08/07/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
>ROBERT RODRIGUEZ FINANCED HIS ENTIRE 1993 debut film, El Mariachi, with the $7,000 he earned as a guinea pig testing medications at a research hospital. The story of a gun-toting troubadour in a surreal Mexican village, Mariachi won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and convinced Columbia to give Rodriguez a $7 million budget to make Desperado. That Mariachi sequel, which stars Antonio Banderas, is scheduled to premiere Aug. 25. But Rodriguez's popularity with critics and studio heads hasn't carried into his personal life. The 27-year-old director says that he lost many friends who "just couldn't identify with me anymore" after his success. "I'd say, 'I'm going to France to promote my new movie,' " he adds, "and they would look at me like I was from outer space."
Contrary to what those acquaintances might think, Rodriguez hasn't changed all that much. He still lives, he says, in a "dinky little two-bedroom apartment in Austin" with his wife and Desperado coproducer Elizabeth Avellan. And he made his sequel—which, by Hollywood standards, is still a low-budget film—using some of the same shoestring techniques he improvised during Mariachi. Filming at a breakneck schedule of up to 40 scenes per day, Rodringuez took dolly shots by strapping his camera to his shoulders while an extra pushed him in a wheelchair.
The novelty of Desperado was working with a big-name star. Banderas, who was eager to make a movie with Rodriguez after seeing Mariachi, has raved about the director's "incredible energy," adding, "He's an actor's dream."
After Desperado, Rodriguez's next project is Four Rooms—a quartet of short films from different directors, including Quentin Tarantino, due in October. That's just a month after the expected birth of his and Avellan's first child. "Poor kid," Rodriguez laughs. "He's never going to have a normal life—flying around with Daddy, shooting movies everywhere."