Robert Rodriguez Takes Over Your TV

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Robert Rodriguez
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Robert Rodriguez burst on to the scene in 1992 with the very, very low-budget action film El Mariachi. (Apparently, he earned money to make the film as a test subject in scientific experiments.) He made hits like Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the Spy Kids series, but unlike other indie directors of his generation who joined the studio system, Rodriguez stayed in Austin and turned his home into Troublemaker Studios. He continued to make movies with remarkable thrift — mixing, editing, and even designing special effects himself. So his latest project feels like a big departure: Rodriguez is overseeing a new cable TV network. 

In the Comcast-Universal mega-merger, the FCC required four new cable channels to be awarded to minority owners. So along with Magic Johnson and Sean Combs, Rodriguez threw in a bid for a channel, doing English-language programming for Latino audiences. "I have five children who, even though they are bilingual, really live their lives in English and they really don’t have anything on television that really represents who they are in this country," he tells Kurt Andersen.

El Rey will be the first cable network that is “curated” by a single filmmaker. Or as Rodriguez explains, “the person who put this stuff on the air actually loves it, believes in it, and has seen it — and [is] not just putting it on.” The content ranges from classic television shows, such as The X Files and Dark Angel, as well as cult horror and kung fu movies.

One of the network’s first original series will be produced by Rodriguez himself. Based on his From Dusk Till Dawn films, the television show opens up the mythology of his vampire epic to include an Aztec backstory that he didn't have room to explore in the movies. 

For the big screen, Rodriguez is working on a sequel to his 2005 film Sin City, which reunites him with comic book legend Frank Miller (who created the gritty Dark Knight Batman which inspired Christopher Nolan). Rodriguez is not too much the auteur to enjoy the company. "The most fun you can have is having another director on the set," he says, "another brain, another set of eyes, another decision maker.” 

Music Playlist

  1. After Dark

    Artist: Tito & Tarantula
    Album: From Dusk Til Dawn
    Label: Sbme Special Mkts.