With the upcoming theatrical release of “Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For,” Robert Rodriguez has a lot going for himself this year in both film and television. In fact, one of the many highlights of this year’s SXSW Film Festival was the screening of the pilot episode of Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.” The original drama, the first on Rodriguez’s new cable network El Rey, premiered shortly after on Tuesday, March 11th and screened at the same time in Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse, where it was followed by a Q&A with the director and his cast. Here are five highlights:
Robert Rodriguez is willing to consider multitasking in insane ways. “I really wanted to shoot [“From Dusk Till Dawn”] during ‘Sin City 2’ and ‘Machete Kills,'” the busy filmmaker explained. “I wanted to have a standing set on the side so that each actor could go film a segment of it. I was already thinking ahead for the El Rey Network. Sometimes actors are only there two days or three days, and there just wasn’t any time. I’m so kicking myself now, because imagine, I would’ve had two seasons worth — the guests would’ve been Sofia Vergara, Mel Gibson, Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Demian Bichir, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis. It would’ve made a killer two seasons worth.”
It’s not so much taking over for George Clooney. D.J. Cotrona, who in the series takes on the role of Seth Gecko played by George Clooney in the original film, preferred not to think of what he was doing as filling in for the movie star. “After meeting with Robert and seeing the first few scripts, I don’t think we were technically filling the shoes, but we put them in the guest bedroom, kind of to the side. We knew they were there and looked at them for reference every once in a while.”
There wasn’t enough CGI for Eiza Gonzalez. The Mexican actress and singer, who takes on the role of vampire queen Santanico Pandemonium (portrayed by Salma Hayek in the film), could have done with fewer practical effects. “As you see, one my first scenes that I got to shoot was the pit of snakes. And I remember the day that I got there, and of course I’m scared of snakes. We all are, because even though you know you can control them, they have a natural instinct. So I came up to Robert, and he’s like ‘Okay, you’re going to shoot.’ and I was like ‘Oh, okay, they’re gonna CGI everything?’ He’s like ‘No, no, no, we’re going to put about 20 snakes in the pit and we’re going to CGI them biting you.'”
Robert Rodriguez had his gun on set. The gun that Cotrona’s character uses is from Rodriguez’s personal collection, the actor said. “It’s about the size of a mini-fridge. The first or second day, the prop master came over and we were looking at handguns. I don’t think it had been technically established yet, but it was a revolver, a slightly larger revolver, it was a 45. I’m picking them all up and I’m looking like ‘yeah, that’s cool, that’s cool.’ And Robert comes over and he’s watching and he’s like ‘what do you think about this one?’ And he pulls out this hairdryer, like this cast-iron hairdryer and he just [drops it]. And I pick it up, and visibly my arm drops.”
Network TV still has validity. Despite all the talk of new streaming platforms, there’s something to be said for the power of TV, at least to Rodriguez. “When I was at home and I turned on Time Warner, El Rey came on for the first time in December in HD. There’s still something really amazing about seeing a network come on and then your product on there, and the little logo. There’s something really exciting about that. On YouTube and all that, it’s all great but everybody can do that. But when you have a network, it’s like you’re actually programmed and people can actually purchase or buy. It’s like having your movie play in theaters. Yeah, you can have your film distributed online, but when you go to a theater and your movie’s playing, there’s something really exciting about that. It makes it almost a little more official.”
Check out the video of the full Q&A below:
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