Robert Rodriguez—who famously funded his first film by taking part in paid medical experiments—may be fiercely independent from Hollywood, but at home, it’s a different story. The Grindhouse and Spy Kids director still works side-by-side with ex-wife and producing partner Elizabeth Avellán at their Austin, Texas, studio. And most of their kids (Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue and Rhiannon) cowrote and acted in his latest family film, Shorts, in which three boys find an alien rock that grants wishes and wreaks havoc on a suburban town. As he gets ready to produce a reboot of Predator, the 41-year-old Mexican American talks about making movies, keeping his family together through a divorce and the actress he’d cast in every single film.
Tell us about your kids’ involvement in Shorts.
My son Racer came up with the idea for The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D back in 2005. After that, Rebel said, “I get to come up with the next movie. Let’s do something like Little Rascals.” And I said, “That’s a great idea, to have a bunch of short stories and make a feature film out of them.” We decided that we should call it Shorts because the stories are short, the kids are short and they wear shorts. So we would all brainstorm, do drawing sessions and act out scenes after school and on weekends.
Did you always want a big family?
When you grow up around a big family— I was one of 10 kids—and then you suddenly go to college and you’re all by yourself, you go, “Where’s the noise? It’s so quiet. It’s lonely in here.” You’re so used to having your best friends be your siblings because you’re so close in age. So yeah, I totally wanted a big family. We have such fun together. People tell me, “You have five kids? That’s a baseball team!” And I say, “No, it’s a whole film crew!”
To an outsider, your 2007 divorce was heartbreaking because it seemed like you had it all: a great marriage, the family, the film studio . . .
We still do. But Elizabeth and I got married very young, at 21. People change over time, and I’m very difficult to live with because I have this crazy imagination. But the thing that hasn’t changed is that we’re great partners and we’re great parents. She’s so solid. In a lot of ways, we’ll be together forever. I can see her right now. She still works right next to me; we have an office together. For a long time, we were the example of what a married couple can be as far as working together, because that is very difficult to do. But in reality, most people are divorced in this day and age, so we decided, “Let’s try to be a good example of how divorced people should behave and not let it bear negativity on the children.”
Are you engaged to Rose McGowan?
Yes, I’m engaged.