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Robert Rodriguez: 1968—: Director, Filmmaker, Screenwriter

Low Budget "mariachi" Impressed Hollywood

With only a few elements and props available to him—a hotel, two bars, a school bus, a motorcycle, and a pit bull dog—Rodriguez quickly turned out a script built around these elements. Delighted by a large turtle he found on the road, he added it to the script for good measure. The story dealt with a wandering singer who comes to Ciudad Acuña with his guitar in a case just as a local drug gang is searching for a rival thug who carries an identical guitar case filled with guns. Filmed in Spanish, the film presented an entertainingly corrupt image of a border town beset by drug runners and featured a superb villain who intimidates his underlings by striking matches on their facial stubble.

The breathtaking visual style of El Mariachi caught the attention of critics; Time called it "an aerobic workout for the eyes" and pointed out that the short film contained about 2,000 shots, four times as many as an average movie. El Mariachi was picked up by the giant distributor Columbia and became the talk of savvy young filmgoers in 1993. Rodriguez pointed out that the Columbia logo attached to the film's opening trailer had probably cost more than the $7,000 he spent in making the entire film.

Suddenly Rodriguez was a hot property in Hollywood. He was quickly signed for a higher-budget sequel to El Mariachi, entitled Desperado and starring a major actor, Antonio Banderas, in place of Rodriguez's friend Carlos Gallardo in the lead role of the mariachi singer. "They were treating me like a prize racehorse," Rodriguez told Time, "but the prize racehorse could break his ankle. Then they shoot him and get a new one." With the help of the healthy skepticism manifested in that statement, Rodriguez managed to keep his feet on the ground as fame overtook him. He continued to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Austin with his wife Elizabeth Avellan, who had worked with him on many of his films, and he announced plans to finish his Texas film degree to impress upon his younger siblings the importance of staying in college.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyRobert Rodriguez: 1968—: Director, Filmmaker, Screenwriter Biography - Won Way Into Film School, Low Budget "mariachi" Impressed Hollywood, Moved Toward Family Oriented Action