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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over - Robert Rodriguez Q&A



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 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'. 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 moment.

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 Stallone?
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 even wackier!
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 spot.
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 script originally...?
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 own?
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 for.



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