Robert Anthony Rodríguez (born June 20, 1968) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician. He shoots and produces many of his films in his native Texas and Mexico.
Rodríguez was born in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Mexican-American parents Rebecca (née Villegas), a nurse, and Cecilio G. Rodríguez, a salesman. He began his interest in film at age 11 when his father bought one of the first VCR’s, which came with a camera. Rodríguez grew up shooting action and horror short films on video, and editing on two VCRs. Finally, in the fall of 1990, his entry in a local film contest earned him a spot in the university’s film program where he made the award-winning 16 mm short Bedhead.
This short film attracted enough attention to encourage him to seriously attempt a career as a filmmaker. He went on to shoot the action flick El Mariachi in Spanish. El Mariachi, which was shot for around $7,000 with money raised by his friend Carlos Gallardo and participating in medical research studies, won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993. The film, originally intended for the Spanish-language low-budget home-video market, was “cleaned up” with several hundred thousand dollars before being distributed by Columbia Pictures, while still being promoted as “the movie made for $7,000”.
His next feature film was Roadracers, a 1994 made-for-television film. The film originally aired on the Showtime Network as part of their Rebel Highway series that took the titles of 1950s-era B-movies and applied them to original films starring up-and-coming actors of the 1990s and directed by established directors such as William Friedkin, Joe Dante, and Ralph Bakshi. Rodriguez was the only young director to participate in the series.
His next film and first major release was Desperado (1995), a sequel to El Mariachi starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in their first American roles. Rodríguez went on to collaborate with Quentin Tarantino on Four Rooms, a 1995 anthology comedy telling four stories set in the fictional Hotel Mon Signor in Los Angeles on New Years Eve. Tim Roth stars as the main character of the frame tale; he also appears to some degree in all four stories. The movie was directed by Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Rodriguez and Tarantino with each of them directing one “room” of the film.
Rodriguez continued his work with Tarantino, a partnership that thrives to this day, on the vampire thriller, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). The film was followed by two direct-to-video follow-ups, a sequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money and a prequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999). They were both received poorly by critics. Danny Trejo is the only actor to appear in all three. Rodriguez, Tarantino and Lawrence Bender served as producers on all three movies.
He followed up with the science fiction horror film, The Faculty (1998), written by Kevin Williamson (Scream 1 and 2). Then in 2001, Rodríguez enjoyed his first $100,000,000 (USD) Hollywood hit with Spy Kids, which went on to become a 4-movie franchise. A third “mariachi” film also appeared in late 2003, Once Upon a Time in Mexico which completed the Mariachi Trilogy.
2005 was the year that he broke through to a wider market with his adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novels series Sin City. Rodríguez insisted that Frank Miller direct the film with him because he considered the visual style of Miller’s comic art to be just as important as his own in the film. However, the Directors Guild of America would not allow it, Rodríguez chose to resign from the DGA, stating, “It was easier for me to quietly resign before shooting because otherwise I’d be forced to make compromises I was unwilling to make or set a precedent that might hurt the guild later on.” By resigning from the DGA, Rodríguez was forced to relinquish his director’s seat on the film John Carter (an lucky break!).
Sin City was a critical hit in 2005 as well as a box office success, particularly for a hyperviolent comic book adaptation that did not have name recognition comparable to the X-Men or Spider-Man. He has stated that he is interested in eventually adapting all of Miller’s Sin City comic books, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is currently in production.
Rodríguez also released The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 2005, a superhero-kid movie intended for the same younger audiences as his Spy Kids series. However, the film was not a major success.
Rodriguez wrote and directed the film Planet Terror for the collaboration with Quentin Tarantino in their double feature Grindhouse (2007). This film was a throwback to the Grindhouse exploitation cinema of the late 6o’s and 70’s.
In 2009 he released Shorts a family comedy adventure in keeping with his Spy Kids style. In 2010 he produced Predators and directed Machete an expansion of a fake trailer Rodriguez directed for the 2007 film Grindhouse. It starred Danny Trejo as the title character. Trejo, Rodriquez’ 2nd cousin, has worked with him on Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Spy Kids, where Trejo’s character was also known as Machete.
He operates a production company called Troublemaker Studios, formerly Los Hooligans Productions. Rodríguez not only has the unusual credits of producing, directing and writing his films, he also frequently serves as editor, director of photography, camera operator, steadicam operator, composer, production designer, visual effects supervisor, and sound editor on his films. This has earned him the nickname of “the one-man film crew.” He calls his style of making movies “Mariachi-style”