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ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO

The Players
Veterans of Rodriguez's other films eagerly signed onto the latest installment of the mythical tale of heroism and bravado. Over the years, the creative and highly independent filmmaker of such other films as the successful Spy Kids series and From Dusk Till Dawn, has developed a troupe of talent – both in front of and behind the camera – who are drawn to his singular and visionary style. "The reason is simple," summarizes actor Danny Trejo, who also appeared in Desperado. "Robert brings out the best in everybody."

For El Mariachi himself, Antonio Banderas, the decision to pick up the guitar again was an effortless one. "I would go to hell and back for Robert if necessary," he laughs. "I've done sixty movies and the only sequels I have done have been for Robert. So far, we've done six films together and they've all been perfect experiences, because we are in symphony. There is a fluidity to the language we share similar to what I had with Pedro Almodovar."

The reason Banderas and Rodriguez work together so frequently is simple: "Antonio can do anything," says Rodriguez. "He can do action. He sings and he does comedy. He's different in every movie. The first day he walked on the set of Once Upon a Time in Mexico he didn't seem to age a day since Desperado. When he put the boots and suit back on, he fell right back into character."

Salma Hayek also contends that she finds it hard to resist any opportunity to work with Rodriguez. She was so eager to be in the new film that the director agreed to rearrange the shooting of her scenes so that she could complete production on Frida. "Robert's films are always exciting and funny," says Hayek. "The adrenaline rush is always a factor because the films are never easy and always physically challenging. But I love the fact that Robert pushes me. Because he knows I won't back off and that I have fun doing it."

"Salma is saucy and tough and sexy and funny," according to Rodriguez. "She truly represents what I wanted for the character of Carolina and what Latin cinema should be like."

Cheech Marin presented Rodriguez with only one stipulation before agreeing to appear in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, he says. "Robert always kills me early on in his movies. This time I asked to be killed a little later," he states. "So he did, and he killed me so cool. Robert always kills me in really interesting ways. Also, all my scenes are with Johnny Depp."

Among the new arrivals, like Depp, there had always been a long-standing desire to work with Rodriguez. All that was required was the opportunity. And Depp found it in the role of the amoral CIA agent Sands. "Here was a chance to play a guy who's a little against the grain of what you'd expect to see in a CIA agent," says Depp. "He wasn't someone who was clichéd or who I felt I had seen before. It was an interesting idea for Robert to create a man who's in the CIA, but stationed somewhere he doesn't want to be because no one likes him. Sands is a man who has no regard for human life. I've never played someone like that before -- who's not a good guy in any way."

Depp was one of the few stars Rodriguez knew of who would allow themselves to take on the role of the corrupt, amoral Sands. "Johnny's character is very edgy, and you have to have an acto

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