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ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO

About The Production
According to Rodriguez, one of the main motivating factors in his decision to finally make Once Upon a Time in Mexico was the new Sony 24-frames-per-second digital high-definition technology camera. After George Lucas demonstrated the process to him for the most recent Star Wars film, "I immediately got excited in the same way as I had when I first decided to make El Mariachi. I felt I could do something really different. The problem I had had initially was that Once Upon a Time in Mexico looked to be such a tough moviemaking experience, because of its epic scale. I just didn't want to haul film cameras down to Mexico to shoot a movie of that size. It would become tedious and strip the movie of the energy and the visceral quality that made El Mariachi so exciting to do. I didn't want the series to stray too far from those roots."

But with high-definition cameras he was able to execute a tight, seven-week production schedule, which made it feel "even more visceral, exciting and potent." Taking down a small crew, as he had done on El Mariachi, Rodriguez took over most of the filmmaking responsibilities himself. In addition to writing, directing and producing, he was also director of photography, the production designer, the editor and the music composer. "The reason I do so many jobs is that I find that no matter how big the movie may be, it becomes more personal," says Rodriguez. "I don't ever want to feel like I'm just telling people what to do. I want to lead by example. Everyone on the crew, in turn, does multiple jobs. If you're the one operating the camera, writing the score and the script and working with the actors, that feeling of inclusion extends to everybody. The size of the crew shrinks, and the actors feed off that energy. The actors are more inspired in such a creative environment and when they're inspired they have new ideas."

Also, Rodriguez reasons, "When you have too many people, filmmaking becomes an obstacle course. Jobs are split up so much these days, that you spend more time wrangling than creating. In an odd way, this sense of confusion drives the schedules and budgets up, and you end up getting further and further from the essence of moviemaking. I wanted to use the new technology to free us up and make it inviting for people to just come in and play. That's why all these great actors keep showing up movie after movie. No one ends up sitting in a trailer waiting for an army of people to coordinate themselves. Everyone can just move at the speed of thought, which is what you seek as a creative person."

Both Hayek and Mendes contend that the atmosphere on Rodriguez's set was uniquely Latin. "Robert always assembles a wonderfully eclectic group of people. This time there were old faces and some new ones like Enrique Iglesias," says Hayek. "Yet it always retained a Latin feeling – in a very sexy way."

Adds Mendes, "There were many Latinos on the crew, and I'm Cuban, so I felt at home. The shoot was about getting the job done, but also enjoying ourselves hugging, kissing, and eating "hearty" meals. After all, if you're not having fun, what's the point?"

Rodriguez's cast also became enamored of the new high-def technology, which brought fluidity to the production and the performances, says Depp. "I think high definition is the future. And Robert is the future of cinema."

Dafoe was equally enthusiastic about its potent

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