Robert Rodriguez Interviewed – GRINDHOUSE

     April 4, 2007

By now you’ve all heard of Grindhouse as the stars and the directors have been on every TV show and radio program from Los Angeles to New York. But if you’re one of the few who has no idea about this movie, I’m going to make this nice and quick.

Opening this weekend is a film to drop a third nut if you’re a guy or grow a third tit if you’re a girl. It’s called Grindhouse and it could cause permanent brain damage from laughing too hard or screaming too loud while you’re watching it.

The film has it all – fake trailers, tons of exploitation, and two separate movies for one low price.

The first film is directed by Robert Rodriguez and its called Planet Terror, the second by Quentin Tarantino and its called Death Proof. One is about Zombie’s and one about killing with your car.

While most studios try and bore you with the same story told over and over with different actors playing the same type of role…I promise you’ve never seen what this film is offering.

So to help promote the movie a number of the people in the film did a press day and I’m posting a lot of the interviews.

Each one is solid. They all talk about the making of the film and their motivation for being apart of this crazy movie.

All of them were done in roundtable form – meaning a bunch of us were in a room taking turns asking questions. That’s why some of the questions come out of left field and others are the kind of things you’d want to know.

If you’d like to download the MP3 of the interview click here, otherwise you can read it below.

Grindhouse opens this Friday and it’s definitely worth your hard earned dollar.

Spoilers are discussed in the Grindhouse interviews – you are warned

Question: What was it about the grindhouse that made you want to make a movie out of it?

Robert: Well Quentin is the one who grew up going to these movies the most, but since he’s a film collector for the past 12 years — he’s had his own theater in his house — he’s been showing me these double, triple features, either stuff that he grew up with or stuff that he’s discovered and wanted to turn me on to. It only took that long, I think only about three years ago is when it finally dawned on me like ‘hmm, maybe I should do a double feature.’ I got real excited about doing a double feature, and when I took the idea to Quentin after Sin City, I said ‘I thought about doing a double feature, but you should do one and I should do the other.’ And he said, ‘oh, we gotta call it Grindhouse, have fake trailers,’ and we realized it would harken back to that time period. I said, ‘you know what, I can actually make the movie. I’ll shoot digitally, but actually make it look like one of your old prints,’ because his prints are sometimes all screwed up, and it adds a really great texture to it and a vitality to it that when I go back and see the same movie on DVD and it’s all cleaned up, it’s lost half of its charm, so I thought it’d be really great to use the damage as a dramatic device and try to use that as another tool in your toolbox.

Are you saying that the DVD is going to look the same way or are we going to have two versions of it?

We’ll probably have a couple versions of it. I think there might be a version down the line, a triple dip version that says ‘newly restored, digitally restored footage, newly discovered negative, fully cleaned and pristine’ [laughter]

Why do a horror film? Why a zombie film?

Well first we came up with the idea of the experience, providing the audiences with this kind of heavy showmanship experience of a double feature with trailers in between, because that’s how he would show movies at his house. We always had trailers in between and these little interstitials. And then I said, ‘well, what kind of movie should we do first? Action or comedy double feature?’ And he goes, ‘I think we should do the first one horror because that’s like the most popular genre in movies. And I said, ‘Well I have a zombie script I started 10 years ago.’ Back before the zombie wave hit, I had it around the time of The Faculty. I was telling the actors on The Faculty, ‘you’re in the zombie script. You guys got to be in it. There’s a bunch of characters.’ I got all excited, ‘zombie movies are dead, but they’re gonna come back. I know they are. Everything always comes back and believe it or not, zombie movies are gonna come back. We gotta be first.’ And so we were on the train, you know, several years before the zombie movies did come back. I never finished the script and was like kicking myself when the zombie wave came back and went. But when he said ‘let’s do horror,’ I thought well I’d always wanted to do some of these ideas that I didn’t see get done yet, so it’s a good excuse and a good reason to do a zombie movie. He came up with the slasher one and that’s how we just started going. We just got so excited about this idea that we knew it had to be our next movie.

Can you talk about what was cut out for the double feature that will be back in the international version?

I just had to keep tightening it down. I wanted to get mine down to 80-85 minutes for the theatrical version so you wouldn’t be just exhausted and ready to go home after mine was over, so that you would stick around for a second movie. So I think my first cut was probably just under 100 minutes and just other scenes, a lot of the sheriff and JT and other stuff with Cherry and the doctor. There’s just other scenes to fill it out. And Quentin’s is the same. He’s probably got about 30 minutes more. So that would be in the international versions and in the future DVD version.

You’ve got ‘60s and ‘70s sensibilities in this whole thing in clothes…

…and 80’s.

but you also have text messaging.

It’s a modern movie.

So you did want to pull that in for a modern movie?

It is a modern movie. It’s just deteriorated as if it’s a movie from… It’s supposed to have a timeless quality. They do drive old cars, but it’s not supposed to be a period set.

But it was important to you that you brought in the modern stuff as well?

It just was supposed to be set today. I mean that’s why the Iraq War is going on. It’s supposed to be set today. It’s just looks like a film that’s just been … like they only made one film print of mine because they didn’t have much confidence in it.

What about the Afro on Rosario?

She was dressed like that in Sin City, and I said let’s bring her back like that. And she came back with a different hair style and I said, ‘wow, I liked the way you looked in Sin City’ and it was a modern cut for her.

Your movie is very influenced by John Carpenter.

And George Romero. Yeah.

Do you ever think about approaching them to do a trailer?

I was going to go to him to do some music with me actually. I mean that was the original idea, but then I had so much fun doing the music that I kind of just kept it all to myself. I came up with the theme and I really dug doing it. But no, I thought it should be considered almost like the John Carpenter zombie movie he would have made between Escape From New York and The Thing. So I wanted it to feel like it was from that time period.

How do you feel about having your hand in the resurgence of Frank Miller and doing Sin City and now in the success of 300 and stuff?

It’s just such great work, 300 and Sin City. I had those books and I just collected Sin City for so long that I just felt like I had to make a movie about this, and now I know how to do it with the effects. I know… I got my own green screen. Let me go shoot it. I don’t know if people are ready for it. It’s going to be kind of weird, but I want to see this on the screen and I just always loved that imagery ever since I first got turned onto it. And so, I’m very proud of that and the fact that 300 can go out and create the imagery of his book, and it’s great for Frank too. It’s good that Frank is able to get that.

When Grindhouse first was announced, they said you were going to shoot Quentin’s movie, but now he shot it.

I was going to DP his movie originally. Somewhere he started operating second camera on mine to get practice for his, and he’d been talking about doing his own DPing for awhile, and I told him the best way was to go and do it and then I would train him a little bit on Grindhouse. As I shot his movie, I would start training him, but I actually started doing that already on my movie because he was operating the second camera. The thing I worried about most about doing that was that I kind of tend to put the camera in places that I like to put them, and I was afraid that it would start looking less like his movie and more like my movie just ‘cause a lot of DP’s… I mean you look at the guy who shot Kill Bill. It looks like a Rob Richardson movie. When he shoots, he lights it all the same which is like a Natural Born Killers or one of those things. So I thought that was the movie he should go off and shoot on his own. But I couldn’t just give him the digital camera. He wouldn’t know what to do with those. He was used to shooting on film, so I said, ‘You just go ahead and shoot yours on film since you already know how that works and it’ll be more your movie, and then if you screw up, it’s like it’ll be more grindhouse that way. [Laughs] And he shot it and he did a great job and I was really proud of him. He learned so much by doing it. That’s how I learned. I learned on the job. I said, ‘man, just kick him out there and let him learn on the job.’

This next part is a big spoiler….highlight to read

Bruce Willis kills Osama bin Laden?

Yeah!!

Did you have Bruce Willis cast already when you wrote that there?

I’d written… No, no. Some other big actor was gonna go do [it]… wanted to do the part of the rapist, but he got another job offer, and I was like, ‘wow, I should think of someone bigger to play the bad guy. Let me make his part, but let me give him a Quentin-type speech,’ you know, where he says something really cool that he did – like in Jaws. And so I figured, ‘oh man, he should… I’ll try to get Bruce. I’ll call Bruce up and I called Bruce and said, ‘hey, I got this part. You get to play the bad guy.’ You see, I’d already shot him some early footage I had done with the aging on it, and he just thought it was cool and said, ‘hey, anything you got, I’ll come do it for a day or two. Anything. I’d love to come work with you again.’ And so I said, ‘I got a cool part. You’re the bad guy, but you get to kill bin Laden, and he said, ‘Who better?!!’ [laughter]

Did you get crew members who had worked on these grindhouse movies or the guy doing the trailers? Was that a real voiceover guy from back in the day?

No, we got him to sound like them though. We got this guy…it’s the funniest thing. I’ve got him… I wish I had my computer here. I’d play it on my iTunes. It’s him doing [deep voice] ‘a Troublemaker Studios Production’ and then he says [normal, slightly effeminate voice] ‘okay guys, so that sounds great. Thanks…’ His real voice is so light and effeminate, you would never know that it’s the guy [deep voice again] ‘in this very voice…’ He had such a blast doing it. I think the voice in the Thanksgiving trailer is actually Eli Roth’s processed voice {imitates Roth] ‘there will be no leftovers.’

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Are we going to see Rob’s [Zombie] or are we going to see Edgar’s?

Possibly. I mean we gotta listen to what fans say when they see the movie. That’s kind of the testing ground. But early on I’d been writing the Machete thing for Danny [Trejo] since ’94, so when Quentin first mentioned ‘hey, let’s do some fake trailers,’ [I said] ‘well I know which trailer I’m gonna do. I’m gonna do Machete’ because I’ve been gonna do that with him forever. I always thought he should be the star of his own Mexploitation series, and so I did that one right away as a camera test.

When are you going to research it?

Soon, because it needs to come out when Grindhouse comes out on DVD. So it comes out at the same time. [Using announcer’s voice] ‘Grindhouse presents ‘Machete’ plus 3 Kicks in the Head, Part III.’

What about the movie’s gore? How far were you able to push the envelope?

I just tried to make a cool zombie movie and some things that you hadn’t quite seen before. And I’ve seen zombie movies, and you know that if you pull back and try to make it PG-13, you didn’t make a zombie movie so…not that they’re zombies, we call them ‘sickos’ because they’re just infected, but yeah, you needed to have some sections that were like… and then it kind of goes away after the hospital sequence and turns into a ‘women in cages’ movie. That’s when you have that weird stuff with Quentin and the melting member and it gets a little weird there. But mainly it was just to… the best thing about these exploitation movies is sometimes you’d be watching them, and you get this experience when you watch Quentin’s film festival, you’re sitting there and at some point in one of these movies, you just can’t believe what you’re watching. It’s like, ‘is this happening? Am I? Are we…? Yeah, I guess we’re all watching the same movie.’ It almost feels like a dream so you needed those kinds of moments and you want those sort of surreal ideas, and that’s what kind of marks a really good exploitation movie. So yeah, I had to think for a long time to come up with most of that.

Is your son ever creeped out by the zombies or anything?

You know, I take him into the dining area and I say, ‘okay, now you’re going to come see some zombies.’ We’ve been making jokes and stuff. We talked about doing a kid’s movie about zombies and we could talk about them for a while. [Laughs] And I said, ‘hey look, here’s the [zombies]’ and he freaked out when he first saw them, and I said, ‘no, no, c’mere, c’mere. Touch their faces,’ and he saw that they were rubber. ‘That’s J.J. You know J.J. You know him from Spy Kids.’ And I say, ‘what do you think?’ and he goes, ‘hey, that’s pretty low budget.’ [Laughs] That was our joke – it was low budget. I said, ‘I’m open to that. Well it’s not that bad.’ But he doesn’t know what happened to him because I shot a whole version where he lives ‘cause I wasn’t sure which way to go. He remembers making it all the way to the beach. He’s lying on the beach with his little animals, so as far as he knows in his mind, he survived. He has no idea, he has no idea. [Laughs]

I was disappointed you weren’t in Quentin’s movie. You didn’t want to? Why didn’t you do it? Cmon, everybody’s waiting for that.

Think about it. I never have any time. I’m operating the camera, I’m doing Steadycam, editing on set, doing the catering. After a while… I don’t really have much interest in that. I like being the crazy puppeteer rather than the puppet. [Laughs]

Can you talk about why it is that you feel comfortable in pretty much all your DVDs to be able to fully explain in detail how you did things when most filmmakers keep the process within. You give everything which is really cool.

It helps you to also just clear out your ideas. I talk about exactly how I did Sin City and then somebody can go and make 300. [Laughs] And then it helps you kind of clean out the system so you gotta come up with something new for the next one. By the time you’re giving that information out, it’s a couple years later from when you first thought about how to do it. So you’re kind of onto a new idea anyway. So you might as well… it’s better to just give away… You know, the best magicians give away their magic tricks because it forces them to think of new tricks.

Will Frank Miller direct Sin City with you?

Uh huh. It wouldn’t be at the same time, no.

What did you guys contribute to each other’s movies in Grindhouse?

I gave him his title. He was telling me his movie idea [imitates Quentin’s voice] ‘the guy’s driving a car and it’s death proof and all’ and I’m like, ‘what?’ ‘It’s a death proof car.’ And I said, ‘that’s a pretty good title.’ And then he’s going through and he says, ‘and then the stunt woman comes over. She’s like indestructible’ and ‘she’s death proof,’ I say. [Laughs] ‘You gotta call it Death Proof’ and the next day he goes, ‘I’m gonna call it Death Proof.’ [Laughs] I contributed that. He contributed some dialogue to mine, a few lines here and there. That was mainly… I hoped he would contribute more. I gave him the draft and I was like, ‘Alright, he’s gonna have all this dialogue’ and then he called me back and says, ‘man, I loved this script. I edited a few lines.’ I said, ‘oh, cool. Where were they?’ It was like two lines and I was like, ‘That’s it?! C’mon! Write some more!’

Marley and her thing with the needles, doesn’t that seem kind of Quentinesque?

Yeah, really? Probably I started imitating him probably a little but no, that’s fine.

Will the Ten Minute Cooking School on the DVD include JT’s barbecue sauce?

Yes, absolutely. That’s going to be the big one there, Texas Barbecue. I’m going to start with his quote saying [imitates JT] ‘No Texan ever gives away his barbecue recipe. He takes that to the grave.’ [deep voice] ‘Ten Minute Cooking School: Texas Barbecue From The Grave.’

Freddy has already mentioned that he was not the obvious person to play that kind of role. What was it about him that you thought he could be El Rey?

It’s kind of strange. I only wrote the script part way before I was just getting lost with some of the characters, and I thought I’m just going to start casting right now, and then finish the script based on the actors I find so I can visualize them better. So, a lot of the script was written for Rose, with Rose’s characteristics in there, a lot of her personality. She’s always talking about her useless talents, her bad luck, and people always telling her she should be a stand-up comedian. A lot of her is in there. Freddy came in and read. The only scene I had for Freddy was the opening scene when he’s talking to her in the diner, and he came in with this cool jacket and he played it really cool, and I thought ‘wow, this guy’s really great. He’s kind of small, so I’m going to make him a badass hero.’ I made that whole part based on how he came in and read. So when he read the finally finished script, he was like, ‘you saw me as this?,’ and I said, ‘Actually yeah. I thought it would be very unassuming of you to come in at that level. I’m going to shoot you kind of short too, so don’t get freaked out when you see the camera way up here, when you step our of your truck for the first time and you’re like this small. But as the movie goes on, I’m going to start lowering the camera and you’re gonna get taller and taller, so by the time you’re flipping the guns, the camera’s on the floor and you’re just like ‘ahhhhhhh.’ El Rey!

Was it because he was little that you put him on this tiny little bike?

Yeah, I put him on it, but that was already a joke in there. But yeah, he still looked big on the little bike. I saw those little bikes and I thought it was the coolest idea.

Can you tell us about Sin City 2?

Sin City 2? If I start shooting it right away, it’d be seen as soon as June, but I’ll know more in a week.

Can you actually talk about your schedule for the next year and what you’re working on?

Oh man, I have no idea. Usually when I finish a movie, right when I’m done at the premiere and all that, I take like a week off and then I get antsy and I already know what I’m gonna do next, but I haven’t got to that point yet.

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