Freddy Rodriguez talks Grindhouse

Total Film caught up with Bobby star Freddy Rodriguez when he flew into town for the London Film Festival this month. But much as we love him in Emilio Estevez’s Altmanesque tapestry about Robert F Kennedy’s assassination – as touchy Mexican busboy José, he’s the soul of the movie – what we really wanted to talk about was his role in Robert Rodriguez’s segment of Grindhouse, Planet Terror. And Freddy was happy to oblige…

You’ve just finished shooting on Planet Terror…
Yeah. I play an action hero in it, and I never in my life felt that anyone would perceive me as an action hero. But Robert Rodriguez did and that was a completely new experience for me. I think I pulled it off.

The story sees a small town overrun by zombies. Who do you play?
Right, they’re infected people. My character’s name is Wray – El Wray as it’s discovered in the film. You have a certain perception of who you think he is in the beginning and as the film progresses, layers are peeled away and he kind of becomes this other person.

Was there much training involved?
It’s crazy. I had months of gun training, knife training, fight choreography, I mean the whole nine yards. You’ve seen Desperado and El Mariachi – there’s always a very high element of action and stunts in Robert Rodriguez’s films.

Are there any scenes that you think people will be blown away by?
In that snippet trailer, I’m riding a motorcycle, right, and I shoot this zombie and he gets frickin’ hit by this truck. It’s just crazy, man, just crazy! There’s so much cool stuff. There’s lots of stuff I do with knives and the fight choreography we put together – you know, it’s classic Robert Rodriguez. But the tone of the film is much darker than Desperado or any of his other films. He describes it as having an almost Escape From New York-ish tone to it – that kind of darker, grittier tone.

Did you have to audition to get the part?
Yeah, I auditioned but Robert was familiar with me and we’d met before. At that time he only had about 30 pages of the script written but he was holding auditions and when I came in, it inspired him to develop the character even more. That’s why he hired me, because of what I did in the audition. It sparked something in him, like, “Oh yeah, Wray should be this way.”

Are you angling for a part in Sin City 2 now?
Yeah, man, I hope so!

Some of the cast are appearing in both Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s segment, Death Proof. Are you one of them?
No, I’m not in Quentin’s. I think Rose McGowan and Marley Shelton are. It’s a homage to the old studio system days, when you would sign a contract and be part of a studio’s flock of actors. So you would do one movie and then they’d say, “Go down to Stage 28, they’re filming a cowboy movie. There’s a part there for you.” Robert and Quentin wanted to try and recreate that, so that’s why Marley and Rose are in both films. “You’ve just finished filming this zombie movie, now go over there and do this slasher flick that Quentin’s making.”

Have you seen anything cut together yet?
Yeah, there was a more extensive trailer that Robert cut together for Comic-Con – it was like 10, 15 minutes. It was weird to see because I’ve never seen myself that way so I was watching it as a third person: “Wow, man, that looks cool!”

Click here to watch the Grindhouse trailer.

For more Freddy Rodriguez on Grind House, check out the January 2007 issue of Total Film, on sale 23 November.

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The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.