (Jessica Alba), a spy dad (Joel McHale) and a new villain (Jeremy Piven).
The Playlist spoke with Rodriguez about relaunching the “Spy Kids” franchise on the heels of all his recent announcements at Comic-Con (read more about “Fire & Ice” and “Sin City 2” details here) and a seemingly endless slate of upcoming projects in various stages of development.
What made you want to relaunch the “Spy Kids” franchise?
We did three in a row, one a year. We had to do them fast because the kids were going to get older. So when we finished one and it was really successful, we went ahead and did another one. So it was a pretty innovative, scrappy little movie series at its time. “Spy Kids 1” was made at a time when they weren’t really making family films at all. It was really empty out there and I thought it would be the perfect time to launch something like that.
When I was a kid, me and my sister were really big fans of “Escape from Witch Mountain” where the two kids have super powers. You never saw kids get to be so empowered. Who cared what the adults were saying? They were arguing about something and I guess it had some big stars, but we were just focused on the kids and I wanted to do something like that that really affected children. “Spy Kids” wound up being a big hit. I started shooting digital on the second one which lead me to realizing I could probably figure out how to bring 3D back if I put two cameras together and shot digital 3D. That was the biggest of the “Spy Kids” movies and started the resurgence of 3D. We were one of the first ones. I gave the glasses away for free on that one. [Laughs] By that point, Alexa was pretty big. She was 13 and getting really tall, so we couldn’t really go to a fourth. Three felt like a good number and how could you top 3D at the time? So we stopped there and I went and did some other things.
Over the years other families and parents and kids would still come up to me and tell me how much they loved “Spy Kids,” which they were discovering on video and TV. I realized there was still a need for them. It wasn’t like movies came and took the place of “Spy Kids” when I left. There was still an empty space for that kind of movie.
When you take your own kids to the movies these days, what do you feel is the core element missing?
Child empowerment is a big thing with kids. That’s why, when we were a little younger, we were going, “How come my little brother loves ‘Power Rangers?'” Well, because there’s kids in those suits. The empowerment is actually very key for kids of that age. They watch it over and over again. My own youngest kids were big fans of the “Spy Kids” movies, not knowing I had made them. So I realized I needed to do another series. The idea came kind of naturally. When I saw Jessica [Alba] on the set of “Machete” all dressed up, but with a baby with an exploding diaper. [Laughs] But wow, she’s a mom now, we could really take advantage of that and have her play the sexiest, most beautiful spy mom ever for real in a “Spy Kids” movie. So I pitched her the idea and she thought it was great.
You’ve sort of mastered this ability to effortlessly switch between something as adult as “Machete” and right back into the wholesomeness of this world.
Well, when we were filming “Machete,” there was family involved. She’s got her kid there, I’ve got my kids there. I’m from a family of ten kids and I have five of my own. That’s the inspiration you get from them. You need an outlet for it. You can’t put that stuff in a “Machete” movie. So it’s great to have a place to put these thoughts.
You brought 3D to “Spy Kids 3” and now 4D and Aromascope, which is sort of a throwback of sorts. What would you do with “Spy Kids 5?”
It would have to go 5D. I have an idea, but I can’t say what it is yet. I do have one ready in case.
You’ve kept these movies pretty close to the vest, directing all of them yourself. Do you see the “Spy Kids” series as something you might hand off to another director down the line now that you are producing more?
It depends. If this one did really well and the studio wanted to make another one right away and I was doing “Sin City 2” or something, I would tell them I would just produce it and oversee it. I did that with “Predators” and I really liked how that came out. That director [Nimrod Antal] did a terrific job.
How do you like producing? Is it hard for you to relinquish that control?
It depends. I didn’t come up with “Predators“and they always had different directors, so I felt like that was something that, even though I had written it, I didn’t invent it. So it wasn’t like, “Only I know how to tell this story.” The “Spy Kids” I feel like, I’ve already done four of them. If I didn’t have a really clear idea of what to do with a fifth one and somebody else did, then that person actually would be better for the job. So it kind of depends.
“Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D” opens nationwide August 19th, 2011.