GEORGE LOPEZ & ROBERT RODRIGUEZ Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
June 1, 2005
In the family film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, a lonely but creative boy (Cayden Boyd) comes face-to-face with a pair of his imaginary friends, kid superheroes Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley). Written and directed by Spy Kids auteur Robert Rodriguez, the movie was based on ideas from his 7-year-old son Racer Rodriguez, and is presented in 3-D. George Lopez, Kristin Davis, and David Arquette round out the cast.
In this interview, George Lopez and Robert Rodriguez talk about working on this family adventure.
MEDIA: George, how did you feel about the workload of playing multiple roles for Robert in this movie?
GEORGE: After the first day of greenscreen, I got up about 2:30 in the morning and I felt literally hammered. And I said, "This guy kicked my ass!" And I have to go back the next day. It was really relentless, but I was there for him and wanted to make him happy.
ROBERT: And I kept giving him more roles. I kept saying, "Hey, you can play this guy, too!" He played like four parts in the movie.
GEORGE: Which is very typical Latino, to hire one guy to do one job, and then have him do nine other ones!
GEORGE: As I was leaving, he said, "What time is your flight?" I said, "2:30." He goes, "For the sequel, you're going to do the drywall."
Did your recent kidney transplant affect your ability to shoot this movie?
GEORGE: I was all there when we were working, it was just that after I worked, when I got back to the hotel, I was exhausted. But nothing was going to stop me from not only working, but working with Robert. It was one of the things that I always imagined. Even just meeting him, but the opportunity to have him write me a part...There was nothing that was going to keep me from doing this movie.
ROBERT: Yeah, I wrote it for George. And I finally called him because I had to make sure he's even available. "Before I get too attached to the idea of you doing this, do you have any breaks at all? I can shoot you fast. I'll shoot you on the weekends..."
GEORGE: We had a great conversation when he asked me. It was one of those where you couldn't believe it was actually going to happen, and that he had actually written something for me. So when I took my acting coach with me, he's like, "It's you, man! Just talk the way you talk! What are you doing? Don't even act, just talk! I wrote it for you! Those are the words that you would say! Just say it like you would say it!"
Robert, do kid actors, with their wild imaginations, have an easier time working with the greenscreen?
ROBERT: More than adults? Nah, not really. I think actors just in general have a good sense of imagination. And George does standup, so he's up on the stage by himself making believe, creating scenarios, doing very theatrical stuff. So I knew he would be really good to be there isolated. He's doing all of this in a vacuum, and it's just me and him. [laughs] I didn't even talk to him about it before, I didn't even set it up. He would just jump into it from the beginning and find the character on the way.
GEORGE: [to Robert] Remember the stand-in with huge, high hair? He looked like a Mexican Seinfeld.
What sort of writer/director collaboration did you have with your son Racer while filming?
ROBERT: [laughs] It was pretty casual. I would just come after him whenever I had some idea, and I would run it by him, and he would add jokes to it. He's a good gag writer. I've seen both his big gags in the trailer. And the thing is, when you're making a movie like this, you're trying to go in a time machine and get back to that time when you were 8 years old and that free with your creativity. And they're already there, so he was almost my Frank Miller on this movie. I was adamant about using all his ideas and even dreams that he had to make it as authentically from a kid's mind as I could. Because the most you can ever be is child-like, where they are a child. And you want to get that authenticity. He's got a very similar sense of humor to mine, and it reminds me a lot of when I was I kid. I used to draw all the time and come up with little stories. So that's the closest I could get to being 8 years old again, was taking ideas from him.
What is it like working with your children?
ROBERT: It really snuck up on me, because it's really come full circle. When I first started making movies, I made movies with my brothers and sisters. My first movies, from the time I was 12 to my first award-winning short films, all starred my siblings. And now it's my kids because they're of that age, and it just kind of crept up on me. I didn't realize they were that age now until we're doing this, and that now they're already coming up with stories. And it really gives them a lot of confidence when you validate their ideas like that. Now they're just so confident, they come up with so much stuff all the time. Friends of mine go, "Wow, it took me 30 years to think my ideas were any good." And the same here. [laughs] I think I was 32 when I thought, "You know, I think I've got some pretty good ideas." That kind of confidence early on is really good for your work ethic and your self-esteem. And it really makes you blossom. People have so much potential, but what really holds them back is themselves a lot of times.
How did you logistically differentiate the two Taylors you had working for you?
ROBERT: We just called them Sharkboy and Lavagirl. "Bring Shark Boy out, bring Lava Girl." We just decided that early on because "Taylor and Taylor" wasn't going to work. [laughs] Sharkboy and Lavagirl--it kept them more in character and made them feel more like real superheroes. And believe me, they didn't want to leave the set. No one wants to stop being a superhero at the end of the day.
GEORGE: I called him the day that they wrapped, and he said the kids were just in tears.
ROBERT: [laughs] We had to drag them screaming and crying out of there.
GEORGE: [to Robert] They were there for three months?
ROBERT: [to George] Yeah, about two and a half months.
How long were you on set, George?
GEORGE: I was there two different weeks--two hiatus weeks. And I worked six days a week.
What do you think of your character, Mr. Electric?
GEORGE: It's fantastic. He's great.
ROBERT: When I told him the idea that his head was going to be really big, he goes, "My legend will continue!"
GEORGE: [laughs] I could not be happier with the way it turned out, and with the way that Mr. Electric is. And it's a treat for me to even leave TV and do something like this with Robert. It's going to be a great summer.
So what's the deal with Robert cooking for you guys?
GEORGE: He cooks at his house, man! This guy...forget it. He's got a pizza oven, and he's talking to you and three minutes later a pizza comes out, better than whatever sweaty kid can deliver to your doorstep in 28 minutes. He makes his own dough, he makes fajitas. He's got a menu even! It's fantastic.
By the way...how did you feel testifying at Michael Jackson's trial?
GEORGE: I thought I was the best witness. I was the funniest by far.
GEORGE: Let me tell you this: Michael Jackson was not only the whitest person in the courtroom, he dressed like the Captain and Tennille at the same time. Really. It was the most surreal place I had ever been in my life, sitting on that witness stand.
ROBERT: Oh, come on. Austin was pretty weird when you had that tight t-shirt with the tape on it. That was your costume...
GEORGE: I was like Simon Cowell. My t-shirt was five sizes too small!