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126th Spring Commencement
Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez

Commencement Speaker

Writer/Director/Producer/Director of Photography
Production Designer/ Editor/Visual Effects Supervisor/Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer/Composer/Co-owner and President of Troublemaker Studios

While a student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, Robert Rodriguez wrote the script to his first feature film while sequestered at a drug research facility as a paid subject in a clinical experiment. That paycheck covered the cost of shooting his film. He planned to make the money back by selling the film to the Mexican home video market.

The film was “El Mariachi” (1993), which Rodriguez wrote, directed, photographed, edited and sound-recorded for $7,000. While shopping it to the video market, Rodriguez signed with a powerful agent at ICM. Columbia Pictures then bought the rights and signed Rodriguez to a two-year writing and directing deal. “El Mariachi” went on to win the coveted Audience Award for best dramatic film at the Sundance Film Festival, and was honored at the Berlin, Munich, Edinburgh, Deauville and Yubari (Japan) festivals. “El Mariachi” became the lowest budget movie ever released by a major studio and the first American film released in Spanish. Rodriguez wrote about these experiences in "Rebel Without a Crew", a book published by Dutton Press.

Although it was an astonishing debut for a 23-year-old, Rodriguez was already a seasoned filmmaker. The third of 10 children born to Cecilio and Rebecca Rodriguez in San Antonio, Texas, he had prepared for film production classes at UT by making a series of his own home movies. Family members were recruited as cast and crew. His three youngest siblings starred in “Bedhead” (1991), a 16- mm short film that was honored at many national and international festivals. Rodriguez also blossomed as a cartoonist at UT with “Los Hooligans,” a comic strip in the Daily Texan featuring characters based on his brothers and sisters.

Rodriguez went on to write, produce, direct and edit “Desperado” (1995), a sequel to “El Mariachi,” for Columbia. The film introduced American audiences to Antonio Banderas as a leading man, opposite Salma Hayek. Rodriguez also wrote, directed and edited “The Misbehavers” again starring Banderas in 1995, one of the four segments of Miramax Films’ “Four Rooms.” He then teamed up with Quentin Tarantino on the outrageous “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996) for Dimension Films. Rodriguez directed a cast including Tarantino, who wrote the script. He also edited the film and was executive producer. Rodriguez’s next directorial project was Dimension Films’ “The Faculty”(1998) starring Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood and Jordana Brewster.

In 2000, Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán founded Troublemaker Studios, their Austin, Texas-based production company of which he is co-owner and president. The studio includes a world renowned visual effects studio, music and publishing arms. The studio has played a primary role in making Austin a filmmaking hub.

The following year, Robert fulfilled a lifelong dream and created a family adventure film. “Spy Kids,” a critically acclaimed and box office success, went on to break $100 million domestically. He followed that with “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams,” which won rave reviews and “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” an adventure in 3-D.

The third installment to the “El Mariachi” trilogy, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” which Rodriguez shot, edited and scored himself, was released on September 12, 2003. He also was the writer of the film. In a matter of months Rodriguez opened two movies at number one in the North American box office - “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”.

In 2004 Rodriquez began his next endeavor Frank Miller’s "Sin City” which was co-directed by the creator of Sin City himself, Frank Miller. “Sin City" featured an all-star cast, including Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy and Benicio Del Toro, among many others. The critically acclaimed box-office smash was released in April 2005. Also in 2004, Rodriguez returned to his love of family fare with “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D” that was based on the stories and dreams of Rodriguez’s young son, Racer. Starring George Lopez, the film hit theaters in June 2005.

In spring 2007, Rodriguez released “Grindhouse,” an ode to exploitation double features of the 1970s, co-directed by good friend and frequent collaborator Tarantino.

Rodriguez is in post-prodution on the the family comedy adventure,”Shorts,” that he wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited and for which he composed the music. Starring Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, James Spader and Leslie Mann, “Shorts” will be released by Warner Bros. in summer 2009.