Alexa Vega – Spy Kids 4

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

After the sequel “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” wrapped in 2003, actress Alexa Vega though playing her role as a pint-size secret agent was complete. At 15 years old, Vega didn’t exactly put the “kid” in “Spy Kids” anymore. She was growing up fast.

“I really thought it was over after ‘Spy Kids 3,’” Alexa said during an exclusive interview to promote “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D,” the fourth film of the franchise. “I was really floored when I heard we were coming back. To come back eight years later is so wonderful.”

In “Spy Kids 4,” Vega reprises her role as Carmen Cortez, but does so as a secondary character. Now a young woman, Carmen and her onscreen brother Juni (played once again by Daryl Sabara), pass the touch to a new pair of spy kids (Rowan Blachard and Mason Cook) for a whole different adventure against a supervillain known as the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven).

During our interview, Vega, who has starred in such films as “Repo: The Genetic Opera” and “From Prada to Nada” since the last “Spy Kids” film, talked about what she cherishes most from the first three films and what she’s looking for in the industry now that she’s not a kid anymore.

Did you give Rowan and Mason any advice from all your years of “Spy Kids” experience?

I told them to enjoy every moment and not to expect anything from it. If good things are going to happen, then just let them happen. Don’t have any expectations, that way when things do happen it can be that much more exciting.

It’s been 10 years since the first “Spy Kids” hit theaters. Do you remember most of it?

I remember all of it. I was so little, but I remember everything. I had never done a film like that before. I had never been a part of anything that cool. We had gadgets and we did stunts. It was the first time I was ever on a harness, which was exciting. I remember the first time walking back on the set for “Spy Kids 4” and seeing a lot of our old sets and getting giddy. I was like, “Can you believe we were as little as these little kids are when we started this movie?”

So, when you looked at Rowan did it feel pretty surreal?

It was very surreal. It was so weird. I was like, “I don’t ever remember being that little in the movie.” When our costume designer pulled out all of our old costumes I couldn’t believe it. The pants were so small!

Over these last 10 years what have been some of the highlights for you in this franchise?

I think the highlight is being a part of this film franchise that people truly love. I loved working with the same cast and crew for all of the films. You really become a family. That was definitely my favorite thing out of everything. Working with Robert Rodriguez was wonderful. I call him papi like if he was my dad.

I know you and Robert have become great friends over the last decade. I read he even walked you down the aisle and gave you away at your wedding last year.

He did. We’ve become very close. I love him.

I’m sure you could brag about him as a person all day, but tell me about him from an actress’s perspective who has worked with him four times.

The thing with Robert is that he’s a very hands-on, do-it-all director. He writes, directs, scores, and edits. I don’t know how he does it all. It takes so much work. He is truly a genius. I feel like a lot of directors are inspired by him because if he wants to make a movie he will get it made by any means possible.

I’ve been to Troublemaker Studios once before to interview Robert. What is it like to be in that environment as an actress? It must feel like its own little world out there in Austin.

It really is. During the first “Spy Kids,” Troublemaker was just starting. It wasn’t even near what it is today. I was kind of a part of that growth during these last three films and now coming back for this fourth one. It’s fun to see how far it has come along. I think shooting there is a huge part of the process. Robert really brings something wonderful to that community in Austin.

Some of Robert’s fans of his more hardcore action films like “Sin City” wish he would stop making kids’ movies. What do you think about how he switches back and forth from family-friendly movies like “Spy Kids” to movies as ultra-violent as “Machete?”

I feel like it’s so easy to get bored. I would be the same way if I had to play the same character over and over again. You really want to change it up. If you look at some of the characters I’ve played, they’re all so different. I think that’s how Robert does it. You don’t want to be stuck in the same genre all the time. You want to keep people guessing. What makes Johnny Depp so brilliant is you truly have no idea what kind of character he’s going to play next.

What are you specifically looking for in the film industry now that you are a bit older? You’re in your early 20s and you have a better idea about how everything works, so what kind of roles do you want?

It’s not something specific. It just comes down to finding the right project. If a script comes together and you end up liking the people who are part of it, that’s when you can make magic happen. It’s a huge combination of trying to find something you think you can deliver on and a director you think you can collaborate with to make a good picture.

Has it felt like a cutthroat business for you so far?

Absolutely. The older you get, the more competition there is. When you’re younger, there aren’t very many kid actors. It’s a lot easier to get jobs. Now, I’m going up against these beautiful and talented actresses. To be in the running with some of the company I’ve been in is just flattering. It is hard. You really have to build your name in this business as quickly as possible.

How do you feel like you separate yourself from the crowd?

You know, I’m very fortunate. I can still play roles that are very young. I just finished playing a 15-year-old character on a TV show. It helps. I think I just like to keep people guessing. I’ve done very different films like “Repo: The Genetic Opera”  and I know have a very different fan base from that movie – more of the goth crowd and people who are a little edgier than the “Spy Kids” audience. It’s nice to have that support from all ends. It comes down to the fan base at the end of the day. They’re the ones rooting for you. If you can keep your fans happy, I think you can have a good, solid career.

Did Robert cook anything on set for you?

(Laughs) He made his famous grilled cheese sandwiches. He makes them with Texas toast and lots of butter. They’re delicious.

Elizabeth Avellan – Spy Kids 4

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

It was a fairly simple idea back in 2001 when producer Elizabeth Avellan and then-husband, director Robert Rodriguez, decided to make a movie they had not made before – one their young children could actually see.

Rodriguez had already made “Deseperdo,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and “The Faculty,” but shootouts with drug lords, vampire bloodshed, and alien teachers killing students weren’t something Avellan or Rodriguez thought appropriate for their little ones.

“We didn’t have one movie we had made that they could watch,” Avellan told me during an exclusive interview. “We wanted them to know what we did for a living.”

“Spy Kids,” a family adventure about a pair of young sibling secret agents who must rescue their parents from an evil wizard, became Avellan and Rodriguez’s first film under the Troublemaker Studios umbrella. Eight years later, the “Spy Kids” franchise is going strong with the release of the fourth film of the series, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D.”

During our interview, Avellan talked about the major changes in the new film in comparison to the first three movies, and what it has been like working on her own film projects aside from the ones she makes with Rodriguez at their studio in Austin.

How is the family enjoying the summer?

It’s been wonderful. We’re spending some time in L.A. by the beach. We had the premiere of the film last week and now we’re all just hanging out. Well, I’m working but the kids are hanging out.

How does going to the movies work for the family during the summer? Do the little ones want to watch “The Smurfs” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” and things like that?

Yeah, of course! It’s been a lot of fun. I get to see a lot of kids’ movies. That helps when I make movies for kids. You get to see what works for them. I’ve always believed movies rated G and PG should be made for the whole family. If my children don’t laugh during a movie or don’t enjoy it, obviously it didn’t work for them. But we do enjoy going to the movies a lot.

When you started “Spy Kids” back in 2001, did you have any idea a franchise like this would develop and would have this kind of staying power?

I wasn’t sure it would happen at that time to tell you the truth. It was such a neat idea to the point that Robert never mentioned the name of the movie until the movie was going to be publicized. Until then, it was the “Untitled Robert Rodriguez Project.” It was such a big, fun concept, we didn’t want anyone beating us to the punch. We knew we could make some good family movies. Robert had made some with his brothers and sisters early on.

Is part of the reason Troublemaker Studios makes family-friendly movies because you want your kids to be able to see the movies you produce?

Yeah, before the first “Spy Kids,” we started to have kids and we wanted them to be able to see our movies. Jeremy Piven’s little nieces don’t know what he does because they’re not allowed to watch what he does like “Entourage” or some of his movies. He did “Spy Kids 4” because he wanted them to see what Uncle Jeremy does for a living. I thought that was very cute.

Does your 5-year-old know what you do now?

Oh yeah, totally. She’s in the movie, too, with our 7-year-old. They play a couple of the spy kids at the end that are getting recruited. Robert thought it would be really cute because they hadn’t been in any of our movies yet. They enjoy it. They come into the studio and work with dad acting, making videos, and writing and singing songs. It’s a lot of fun.

How did it feel to bring a new pair of kids on for this film after working with Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara for so long? Was it as exciting as the first movie?

It was fun because we still got to include them in the new “Spy Kids.” The story just continues. Alexa and Daryl are now big spies. It was all about finding the right story so they could be included. When Robert told me what he was thinking about for the story I thought it was a great way to include them, but also a great way they could pass the torch.

What do you think about Alexa and Daryl’s careers post “Spy Kids?”

Oh, I am so proud of them. You have no idea. Those kids have continued to work so hard and have become great actors. They are wonderful, young people that have grown to be great examples that in Hollywood you don’t have go all crazy and be arrested and be in US Weekly to get noticed. Part of that is because they have great parents and part of it is because they really received some good lessons in Austin when we were filming the “Spy Kids” movies. Moviemaking is a way to live, but it can also build character. You can be a good person and be successful and grow up and be an adult. We try to keep up with all the kids we’ve worked with whether it’s the kids from “Spy Kids” or the kids from “Shorts” or the kids from “Sharkboy and Lavagirl.” I really enjoy working on those movies.

As a producer, what has it been like working on your own projects not associated with Robert?

It’s been kind of fun. Every once in a while I’ll strike out on my own to do something especially if I see a filmmaker that I feel is worthwhile to back. I did “Secuestro Express” back in 2003 and “When Angels Sing,” which is a Christmas movie.  I get to do a lot more on the creative side. Robert usually does that. Sometimes he doesn’t need my opinion because he knows exactly what he wants to do. On my own, I get to bring more creativity to the table.

You were quoted in a CNN article last month about the state of Latino-themed films. You stated directors and producers haven’t found a way to “crack the code” and make these movies as profitable as they would like. What is it going to take for that to happen?

I think it’s going to take patience. I think they have to go about it in a scientific way. Why did this work? Why didn’t this work? I think that’s how you can start making a change and figuring it out. I think it’s going to take a little research and trying things outside the box and putting a little more money in certain areas. Movies are different. They’re not going to work all the same way. Not every Latino is going to respond the same way to every movie. It’s a science like anything else.