One of the most delightful pivots in filmmaking history is Robert Rodriguez‘s early turn from action flicks like Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn into CGI-heavy children’s movies, first with Spy Kids and then the superhero film The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl. Those kid-friendly adventures are so beloved, it turns out, that Netflix brought on Rodriguez to direct We Can Be Heroes, a superhero movie starring Pedro Pascal and Priyanka Chopra that the filmmaker tells us is “like an Avengers team but they all have kids.”
When we sat down with Rodriguez—along with Colin Trevorrow and Joseph Kosinski—for our ComicCon@Home “Directors on Directing” panel, the filmmaker shared a ton of new We Can Be Heroes details, including how Netflix specifically asked for something like Spy Kids because of how well those films do on the streaming platform.
“My most rabid fanbase all these years, by far, has been my kid films. My Spy Kids audience. These kids watch those movies over and over because they’re action films made for children and families, in particular at a time when they need empowerment. Netflix came to me because the Spy Kids movies had done just so well on their service. They said ‘could you make a series of films that do that?’ And I said, “I’d love to! It was hard to make them for the theater because kids couldn’t drive themselves to the theater and watch it a thousand times. Parents would have to take them. With Netflix, they can just sit there and [mimicks hitting a play button]. I don’t have to sit there and watch Glitter Force with my daughter, she can just click it as many times as she wants. That’s why they get such high numbers on those types of films.
A few months ago, Rodriguez let slip that We Can Be Heroes will see the return of an adult Lavagirl and Sharkboy, the characters originally played by Taylor Dooley and Taylor Lautner. He offered us a few more details, noting “Sharkboy and Lava Girl show up as superhero parents who now have a daughter who has shark and lava powers.” (The director later clarified, “The only speaking role is for Lavagirl.”)
Rodriguez told us about the unique challenges facing the production on We Can Be Heroes, including, uh, the pandemic that’s forcing him to score the film remotely. But then there’s also the challenge that comes with casting a film with a handful of superpowered pre-teens.
“My kids are at the age when they can make films alongside me. So we came up with the idea of…like an Avengers team but they all have kids. The kids have powers but they don’t know how to use them because they’re just so young. It was the most challenging movie I’d ever done because, any director knows, the most challenging scene is like a dinner scene where you got a lot of people. The whole movie I got eleven superhero kids in every shot. Trying to figure out how to film that was incredible. It’s really challenging and exciting and I already shot it and was editing it when this happened. I’m scoring it…we’re scoring it in Vienna, remotely, listening over here in the other room. I can’t be in the orchestra room as usual. They’re all sitting six feet apart in Vienna, it’s a wild time.”
Finally, you can watch our ‘Directors on Directing’ Comic-Con Panel with Robert Rodriguez, Colin Trevorrow, and Joseph Kosinski by clicking here.