Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will be the speaker at the 126th Spring Commencement at The University of Texas at Austin, May 23 on the Main Mall.
Rodriguez wrote the script for his first feature film, "El Mariachi" while attending The University of Texas at Austin in the early 1990s. The success of that 1993 film, produced when he was only 23 years old, began a career that has earned him awards, honors and critical acclaim for his creative and innovative skills in the direction and production of films. "El Mariachi," which Rodriguez wrote, directed, photographed, edited and sound-recorded for only $7,000, won him the coveted Audience Award for best dramatic film at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as honors at the Berlin, Munich, Edinburgh, Deauville and Yubari (Japan) festivals. Although he had deferred completion of his graduation requirements to work on film projects, Rodriguez returned to his studies and received his bachelor of science in Radio Television Film degree from The University of Texas at Austin in summer 2008.
"We learn many things from one another at a great university," said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. "From one of our former students, Robert Rodriguez, we have learned the importance of pursuing our dreams and staying true to our convictions. Robert's talent, creativity, resourcefulness and tenacity have propelled him to the top of the highly competitive motion picture industry. We are honored that he will be our speaker for the 126th Spring Commencement."
As the third of 10 children born to Cecilio and Rebecca Rodriguez of San Antonio, Rodriguez learned to be resourceful at an early age, recruiting family members when he was a child to serve as cast and crew in home movies he filmed with the family videocamera. He honed his skills for film production classes at The University of Texas at Austin by making a series of home movies, including "Bedhead" (1991), a short film featuring his three youngest siblings. The film was honored at many national and international festivals.
While studying at The University of Texas at Austin, Rodriguez reflected on life with his brothers and sisters as the basis for a popular comic strip, "Los Hooligans," which he created and featured in The Daily Texan student newspaper. He also was a student in 1991 when he wrote the script for "El Mariachi" while sequestered at a drug research facility as a paid subject in a clinical experiment. The research money helped finance the $7,000 cost of filming the movie, which he produced in Spanish with hopes of selling it to the Mexican home video market. Instead, 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. From that point, his career skyrocketed. Rodriguez wrote about his career experiences in "Rebel Without a Crew," a book published by Dutton Press.
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 "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 the 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 for which he is co-owner and president. The studio includes a world renowned visual effects studio, music and publishing arms. It has played a primary role in making Austin a filmmaking hub.
Rodriguez later created the "Spy Kids" family adventure series and has been involved in several other film productions. One of them, the third installment to the "El Mariachi" trilogy titled "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," included a fight scene filmed in the ornate stairwell in Battle Hall at The University of Texas at Austin.
Most recently, Rodriguez has been in post-prodution on the the family comedy adventure, "Shorts," which he wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited and for which he also composed the music. Starring Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, James Spader and Leslie Mann, "Shorts" will be released by Warner Bros. in summer 2009.
Information on the May 2009 commencement schedule can be found online.