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Robert Rodriguez knew a star was born when he cast Lady Gaga in her first film

Gisselle Bances

Director Robert Rodriguez teams up with James Cameron (yes, the Avatar and Titanic director) for the new flick, Alita: Battle Angel. The movie features Latina actress Rosa Salazar as Alita, a cyborg who can’t remember her past life. “Diversity, I always push for that. It’s nice to see that people are talking about it and taking action now,” Rodriguez said in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment.

Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron at the premiere of <em>Alita: Battle Angel</em>. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron at the premiere of Alita: Battle Angel. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The Mexican-American filmmaker has been embracing his Latinx roots since his first indie film El Mariachi in 1992. The movie, famously known for having a very minimal $7,000 budget, opened the door to Hollywood for Rodriguez. “I did it as a practice film,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “I didn’t know it was ever going to be seen by people. Had I known people were going to see it, I would have borrowed more money. I would have spent more.” El Mariachi paved the way for two additional movies in the Mexico trilogy: Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. “When I did Desperado, that was my chance to show kind of what I could do.”

Carlos Gallardo and director Robert Rodriguez on the set of <em>El Mariachi</em> in 1992. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)
Carlos Gallardo and director Robert Rodriguez on the set of El Mariachi in 1992. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Rodriguez has worked with superstars like Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Jessica Alba and Oscar-nominated actress Lady Gaga. In 2013, Rodriguez gave Lady Gaga her first film role in Machete Kills. Before her big-screen debut, she had made TV cameos in shows like the Sopranos. Rodriguez saw something in Lady Gaga way before Bradley Cooper did. Alba has worked with Rodriguez in multiple movies and in an interview said: “Robert writes not just Latinas but women: strong, independent, dynamic, intelligent, cool chicks.”

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at a screening of <em>A Star Is Born</em>. (Photo: Matteo Chinellato/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at a screening of A Star Is Born. (Photo: Matteo Chinellato/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

He also, always, keeps in mind his Latinx audience and in 2013 launched the TV network El Rey. For Rodriguez, it’s not just about making movies and TV shows, it’s about giving la gente the opportunity: “You need more people behind the camera in order to really make change. You don’t want people taking a character that’s not Latin and just make it Latin; it’s not going to be authentic, so authenticity is really key.”

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