Feature by: Jack Foley
FOR anyone who remembers the hassle of watching Jaws 3-D in a
darkened cinema, with a goofy pair of spectacles, the prospect
of viewing the latest Spy Kids adventure in 3-D may seem a little
Yet, contrary to initial scepticism, Robert Rodriguezs
third film in the franchise makes for great family viewing; a
sentiment echoed in the films massive American Box Office,
where it opened in number one, ahead of Lara Crofts latest
Tomb Raider adventure, over the July 25 weekend.
It is a film which uses the latest developments in technology
to its advantage, with the 3-D feeling like less of a gimmick,
and more of an integral part of the story.
"I saw 3-D when I was a kid, when they re-released House
of Wax, and remember going to the theatre and getting this different
experience," he told me at a London press conference, held
at The Dorchester Hotel, earlier this week.
"I remember hearing the audience scream, because things
seemed to be coming out of the camera. Kids had never got that
experience before, and there really hadn't been a family movie
that everyone could go see, that utilised the technology.
"Back then, movies were using 3-D as just a gimmick; sort
of almost like an after-thought. There was no real point to it.
It was almost as if the studio said, 'what movie are you making?
Oh, while you're at it, make it 3-D'.
"I think people's remembrance of 3-D is bad stories and
then, on top of it, the 3-D wasn't really very good. People just
sort of remember it as a failure on all levels."
Rather than just throwing things at the audience occasionally,
however, Rodriguez made the decision to use it as a device to
really pull the audience into the screen, to give
them a different kind of adventure.
"You really go to a movie to be transported into the movie,
but usually, you're sitting there, just looking at the screen,
like a spectator," he explained.
"I used 3-D to draw the audience in, so that when a character
puts on the glasses, the audience puts on the glasses, and they
are in the world with them. That can be as close to a virtual
reality experience as you can get."
The idea seems to have gone down a storm, not only with audiences,
but also with actors - who seem to have been lining up to make
Aside from Spy Kids regular, Antonio Banderas, who plays the
childrens father, the likes of Salma Hayek, Bill Paxton
and Steve Buscemi also return, while there are first-time outings
for Sylvester Stallone, as the villain, Elijah Wood and George
Stallone, it seems, had been earmarked for a role in one of the
Spy Kids films ever since it was first pitched as an idea.
"He was in the room when I pitched it to Bob Weinstein,"
"I met Stallone that day, in 1997, when he was at the Copland
premiere and spent most of that day hanging out with him. He had
me laughing all the time. I was always a fan, but I didn't know
how funny, generally, he was in person.
"I remember, the impression being that I wanted to work
with him, some day, not in an action movie, but in a comedy.
"Years later, I was making Spy Kids 3 and I thought this
was the time to call Stallone and offered him five roles, all
comedic, and something his kids can see; because his kids can't
see any of his other movies - they think he's a professional golfer."
The ensuing collaboration was one which both enjoyed, and Rodriguez
was keen to talk up how keen Stallone was to get into the spirit
of all of his characters.
"He really got into it, I mean every day he was in a different
costume, and trying to figure out what to do. He brought a lot
of ideas and it was really cool to see him have that much fun
on the set."
As for Clooney, who had previously worked with Rodriguez on From
Dusk Til Dawn, the actor didnt realise he was in the movie
until receiving a call from the director halfway through filming.
"Id already written him into the script, without telling
him he was in it," he confessed. "So when I knew he
was back in town, in March, I called him and said 'do you know
you're in Spy Kids 3', and he said 'I am?', and I said, 'yeah,
you play the president', and he said 'I do?' And it was like 'when
can I come and film you?' He said, 'well I should have some time
in May...' And I said 'how about Monday?'
"I just told him I had my HD camera, I could go along to
his living room, set up the camera, do the microphone and the
off-camera dialogue, and that he didnt even have to wear
pants.... So he came down without his pants, he was just wearing
shorts, to show that he could."
Elijah Woods appearance was orchestrated in a similar fashion
"He came to visit the set in April, and I said 'by the way,
you're The Guy'," continued Rodriguez, referring to his role
in the film. "I told him that I was going to shoot him like
the opposite of Lord of the Rings. He'd be the tallest guy in
the room for a change."
It is clear from spending time with Rodriguez that he is a fun
guy to hang out with and when he describes himself as, basically,
a 12-year-old, you kind of believe him.
His films consistently appeal to the boy inside every man - whether
its Desperado, or Spy Kids - and his enthusiasm for movie-making
translates well to the screen.
As he stated at the press conference: "Every movie I've
made is sort of fantasy. People send me draft dramatic scripts,
and I read about half of them and think, I don't want to make
this. I don't know why.
"Movie-making is such a falsehood; you've got lights and
actors; recreating reality just seems so phoney. I like watching
those kind of movies, but I wouldn't want to make them."
As such, Rodriguez always conceives his ideas in terms of a franchise,
believing that it helps to create a much richer story. Spy Kids,
itself, remains a trilogy, while the Desperado series will come
to a close later this year, with Once Upon A Time in Mexico.
"If you think of something in terms of a franchise, even
if you don't make another one, that one story is going to be a
really rich story," he asserts.
"For instance, the first Spy Kids movie actually ends with
them becoming spies, which gives the characters somewhere to go.
"So, if you can imagine other movies, whether you make them
or not, audiences love the feeling that characters have gone through
a big change. They can almost imagine the next movies, whether
I make them or not."
As for the Spy Kids series, Rodriguez insists this will be the
final part of the franchise, because it means he can end on a