Machete Kills - Robert Rodriguez DVD interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
ROBERT Rodriguez talks about the making of Machete Kills and what he likes about the central character, played by Danny Trejo, as well as the evolution of the whole Machete genre from its trailer origins as part of his Grindhouse project with Quentin Tarantino.
He also talks about working with Mel Gibson and Lady Gaga on the film and why women have come to land such strong roles in his films. Machete Kills is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Steelbook on Monday, February 17, 2014.
Q. Tell us about Machete Cortez, your central character?
Robert Rodriguez: I actually came up with the character when I made Desperado, and I told Danny Trejo about it on set. I said: “Someday you’re going to play Machete.’“For years, we kicked it around. In the movie Spy Kids, we paid tribute to this movie that we thought we would never get off the ground.
Q. And what made you want to do the Grindhouse films with Quentin Tarantino?
Robert Rodriguez: When we were looking to do fake trailers, Quentin and I immediately thought: “We’ve got to make Machete. I had a story built up over the years, and I jammed it into this trailer. It was the first ‘Mex-ploitation’ movie, like a genre picture from the ‘70s or ‘80s, but done with a Latin character.
How did you come up with the ending of 2010’s original Machete?
Robert Rodriguez: Machete drove off with Jessica Alba, and it’s a nice ending, but it needed something else. It needed something visceral. So, while I was mixing, I decided to put some titles up for two fake sequels, just to get the audience thinking we have two sequels coming. It said, Machete will return in Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. I was really happy with how the first movie came out. It’s probably the best reaction I had seen from an audience for one of my movies. Not just in the States: we took it to the Venice Film Festival and it got a bonkers reaction.
Danny Trejo called me all the time saying: “When are we going to make another one?” Anywhere he goes, people stop him and they don’t call him ‘Danny’ anymore, they call him ‘Machete.’ Even his own mother called him Machete after that. We had no plans of making two more, but the first movie built up an audience, and built up anticipation for another movie. We decided to go ahead and make Machete Kills to give people the second and a taste of the third one all in one. And I decided to go really big and adventurous with it. The first movie was almost like our First Blood and this needed to be Rambo: First Blood Part 2. This needed to be Machete hired by the US government to go on a mission that they couldn’t solve. I wanted it to feel like we went much bigger with the second one.
What I think Machete has is this real sense of play, and adventure, and inventiveness, and creativity, and expecting the unexpected, and going as far as you possibly can to push all the boundaries. Start there, and then push further.
Q. What was working with Mel Gibson like?
Robert Rodriguez: He’s the ultimate Bond style villain. He’s got a plan, but he also has some quirks that we manage to find along the way.
Q. The film is also notable for having strong female characters…
Robert Rodriguez: It’s always been that way, and it’s never anything planned. I grew up with five sisters. When you understand a woman’s strength, that comes across in a movie. I go for that feeling of just seeing their true, strong selves coming through, and letting that be a highlight of the movie. Michelle Rodriguez and Amber Heard were going at it, and they were just so amazing, and so fun. You can make a whole movie just about them. The choice was to shoot like we’re 20-years-old or don’t make the movie. We shot fast and furious. What’s great about that is that you fly so free at that moment. You get out of the way because you have to just let it flow, and go with the moment, and go with what’s happening. Everybody just had a blast because of that. I think it was the most fun I’ve had making a movie. We shoot the rehearsal because you never want to feel like we’re actually doing it. We don’t want to make it that official. I think that helps,”
Q. How did you cope with having limited time with some of your amazing cast?
Robert Rodriguez: Well, Lady Gaga showed up and we’re picking her costumes, and I’m giving her new lines. She comes in and she nails them, and goes from one part to the next, and I’m adding more stuff for her to do, and she leaves with a finished poster of her character at the end of that day. And it feels very surreal. You really concentrate on one actor at a time.
When Amber showed up the first week, it was ‘Amber Heard Week.’ And then Michelle Rodriguez overlapped with her and that led into Sofia Vergara for two days of ‘Sofia World.’ Cuba Gooding Jr. is there for a day, Antonio [Banderas] is there for a day, Lady Gaga is there for one day, Charlie Sheen is there for one day. You get to concentrate on each person and make the arc of their character work within those days. It’s hard to remember a time I didn’t work with Danny Trejo. I had so many other actors to deal with that I just kept thinking, ‘We’ll just save Danny. I’ll shoot him at the end of the day.’ Danny would get very little time. And there was something magic about that because he didn’t even need any time. I could turn to him and I would get it in one take.”
The whole series is completely wacky. There are no rules. There’s something really exciting about that. I think that’s why it attracts a lot of actors: anything goes. There’s nothing that an actor, or performer, or creator, or a filmmaker likes more than creative freedom. If you have a project where the job is to be completely free creatively, well that’s no job at all. That’s easy. That’s fun. That’s play.
Lionsgate releases Machete Kills on DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Steelbook on February 17, 2014