Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Why 3-D?
A. Why not 3-D? I saw 3-D when I was a kid and they re-released
House of Wax, and remember going to the theatre and just the experience
you get; it's just a different experience, you know, putting on
the glasses, and seeing a movie. I remember hearing the audience
scream because things seemed to be coming out of the camera. Kids
had never gotten that experience before, and there really hadn't
been a family movie that everyone could go see, that utilised
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'. Because they were gimmick-based, the stories
weren't usually very good.
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, either. People just
sort of remember 3-D as a failure on all levels.
I thought if you really took the idea of 3-D and made it part
of the story, you could do something different, instead of just
throwing things at the audience occasionally, you could use it
to really pull an audience into the screen, because you really
go to a movie to be transported into the movie, but you're sitting
there, just looking at the screen, like a spectator. You use 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. And I just thought that the last 3-D movies that
were made, there really wasn't CG effects back then, so unless
the actor was physically poking his finger at the lens, the audience
didn't get a 3-D moment, whereas now with technology, that's why
I set it inside a video game, the actors can go about their business,
and the world will be coming out constantly at the audience, to
get that feeling of being surrounded in an environment.
Technologically, I thought it was a good time to bring it back.
Q. When the movie gets released on DVD, do we expect to get
the package, along with a pair of spectacles for 3-D?
A. If it comes out on DVD, it will come with glasses, at least
enough for a family. But I wouldn't count on seeing it like that,
so just go to the theatre [laughs]. We're working on it at the
Q. Sylvester Stallone.... It says in the production notes
that he was almost in at the start of all this, when you were
pitching the Spy Kids in Venice...
A. Yeah, 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, and I was always a fan of his, but I didn't know
how funny, generally, he was in person. So I remember, the impression
being that I wanted to work with him, some day, but not in an
action movie, but in a comedy.
That party for Copland, Bob Weinstein was in a particularly good
mood, so I went over and I pitched him the Spy Kids title and
in two sentences I described it, and he shook my hand and said,
'we're making it'.
So yeah, Stallone was actually in the room when I pitched it,
but 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.
I know how important that is; there is nothing more difficult
than to try and impress your children.
Q. How did Sylvester Stallone get on with his multiple personalities?
Did he bring any ideas of his own? And how did George Clooney
handle the Stallone impression he attempts to half-do at the end?
A. That was a surprise for him and me. I didn't think of it
at the time. This movie was made so quickly, which was one of
the benefits I told Stallone about. I said that I shoot very differently
from anything he has done in Hollywood over the years.
It would be shot mostly on a green screen, with a very small crew,
and mainly him. And he was pretty excited about that, creating
a character a day, basically.
He really got into it, I mean every day he was in a different
costume, and trying to figure out what to do all the time. He
brought a lot of ideas and it was really cool to see him have
that much fun on the set.
He never left the set, he was always on it, he didn't go back
to his trailer, it was just him shooting all of his scenes.
For George, I called him, even though I'd already written him
into the script, without telling him he was in it. 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?' I said, 'yeah' you
play the president', and he said 'I do?' And it was like 'when
can I come and film you?' And 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 can come along to your living room, set
up the camera, do the microphone and the off-camera dialogue,
you don't even have to wear pants....
So he came down without his pants, he was just wearing shorts,
to show that he could.
I knew I had a transition between the two, because I had already
shot Stallone, and I knew he was a great mimic, so I asked him
to start doing his [Stallone's voice] and said I'd put the two
voices together and morph them, and that take at the end is the
first that he did on camera. You can see he's committing to it,
and he couldn't believe how much he sounded like Stallone. That's
why he just started laughing.
Even Stallone had to ask whether it was his voice, or George's.
Q. Which of the personalities is the nearest to the real Sylvester
A. We shot the Toymaker first, and I remember he kept asking
whether he was going too big, or over the top; and I would say,
'not really' and played him some of the music I did for it. And
then we realised, once he started doing the other characters,
that the Toymaker was the straight man; all of the others were
He's really a very nice man, really charming and a really funny
guy. In fact, the more I get to hang out with him, the more I
want to do a movie where he plays more his real personality, which
would really be a character in a film that no one has seen before.
Q. How much of the movie was green screen?
A. About 90%. It was much more like shooting a Star Wars movie,
except they didn't even have props, because since it was set in
a game, you couldn't hold a prop, because we would have had to
digitally erase it. So, no props, no sets, very little direction...
You just tried to get the right reaction. And I always shoot completely
out of synch, so they had no idea what they were shooting until
they got to the set. I called it the 'dream screen', because it
could be anything that you wanted it to be. You go and you look,
and you have the actor there in front of the drawing, so they
could be standing on anything...
Q. Your films sound more like playtime than acting?
A. Yeah, I don't want to work, or have a job. It's really
playing. This kind of movie is pure imagination; you have to create
everything, so it really is a lot of fun, just sit there and go.
I mean, you're making something that's just going to be out in
a few months, so you really have to be decisive, and have to come
up with things on the spot... and you do. You really don't know
what you're capable of, until you force yourself to do it.
Everyone comes with ideas. And the reason I like doing the effects,
from knowing about the effects process, is that it becomes much
more like shooting an independent film. You're not stuck with
this plan that you set in motion; you can change the idea on the
So it's a lot more free, and a lot more fun. It's not as rigid
as you would think an effects-driven movie should be. It's really
important for young film-makers to learn the technology and learn
the effects, so that then you're not at the mercy of the storyboards,
or stuff that was laid down months before. Then it becomes like
a trap. This way, enables you to be extremely flexible.
Q. Is it a format that you would do again?
A. I'd love to, because I learned so much about 3-D. At the
beginning, I didn't know anything, and now, I'd hate to throw
that information away. It's hard to think of an idea that works
as well in 3-D as this - being inside another world makes sense,
because you can have the characters put on the glasses and go
into this world, which constantly can be throwing things at you.
Q. Was it enjoyable, or did it ever become irksome?
A. It was enjoyable, because it was challenging. We didn't
feel like we were making Spy Kids 1 and Spy Kids 2 again.
In fact, I never really had an idea for a third one; this movie
wasn't a Spy Kids movie originally. It was originally called Game
Over and was about kids stuck in a game, and it was going to be
a 3-D, because I wanted to do a science fiction movie.
But somewhere during writing it, I thought why don't we make it
a Spy Kids movie, because we already know the characters and could
start the movie much quicker. And it would be a great way to end
the series, because it wouldn't just be re-hashing 1 and 2.
I mean, it's a completely different movie; Carla doesn't show
up until halfway through the movie, and the parents don't appear
until the end.
In the States, some of the critics (lazy reviewers, basically),
said 'it's not just like 1 and 2!'. But that was the point, I
mean did you really want the same movie again? I really wanted
to do something different, and it felt fresh and that we were
taking on a whole other challenge. It was a whole new territory.
Q. What about your reunion with Elijah Wood? Did he see the
A. He was in the script originally. But I think he only found
out he was in the movie in April, when he came to visit the set,
and I said 'by the way, you're The Guy'. And he came in and we
shot it very quickly. 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. The camera would be looking up at you, and all the
kids would be made to look really tiny. So, if you notice, that's
what happens in the movie... he comes in and is towering over
them. He loved that.
Q. Do you expect any pressure to do another Spy Kids movie,
based on the success of this one?
A. No, I get to control things. That's why I like doing original
ideas, because you really control whether you're going to do another
one, or not. The studio didn't think there was going to be a third
one either. It wasn't until I married those ideas that I called
the studio and said, 'guess what, we are going to do another one
and it's going to be in 3-D and out by the Summer'.
I definitely want to end it on a high note.
Q. So do you always think of ideas in terms of a trilogy?
A. Well, 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, because, you know, first Spy Kids movie
actually ends with them becoming spies. The very end scene is
when they become spies. 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. You can almost imagine these movies,
whether you make them or not.
Q. Was that the same for Once Upon A Time in Mexico?
A. Same for that as well. I mean, the first Mariachi, he becomes
the guy with the guns at the end of the movie. The very last scene,
he takes the guitar case full of grenades. It just gives the character
a real place to go; they started as one thing and turned into
something completely different. I always think that this difference
is what you want to see more of, so that's what's cool about doing
original stories; they leave a lot of room other movies.
Q. Which form of working do you prefer - the green screens
or the bigger pictures, like Once
Upon A Time in Mexico?
A. They're both very different, but both similar in that they're
fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style of movie-making. I try to
keep the schedule short and the budget tight, which means constantly
just having to be creative, and I like both kinds.
I mean, Mexico crew loved being out there; no sets. It was just
raw. It was a totally different kind of energy, but very visceral,
which translates to the screen; whereas this, we have to imagine
that vitality and put it together. It's much more fabricated.
But it's a different challenge...
Q. With Mexico, did you have quite such a hands-on role as
Spy Kids 3, which sounds as though it was made virtually on your
A. No, a lot of people worked on Spy Kids. It was just that
the actual shooting crew was small, because we were all in front
of a green screen and you don't need all those people. It's all
made in post-production, which is pretty unbelievable.
I mean, I watched the mega-race, the big race halfway through,
and their [the actors] are just sitting on a green boxes, not
moving. The camera is doing the movement. But when you watch the
movie, it feels like we're flying all over the place, but we're
not. So it has to be very much imagined, whereas a movie like
Mexico, you need a support team, if you're going to run out and
capture all the different angles at once; particularly if you're
blowing something up once, or doing a car wreck once. You have
to be able to co-ordinate everybody very quickly. It's different
and similar, but I like both movies, because neither one is stagnant.
Q. What exercised your imagination when you were a kid?
A. I kind of think I'm still 12-years-old. That's when everything
came together, when I really got into fantasy, art, movies, movie-making,
photography... I drew since I was younger, but right around 12
or 13 is when I started making movies.
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
phony; it seems more like working. I like watching those kind
of movies, but I wouldn't want to make them.
I really enjoy more creating my own reality, and I really soaked
it up as a kid.
Q. Were you a solitary kid?
A. I was solitary in that I would sit at the very back of
the class, drawing. But then I would show people my drawings and
clip cartoon movies, and they would laugh, so I wasn't very good
at school. I came up with the thumb thumb guy when I was 13, so
I thought wouldn't it be great if I could make enough money to
live off doing this sort of thing? I'd never have to change my
wardrobe, I could ways be in T-shirts and jeans, and just draw
for a living - that was the fantasy. That's what I kind of strove