Robert ro­driguez

The in­die icon shares the plea­sures and pas­sions of his past with Joseph McCabe...

SFX - - Heroes & Inspiration - Por­trait by Maarten de Boer

The world of Robert Ro­driguez en­com­passes all kinds of gen­res, from the sci­ence fic­tion, hor­ror and fan­tasy of Planet Ter­ror,

The Fac­ulty and From Dust Till Dawn to the Western, es­pi­onage and film noir of Des­per­ado, Spy

Kids and Sin City. But the long, tall Texas- born film­maker’s mav­er­ick spirit and of­ten out­ra­geous aes­thetic weren’t cre­ated in a vac­uum. They were forged from a steady diet of clas­sic cin­ema, comic books and car­toons, as Ro­driguez makes clear to SFX when he sits down to talk Heroes & In­spi­ra­tions...

John Car­pen­ter

Es­cape From New York and a lot of the John Car­pen­ter movies in­flu­enced me. Right away, when I was younger, I saw this guy who was hav­ing way too much fun mak­ing movies. But not just di­rect­ing them – writ­ing them, scor­ing them, wear­ing mul­ti­ple hats, and do­ing it in­de­pen­dently. And I thought, “Wow, this guy’s fig­ured some­thing out.” I was re­ally in­spired by that to go try and make films. That was a di­rect in­spi­ra­tion for a lot of the things I did.

In­de­pen­dent Film

Ad­di­tion­ally, Sam Raimi and other guys who were do­ing it in­de­pen­dently and do­ing it re­ally cre­atively on their own terms, that re­ally in­spired some­body like me, who didn’t grow up in Hol­ly­wood. I lived in Texas. Also, Ge­orge Miller with Mad Max and Road War­rior, com­ing from Aus­tralia and mak­ing th­ese in­de­pen­dent films, that re­ally had a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, re­ally in­spired me to go make stuff. I en­joyed other films as a movie­goer. But the ones who ac­tu­ally made me feel like I could go be a film­maker too were those guys.

Al­fred Hitch­cock

I grew up with a lot of clas­sic cin­ema, be­cause my mom used to take us – I’m from a big fam­ily with ten kids – to this re­vival theatre where they would play dou­ble fea­tures. Any­thing from MGM mu­si­cals to Hitch­cock films. She liked that stuff bet­ter than the cur­rent crop of movies that were out at the time. So we would go see those. I re­mem­ber see­ing a dou­ble fea­ture of Re­becca and Spell­bound, and see­ing the Sal­vador Dali dream se­quence in Spell­bound re­ally freaked me out. I thought it was amaz­ing, and it stuck in my head for a long time. I didn’t see it again un­til many years later when it was fi­nally re­leased on video. There was no video back then. So I re­mem­ber be­ing eight or nine when I saw that and that be­ing re­ally pow­er­ful. Hitch­cock was def­i­nitely an in­flu­ence early on. He re­ally made me see movies in a dif­fer­ent way.

Michael Mann

I re­mem­ber lik­ing shows like Starsky And Hutch that Michael Mann be­came a writer on. And see­ing things like Mi­ami Vice later, which was the first real at­tempt to bring a cin­e­matic

Al­fred Hitch­cock re­ally made me see movies in a dif­fer­ent way

qual­ity to tele­vi­sion that ri­valled things that you would see at the movie theatre. That was pretty cool. That was a fun time grow­ing up, see­ing that hap­pen to tele­vi­sion, when it fi­nally started be­ing less like TV and more like movies.


It came out on my birth­day when I was seven, and that was my birth­day present. I wanted to go see Jaws. I re­mem­ber it feel­ing like a true hor­ror film, be­cause when I was a kid I hadn’t seen any­thing that hor­rific ever. But a few years later I went to a drive- in and I saw Alien [ laughs]...

Black- and- White Comic Books

I think the first comic book I bought was Sav­age Sword Of Co­nan. It was a black- and­white, larger- sized comic. It was mag­a­zi­ne­sized. It had John Buscema art and a Roy Thomas script. Great art in black- and- white, so you could re­ally see the art. I re­ally didn’t care for colour comics since that was the first thing I saw. I re­ally en­joyed the black- and- white. There was a lot of line, it felt like more of an artist’s medium. I col­lected those. That’s what got me into Robert E Howard. The first one I bought I saw at a mag­a­zine stand – I was prob­a­bly ten or 11 – and then I got a sub­scrip­tion. I just couldn’t wait for those to come ev­ery month. I ab­so­lutely loved those. I was al­ready into Frazetta and fan­tasy art. Those were the main books I got. I think the only comic I col­lected that ra­bidly af­ter that was Sin City – an­other black- and- white book! I’ve been get­ting the black- and- white edi­tions of a lot of the graphic nov­els that come out. Es­pe­cially now that every­thing’s coloured in a com­puter…

Frank Frazetta

He’s the most in­flu­en­tial il­lus­tra­tor by far for every­body who works in genre. He cre­ated images never seen be­fore, be­fore ev­ery­one else, and they were all out of his imag­i­na­tion! He didn’t use mod­els or swipes. And he cre­ated things that felt like cin­ema. You would look at them and imag­ine whole sto­ries that went with them. It was very pow­er­ful. So to get to know him was just one of the high­lights of my life. Now I can turn other peo­ple onto his art, now that I can make a film based on his work. It’s based on a film he did in the ’ 80s called Fire And Ice. It’s gonna be Frank Frazetta’s Fire And Ice. It’s gonna be like walk­ing into one of his paint­ings and just see­ing it come to life. Frank’s was the first art I ever had up on my walls as a teenager. And now I can walk down to the gallery that I have set up for his work and see the same ones that I had cut out of his art book and put up on my wall, but they’re the orig­i­nals now! It’s pretty cool.

Jonny Quest

I did like that car­toon a lot. It felt like noth­ing else you could see when you were a kid watch­ing Satur­day morn­ing car­toons. It was even very dif­fer­ent for Hanna- Bar­bera. That’s why it didn’t last but one sea­son, be­cause they couldn’t keep up with the draw­ing style that the artist who cre­ated it de­manded! He wanted it to be a real ad­ven­ture show. He saw the

Jonny Quest just hap­pens to have a kid in it, but it’s a true ad­ven­ture film

qual­ity go down when the sea­son pro­gressed [ laughs]. Be­cause it was just hard. It was like three times as much draw­ing as they would do when they were draw­ing nor­mal car­toon char­ac­ters. This was like a pre- Raiders Of The Lost Ark, James Bond- style ad­ven­ture show that just hap­pened to have a kid in it, with a ton of ac­tion – and death. Peo­ple would die! It was crazy. So I would watch that; and then when I had kids I showed it to my kids and they loved it. When they first ap­proached me to do Jonny Quest as a film, I was do­ing my own se­ries – the Spy Kids se­ries. So I said, “No, I’m al­ready do­ing my own se­ries and I own it and I con­trol it.” Now that time has passed and the Spy Kids se­ries is over, I still re­ally loved that prop­erty and I re­ally wanted to make a true ad­ven­ture film for kids. It just hap­pens to have a kid in it, but it’s a true ad­ven­ture film. Very true to the orig­i­nal.

Robert E Howard

He was my favourite author when I was grow­ing up. He was from Texas. In fact we were very in­spired by his stuff for the sec­ond sea­son of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Se­ries. We had a char­ac­ter who was loosely based on Robert E Howard. We were very in­spired by the pulp nov­els for sea­son two… I have a house right there in the area he saw when he had climbed up on a rock and looked over and said, “That’s Cim­me­ria down there!” So right where I live is where he imag­ined Cim­me­ria would be, where Co­nan is from. So I live in the land of Co­nan ba­si­cally [ laughs].

Sin City

I loved that par­tic­u­lar style of black- and­white, where it was al­most like a very high- con­trast film noir look. I’d seen some other artists – one who was a friend of mine, who ac­tu­ally be­came a big artist later, Chris Ware. He had a comic called Floyd Far­land, Ci­ti­zen Of The Fu­ture. That was a pre- Sin City comic, but it had that sort of high- con­trast look. It was kind of a Blade Run­ner type story. It ran in our lo­cal col­lege pa­per, and I was a big fan of that. When I saw Sin City, that was like the ul­ti­mate state­ment of that film noir look, and of black- and- white. I picked it up right away be­cause I liked the style. But then of course I got sucked in by Frank Miller’s amaz­ing sto­ries and char­ac­ters. I would buy it and re- buy it and have so many copies of it, since I saw it in 1992. Over ten years I had that book, be­fore it fi­nally dawned on me that I should make it into a movie. That co­in­cided with me do­ing green- screen work with Spy Kids 3, so I thought it would be pos­si­ble. I wouldn’t have even at­tempted it be­fore. But it fi­nally all clicked to­gether and I re­alised the time was right to try to bring some­thing like that to life… I was very much drawn to his books and his sto­ries and his char­ac­ters and the sprawl­ing epic that he had laid out. But I had wanted to do a film noir film for years and years, hav­ing seen all those black- and- white clas­sics in the theatre when I was a kid. But it felt like it would be too nos­tal­gic; and what I loved about Frank’s work was that it was more of a post- mod­ern spin on the film noir, so that it felt re­ally very cur­rent and ex­cit­ing. I thought, “That’s what you need to do. You need to make a clas­sic film noir story but in a very mod­ern way.”

I got sucked in by Frank Miller’s amaz­ing sto­ries and char­ac­ters

Mad Mel be­fore he was prop­erly mad. Hitch­cock goes phan­tas­magor­i­cal in Spell­bound. How many Car­pen­ter films have been a patch on Es­cape From New York?

Eye­ing the Ma­chete Kills script, with the ( un­re­lated) Michelle Ro­driguez.

Jaws will eat up and spit out your CGI ma­chines… Mono­chrome malarkey in Sav­age Sword Of Co­nan. Indies do it scarier: The Evil Dead.

Does ev­ery­one in Fire And Ice go to the gym? Guess which episode of Jonny Quest this is from. The Sin City comic: not a green­screen in sight.

Go­ing green with Frank MIller and Mickey Rourke on Sin City.

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