Director turns into a kid with 'Spy Kids'

Robert Rodriguez knows kids. He grew up in a family of 10 and is now a father of three children. His early films were full of his brothers and sisters as performers. Now, with "Spy Kids" opening today, the director of such nonfamily fare as "El Mariachi" and "From Dusk Till Dawn" wants to bring the whole family back into the theater.

Families these days are forced to go to separate movies, he says. "I wanted to create something that all ages could enjoy together." But he didn't want to fall into the trap of what he feels many so-called family films do, by making a low-budget film without much complexity. "Serious filmmakers don't usually make family films," says the Austin, Texas-based filmmaker. "But I honor a child's imagination."

In "Spy Kids," Carmen and Juni Cortez (played by Alex Vega and Daryl Sabara) are two ordinary kids who must save their parents - and the world - from the evil techno-wizard, Floop.

While the $36 million film is modest by Hollywood standards, Rodriguez says that old-fashioned ingenuity "and film magic tricks, like the old-time filmmaker John Melies who created onscreen magic out of nothing," helped keep the budget down.

Choosing a spy caper for kids meant finding ways to enable the two child stars to cavort like the James Bond they aspire to be. Rodriguez pops a cassette into a nearby VCR to show how some of the film stunts were created without costly special effects or skilled doubles.

In a confrontation scene between the two children and their evil twins, Rodriguez shows how each child was belted into a spin bar so they could appear to be walking up the wall and doing a martial arts-style flip.

The men holding the spin bar were masked out digitally, "on my own computer in Austin!" says Rodriguez, and the children got to perform their own stunt.

Creating a gadget-filled universe wasn't hard for the former comic-book creator. "I feel like I'm still a big kid," Rodriguez says. "I look at my own kids now; they're so free and flowing, and realize I could never come up with any better stuff than I did as a kid."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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