Birthdate: June 20, 1968
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Robert Rodriguez (birthname: Robert Anthony Rodriguez) has gained legendary status among American indie cinema mavens as the “one-man-band” filmmaker, known for taking on several key production tasks from directing to cinematography to editing to camera operating to composing.
Rodriguez is perhaps less recognized for having a stunning (and possibly unprecedented and unmatched) run of nine box-office hits in a row to start his career, but is famously the poster-boy for DIY filmmaking, exemplified by his self-made, self-financed ($7225) debut feature, the Spanish-language El Mariachi (1992), with Rodriguez taking on nearly every filmmaking task, and casting Carlos Gallardo in the title role, and scoring a sale to Columbia Pictures and a Toronto Film Festival premiere; the movie holds the Guinness World Record for a lowest-budgeted movie ever to gross $2 million.
Rodriguez’s next “neo-Western” and the second part of his “Mexico Trilogy” was Desperado (1995), starring Antonio Banderas, Joaquim de Almeida, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, and Quentin Tarantino, premiering out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Rodriguez was the director while Tarantino was the screenwriter (and a cast member) of the ultra-violent vampire hit, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), with George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Hayek. Perhaps Rodriguez’s most underrated movie (and his fourth consecutive box-office hit) is his second feature with Miramax and his first sci-fi effort, The Faculty (1998), co-starring Josh Hartnett, Usher, Jordana Brewster, Elijah Wood, and Clea DuVall.
Robert Rodriguez launched his hugely successful kids-oriented series Spy Kids (2001), with Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Marin, and Danny Trejo (with guest appearances from filmmakers Mike Judge and Richard Linklater as well as George Clooney), spawning three sequels as well as an animated series. Robert Rodriguez’s first Spy Kids sequel was Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003), with new cast members Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, and Sylvester Stallone, and grossing $197 million globally, becoming the highest-grossing entry in the series.
Rodriguez continued an astonishing run of hit movies with his The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) homage, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), the third entry in his “Mexico Trilogy,” and co-starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Johnny Depp. Rodriguez’s first of two Sin City movies was yet another box-office hit, Sin City (2005), based on the Frank Miller graphic novel (with Miller receiving co-directing credit on the insistence of Rodriguez), and starring Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, and Elijah Wood, and winning a technical prize in the Cannes Film Festival competition.
Rodriguez’s first tepidly received movie was The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005), with Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, and George Lopez, and underperforming at the box office. The next unusual project for Rodriguez was his horror movie (with Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, and Josh Brolin), Planet Terror (2007), made to be shown on a double-bill titled Grindhouse, with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof; the release structure, especially overseas, hobbled box office. Another kids-oriented project for Rodriguez was Shorts: The Adventures of Wishing Rock (2009), with Jon Cryer, Jimmy Bennett, and William H. Macy, but failing at the box office.
Robert Rodriguez returned to his exploitation genre roots (joining co-director Ethan Maniuis) with the hit action movie, Machete (2010), a terrific starring vehicle for Danny Trejo (playing Machete Cortez, a more radical version of Antonio Banderas’ Desperado character and created for the Spy Kids franchise) and co-starring Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, and Steven Seagal, and triggering a sequel, the far less successful Machete Kills (2013), with new cast members Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, and Mel Gibson.
Rodriguez returned to his more typical box-office hit status with the third movie in the series, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011), with Alba, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, and Daryl Sabara. Robert Rodriguez continued to focus on sequels rather than originals with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), based on Frank Miller’s second book in his graphic novel series, and again crediting Miller as co-director, with a cast including Alba, Eva Green, Mickey Rourke, Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, and Bruce Willis, but the movie tanked at the box office.
Rodriguez took over the directing reins from James Cameron (who produced and co-wrote, with Laeta Kalogridis) for the commercial hit ($405 million), Alita: Battle Angel (2019), a cyberpunk thriller based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali.
After the worst-reviewed and perhaps least-seen movie of his career (the autobiographical Red 11 (2019), premiering on VOD), as well as the Netflix-released We Can Be Heroes (2020), Rodriguez returned to traditional theatrical filmmaking as director/writer/producer with the sci-fi thriller, Hypnotic (2023), starring Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, J.D. Pardo, and William Fichtner. Rodriguez returned to the wild world of Trejo’s Machete for the sci-fi (!) Machete Kills in Space (date to be announced), marking Trejo’s eighth performance as Machete.
Robert Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, by parents Cecilio G. Rodriguez (salesman) and Rebecca Rodriguez (nurse). Rodriguez has seven siblings (see below for details). Rodriguez’s schooling included studies at St. Anthony High School Seminary, where he served as the football team’s videographer until he was fired for making the videos too “cinematic.” After graduating, Rodriguez attended the University of Texas, Austin, where he majored at the College of Communication, though he was unable to attend the university’s film school because of poor grades, and instead made his own short films while contributing a daily comic strip, titled Los Hooligans, to the student newspaper, The Daily Texan.
While a student there, Rodriguez won a prize for the 16mm short film, Bedhead (1991), which was entered into film festivals and jump-started his movie career. Rodriguez was married to actor Elizabeth Avellán from 1990 to 2008 when the couple divorced; the couple has five children. Rodriguez was in an on-again-off-again relationship with actor Rose McGowan. Rodriguez’s height is 6’ 2”. Rodriguez’s estimated net worth is $60 million.
Movie Family: Robert Rodriguez has a remarkable seven siblings involved in the movie business, including Elizabeth (actor), David (producer/writer/actor), Tina (actor/editor/musician), Rebecca (director), Angela Lanza (actor), Marcel (writer/cinematographer/camera operator), and Patricia Vonne (director/actor/composer).
Uncredited: Rodriguez directed Quentin Tarantino when Tarantino was acting in front of the camera during the filming of Pulp Fiction (1994).
Not a Friend of the Guild: Robert Rodriguez has resigned twice from the Directors Guild of America, first for directing the non-sanctioned Four Rooms (1995), and demanding a co-credit for Frank Miller for Sin City (2005).
Famed Relative: Legendary actor and restauranteur Danny Trejo is Rodriguez’s second cousin.
The Rodriguez Kids: All of Robert Rodriguez’s and ex-wife Elizabeth Avellán’s children have first names starting in R: Rhiannon, Rebel, Rogue, Racer, and Rocket.