Shoot to thrill
In Desperado, the low budget antics of El Mariachi are spruccd up fora big screen blast. Alan Morrison hears about Hollywood's first Latino action hero from the movie‘s director Robert Rodriguez and its star. Antonio Banderas.
Okay. so Arnie‘s Austrian and Jean-Claude hails
from Brussels. bttt on the whole. the American public ‘
like their action heroes to kick ass in no-nonsense. Stars-and-Stripes style. Which is why. a couple of years back. Robert Rodriguez‘s modest Mexican shoot-‘em-up [fl .llurlue/ti built its reputation not in mainstream cinemas. bttt on the festival and anhouse circuit. Nevertheless. the Hollywood agents were drooling at the tnottth over this new-found talent: not only had Rodriguez. written. directed. produced. shot. edited and mixed the ﬁltu himself. he'd done it all on a budget of only $7000.
Everyone recognised the strength of the Mariachi
character. and so the decision was made to give him a
second outing. btit this time with an international star — Antonio Banderas -— plenty of bangs and bullets. and a notable increase in the budget. For 27-year-old Rodriguez. the jump to playing with a $7 million pttrse was almost surreal.
‘l was excited at ﬁrst until I realised that this was going to be a sttmmer movie. meaning that with $7 million I was going to be competing with movies that were costing $50 million to $180 million.‘ Rodriguez says. ‘So I thought. “Uh oh. back to basics". It was pretty much like what I did on the ﬁrst movie -- take a small budget and try to pttt every dollar on the screen.‘
It certainly seems like it's all there. The revenge plot may be slight — the tnan-witli-no-name Mariachi is on a mission to kill the man who killed the woman
he loved — bttt the action set pieces are the ultimate in
ﬁrearm flamenco. Rodriguez, takes the usual genre cliches. embracing sotne while turning others on their head. As such. it’s frenzied late night escapism that will appeal to a wide base.
‘This movie is one that plays to all people.‘ agrees the Texan director. ‘but for those of us who are Latin. it‘s something special. something we‘ve never seen —- a real Latin action hero. To anyone else. it's just an action movie that has a different ﬂavour to it. a different rhythm. a different kind of heat. When people see Antonio dancing up on the table. shooting people every which way. they‘ll say. “I don‘t want to be Jean-Claude Van Damme any more — I want to be Antonio Banderas".‘
Which brings us to the man who‘s stepping into the shoes worn ﬁrst time round by Carlos Gallardo. Since leaving Spain and the Almodovar stable. Bandcras has built up a stateside career. progressing from The Muntlm Kings (in which he learned his
24 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar l996
linglish lines phonetically). through a series ol smaller roles in bigger movies tl’ltllmle/p/tlu. lit/ervleir ll'i/l/ ’l‘/1e \irmpiret to more substantial
new off-screen love. Melanie (iriffitlt).
‘\\'e were trying to make the character not like the classic action hero.‘ explains the actor. ‘We planned to make him look a little like a bullﬁghtct'. like a dancer. like a Japanese samurai. We understood from the beginning that we had to do a very romantic. epic character. bill in the context of a cattoon. Making it was a pleasure; l felt like a kid sonietitues.‘
A kid who was so determined to get ittto the groove that he was willing to risk a btittip or two to his ﬁttc physique. 'Antonio did ltlt) per cent of ltis stunts.‘ confirms Rodrigue/. ‘l wanted to pttt at the end
“Stunt Double for Antonio Banderas none"
‘We were trying to make the character not like the classic action hero. We planned to make him look a little like a bulltighter, like a dancer, like a Japanese samurai.’
because we were so proud of him. btit the studio wouldn't let tis.‘
Banderas puts a slightly different gloss on his heroics: ‘I really did two movies there the one you see on screen and an X-rated movie in the hospital in the rear. l was all day hitting my elbows and my knees and my back. and at one point I thought l'd broken my left foot. It was really painful. btit I used the pain for the character »- I think he needs that pain. He has this struggle inside. this ﬁght with himself. and you know that he‘s living for revenge.‘
Rodriguez‘s arrival in Hollywood was phenomenal -— the whole Murine/11' process is hilariously and inspirineg detailed in his newly published diaries Rebel Wit/mu! xi (‘ren- -- btit he seems to have emerged with sanity and integrity attached. His was
Desperado: ‘the ultimate in firearm flamenco
the only segment of Four Rooms that garnered any approval. and his recently released /otnbie town
; western I’m/u Hits/r 'Iil/ Dawn (written by Quentin leads tA.\1\'u.\zvlns. tltc forthcoming 'Iim .llue/t opposite
'l‘arantino attd starring er hcartthrob (ieorge (‘looney) has won him even tnore fans in the States. But he‘s not content with just making the treshest genre movies arottttd. lie wants to bring the structure of ﬁlminaking tip to date.
‘\\'liat I did with /)(’.\'/l('l'(l(/(l was something like making a ttitisit‘ ('l). where you listen to the whole thing. then alter a while yott iust listen to Song 2 and Song 5.’ different set pieces that ltaxe their own beginning. middle arid end they 're like their own ntini-tnov ic. So when people see the mox ie it] the theatre. tltey 'll
Rodrigue/ explains. ‘l‘hcre are about ten
get one experience. and when they go home and watch it on laser disc or (‘l)-R( ).\l. they can go to Track H). w lticlt is the gttttfigltt. or Track t\'. which is the song with the explosion. and show these mini— moy ies to their friends or watch them over and oy er again. It's a new style that I‘m trying ottt that I think works pretty good: one long tnovie and ten short ones.'
Dex/’erm/o r’l’t’lts‘ on /"r/ 39’ Ill). lie/tel Hill/out :l (‘i‘en‘ is published by l'itlier A" I‘d/tel: prn'etl til/.‘N. From Dusk Till Dawn will lie l'(’/('(l.\'(’(l lit the (/K on
Ready for action (left to right): Albert Michel Jr. Antonio Banderas and Carlos Gallardo (the orginal Mariachi)