Robert Rodriguez brings back his iconic character "Machete," as promised, in the James Bond-esque "Machete Kills," which opens this weekend. What started out as a joke trailer has become a bona fide film series, with a third installment ready to go if the box office is right for the new movie.
Moviefone sat down with the busy writer-director-editor-composer to talk about how he's able to convince anyone, from Mel Gibson to an Oscar-nominated actor like Demian Bechir, into being in his movies. "They get to be in a world where they can do things that they normally never get to do, be larger than life, be iconic in a completely different way," he explained. He also talked about why he's really a fanboy at heart and confessed that yes, he does keep all the props from his movies.
Moviefone: These are your James Bond movies.
Rodriguez: Yeah! I love James Bond movies. They're so fun. And Machete's a Latin James Bond. We decided to go there with the second adventure. He's saving the world now, so that puts him on the "Mission: Impossible," James Bond level.
So was El Cameleon, who changes identities by pulling off a mask, an homage to "Mission: Impossible?"
No, the Cameleon thing was something else. I was not sure that was going to work. I actually made it not tied to any plot point so I could cut it if necessary. It was a full 20-minute thing. It was very tempting to go, "Gosh, that's what that was always designed for." But I loved all the performances so much I thought, "Let it ride."
Was there anything you ended up cutting from the movie?
No. I was thinking of not having the trailer [for "Machete Kills Again... In Space"], at the beginning. I just left it all in. I thought, You know what, this movie's just gotta be free and kind of just do its own thing. It's not supposed to be like other movies.
Is "Machete Kills Again... In Space" happening?
Depends if the audience asks for another one. We only did the first one as a fake trailer and for two years people came after us and said, "You should make that a feature." Especially for Danny, who's been in over 200 movies, that would be his most definitive role and that's what it's become. I didn't wait for permission, I kind of went ahead and did a little bit of "3," just to get it out of my system. So if they don't ask for a third one, I'll have the hat trick of making a trilogy with only two movies. At least the sense of a trilogy. You felt like you watched it.
How did you get Mel Gibson on board?
I kind of rushed him on a red carpet. He knew I was a fan of his for a long time, even before "Braveheart." I'm a big "Road Warrior" fan. On my list of who could be my ultimate James Bond villain, his was the only name that excited me. I thought, Oh my god, he would be amazing. I went and took a picture with him on a red carpet in Austin. He was there for "Get the Gringo." I went backstage while he waited for the movie to play and I pitched him the whole movie. [Laughs] He was trapped and he finally said yes. He said, "I have some friends of mine, one of the smartest guys I know, actually, he loves 'Machete.'" He went and he saw it and said, "Oh, I get it. There's a lot of funny, kind of clever things in it." He thought it would be a fun thing to take on.
There's a moment when he gets into the armored vehicle where you think "Mad Max."
It wasn't even supposed to be in there. Jesse James made me that car and it ended up looking like a "Road Warrior" car. Voz [Mel's character] never got near it because it was left at the border. There's no reason why he should have it. But I didn't care. Logic be damned. We put a sign on it that said "For inspection." Maybe he hauled it way over there to inspect it. Why would he do that? So I asked him, "Do you mind if we get a shot [inside the car]?" and he said, "Sure." He was game for anything. A lot of this, I come to it as truly a fan and I think people who are fans like that kind of stuff too.
So when you asked Jesse James to build a car, you didn't ask him to make a "Mad Max" car?
Well, they're modeled after real cartel vehicles. If you Google "cartel armored car," you'll see. I saw a story where they impounded some and they looked like sheets of metal. I thought, Wow, that'd be a really cool car for Machete to drive to get through the border. But when Jesse James made it, it just happened to be that kind of rust color that did remind me of Mel Gibson's car. Then I was upset that he didn't get to ride it at all in the script, so I forced that scene in there.
You had something built for Sofia Vergara, too.
Yes! People wonder why she's so accessorized. She and I had been wanting to work together forever. She can't just show up, do some dialogue and that's it. She needs to be iconic, she needs to shock people that this is not the Sofia they usually see. So she has a metal bra that shoots bullets, knives come out. I still had the crotch gun from "From Dusk Til Dawn," so I grabbed that. I have all my old props, especially the ones I invented that I always thought were cool but only used once. I thought she bought it from the same manufacturer Tom Savini did. Why not? In my movie world, those things make sense.
Whose idea was it to bill Charlie Sheen as "Carlos Estevez?"
I had this idea because if there was one movie to bill him by his original name, it would be this one. I thought, "I'm going to wait until we get a little more comfortable with each other." And the night before, when we're testing the costumes, he said to me, "Did you hear what I want to do with the titles? I want to be billed as Carlos Estevez." We both had the same idea so that must be the right choice. I thought it would make people so proud to see, "Oh my god, he had to change his name to get work, back in the day." That wouldn't be the case now.
Does this movie set a new record for most beheadings?
I watched it the other day and thought, Wow, the helicopter scene alone... That was very efficient. There's only four guys, but if you notice, I kind of repeat it, so there's like eight or 12. There's a bunch of beheadings. You start running out of things to do with a machete after the first movie.