'We Can Be Heroes': Robert Rodriguez reveals surprising help he got to make Netflix hit

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

Netflix had a stellar 2020 — and snuck in one last buzzer-beating hit with the Christmas Day release of We Can Be Heroes, the latest family adventure film from Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lava Girl writer-director Robert Rodriguez. Netflix reported the film drew more than 44 million viewers over the holidays and the streaming service has already green-lit a sequel.

The movie assembles a crew of pre-teen superhero spawn who must jump into action when invading aliens seize their planet-protecting parents.

“The kids are going to have to take over sooner or later, us parents have screwed this place up,” the popular filmmaker (whose other credits include a pivotal Season 2 episode of The Mandalorian and the far more adult-skewing Mexico Trilogy, Sin City and Machete) tells Yahoo Entertainment about the film’s genesis in a new interview (watch above). “That was first and foremost on my mind. I had just raised five kids.”

The production was a full-on family affair for the Austin, Tex.-based Rodriguez clan.

His daughter Rhiannon not only inspired lead character Missy (Yaha Gosselin) as well as a couple of the other young heroes, she also drew all of the illustrations that are in the film and service key plot points. His son Rogue, 15 at the time, designed the alien ship interiors in his game engine; 20-year-old son Rebel composed the film’s orchestral score; and 22-year-old son Racer co-produced the whole film with him.

“The kids do take over, and they do surpass us,” the filmmaker says. “I wanted there to be an adventurous, kind of fun way to show that parenting is more about partnership than mentorship, because it goes both ways, you’re going to learn as much from your kid as your kid’s ever going to learn from you. They’re gonna have new ideas of how to do things, they’ll work together better. … So I wanted to do it in an inspiring way.”

'We Can Be Heroes' (Netflix)
We Can Be Heroes (Photo: Netflix)

We Can Be Heroes extends one lane in what’s been an amazing dichotomy throughout Rodriguez’s prolific career. On one hand, there’s the kiddie flicks. On the other hand, the sometimes gruesomely violent work that first brought him to prominence with films like El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

“It’s rare for someone to be able to have in their work the duality that exists in their life,” Rodriguez says. “In your life, you have that duality. You go to work, you go out with your buddies, you’re one guy, you’re Machete. You’re Sin City when you go to Vegas.

“But when you come [to] your kids, what are you? You’re Sharkboy dad. You’re Spy Kids dad… You divide those two parts of yourself. Most people don’t get to explore that in their work. They do one or the other. It’s a rare privilege to get to explore both sides. I love the action stuff, I love being able to do that stuff, but doing stuff with family, that’s the biggest part of my life.”

We Can Be Heroes is currently streaming on Netflix.

Watch the trailer:

— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee

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