Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas

By Alison Macor | Go to book overview

Our movies were a reaction to all that
crap that we watched in the Eighties,
where everyone played it safe. So when
Robert and I first bumped into each
other, we talked as if we had grown up
in the same house together.
QUENTIN TARANTINO


5
The Mariachi Kid
Robert Rodriguez and El Mariachi

At 8:30 in the morning on April 23, 1992, the telephone rang in one of the single-bedroom suites at the Westwood Marquis hotel in Beverly Hills. A groggy twenty-three-year-old Robert Rodriguez picked up the receiver. “Have you seen the trades?” asked Robert Newman, one of Rodriguez’s agents at ICM.1

Rodriguez panicked. Was something wrong? He was in Los Angeles to negotiate the final details of a development and production deal with Columbia Pictures after a seven-week flurry of meetings with some of Hollywood’s top studios and executives. “The Chase,” as he would later refer to this period, began the previous December after he dropped off a videotape of El Mariachi, his first feature film, for Newman to review. The agent was impressed by the self-taught filmmaker and his Spanish-language action movie about a mariachi player and a case of mistaken identity. Newman quickly signed Rodriguez and then began championing him and the film around town.

Rodriguez left the hotel and found a newsstand. He had made the front page of the Hollywood Reporter. “Young Director Rodriguez Wins Col Film Deal,” blared the headline. The article mentioned his background in cartooning, his award-winning short film Bedhead, and that he was enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. This last detail must have amused the young filmmaker, who less than twelve months earlier had had to beg to be admitted into the university’s competitive Radio-Television-Film Department.2

-115-

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