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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Austin, TX resident Robert Rodriguez first conceived the idea for the vigilante musician, “El Mariachi,” while making home movies with his childhood boarding school friend, Carlos Gallardo, during their summer vacations. Deciding to expand the character’s back-story into a feature-length film, Rodriguez made a list of all the assets available to him for shooting—including a school bus, motorcycle, two bars, and a ranch—and developed a story around those elements. A 4 Jan 1993 HR article stated that he wrote the script during a one-month stay at a research hospital in the summer of 1991, where he earned $3,000 cash.
       Rodriguez reportedly met Peter Marquardt in the hospital and cast him to play “Mauricio,” while all the other actors were personal friends who agreed to work for free. To avoid performances that were “too rehearsed,” Rodriguez gave the actors their dialogue as each scene was being shot. Marquardt, who did not speak Spanish, learned his dialogue by listening to Rodriguez recite it to him phonetically.
       Filming took place over fourteen days in Acuña, Mexico, near the Texas border. Due to the limited $7,000 budget, each scene was completed in only one take, with all dialogue and sound effects later synchronized by hand in post-production. Rodriguez told the 29 Jan 1993 HR that he kept costs low by doing all the camera work himself, instead of hiring a cinematographer. The picture was shot on 16mm film and then transferred to video.
       According to the Autumn 1993 TASCAM User Guide, all background scoring was completed by Eric Guthrie and Chris Knudsen, Rodriguez’s fellow students at the University ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Austin, TX resident Robert Rodriguez first conceived the idea for the vigilante musician, “El Mariachi,” while making home movies with his childhood boarding school friend, Carlos Gallardo, during their summer vacations. Deciding to expand the character’s back-story into a feature-length film, Rodriguez made a list of all the assets available to him for shooting—including a school bus, motorcycle, two bars, and a ranch—and developed a story around those elements. A 4 Jan 1993 HR article stated that he wrote the script during a one-month stay at a research hospital in the summer of 1991, where he earned $3,000 cash.
       Rodriguez reportedly met Peter Marquardt in the hospital and cast him to play “Mauricio,” while all the other actors were personal friends who agreed to work for free. To avoid performances that were “too rehearsed,” Rodriguez gave the actors their dialogue as each scene was being shot. Marquardt, who did not speak Spanish, learned his dialogue by listening to Rodriguez recite it to him phonetically.
       Filming took place over fourteen days in Acuña, Mexico, near the Texas border. Due to the limited $7,000 budget, each scene was completed in only one take, with all dialogue and sound effects later synchronized by hand in post-production. Rodriguez told the 29 Jan 1993 HR that he kept costs low by doing all the camera work himself, instead of hiring a cinematographer. The picture was shot on 16mm film and then transferred to video.
       According to the Autumn 1993 TASCAM User Guide, all background scoring was completed by Eric Guthrie and Chris Knudsen, Rodriguez’s fellow students at the University of Texas at Austin. Guthrie, a biology major who scored Rodriguez’s first student film, used a TASCAM 488 Portastudio in his apartment. Knudsen, a guitarist, joined the project about halfway through the scoring process to help Guthrie with looping and sequencing.
       Although Rodriguez only intended to sell the picture to the Mexican home video market, the 10 Sep 1992 DV review stated that Columbia Pictures agreed to pay for a 35mm enlargement and Dolby Stereo add-on so the film could be released in theaters. The film premiered 4 Sep 1992, during the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, followed by a screening at the Sundance Film Festival in late Jan 1993. The 4 Jan 1993 HR stated that Columbia planned a platform release beginning 26 Feb 1993 in New York City; San Antonio, TX; Albuquerque, NM; and Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento, CA. In Los Angeles, the film also played in Spanish-language theaters.
       As a result of the film’s critical success, Rodriguez signed a two-year deal with Columbia. Although DV reported that the filmmaker planned a $6 million “mainstream” remake, El Mariachi became the first installment of his “Mexico Trilogy,” in which Antonio Banderas assumed the leading role for Desperado (1995, see entry) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003, see entry).
       End credits state: “Special Thanks to: Lic. Evaristo Perez Arreola; Hector Monroy Plascencia; Carmen M. de Gallardo; Josue Muñoz Quintero; Samuel Flores; Ricardo Garza; Jaime Garza; Gudelio Garza; Jaime Rodriguez; Alfonso Arau; Jorge Cadena; Andrea & Nora; Manuel Portillo; Dept. Policia Municipal Acunña Coah.; Jose Aranda; Enrique Perez; Miguel Orihuela; Ernesto Gallegos; Rafael Perales; Humberto Cantu; Keith Kritselis; George Hively; Thomas Jingles; Gary Krivacek; Jay Kamen; Ben Davis; The City of Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico; and Elizabeth Avellán.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1993
p. 25, 70.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1993
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
26 Feb 1993
Section C, p. 6.
TASCAM User Guide
Autumn 1993
Issue XI, p. 15.
Variety
14 Sep 1992
p. 48.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Los Hooligans Production
A Robert Rodriguez Film
Released by Columbia Pictures
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
FILM EDITORS
Post prod and sd services by
SET DECORATOR
Carpenter
SOUND
Post prod and sd services by
Culver City, California
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Asst to prods
Prod attorney
STAND INS
Stunt supv
Stunt supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Ganas De Vivir,” written and performed by Juan Suarez
“Maldicion,” written and performed by Marc Trujillo
“Mariachi Solo,” written and performed by Alvaro Rodriguez
+
SONGS
“Ganas De Vivir,” written and performed by Juan Suarez
“Maldicion,” written and performed by Marc Trujillo
“Mariachi Solo,” written and performed by Alvaro Rodriguez
“Mariachi Tecnologia,” written and performed by Nestor Fajardo
“Mariachi Love Theme,” written and performed by Cecilio Rodriguez.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 February 1993
Premiere Information:
Telluride Film Festival screening: 4 September 1992
Sundance Film Festival screening: late January 1993
Los Angeles and New York openings: 26 February 1993
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
gauge
16mm
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
83
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
Spanish
PCA No:
31967
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Outside of Jimenez, Coahuila, Mexico, a hit man named Azul breaks out of prison and vows revenge on the drug lord, Mauricio, also known as “Moco,” for having him arrested. Reuniting with his friends, Azul drives toward Acuña carrying a guitar case filled with knives, guns, and other deadly weapons. Meanwhile, a lonely young musician walks from town to town with the dream of becoming an esteemed mariachi like his father and grandfather before him. In Acuña, he stops in a bar and asks for work, but the owner rejects him. After the mariachi leaves, Azul enters the bar and kills four of Moco’s henchmen seated at a table. The incident catches the attention of Bigotón, Moco’s right-hand man, who warns the local hotel manager to watch out for a fugitive dressed all in black and carrying a guitar. After being rejected at another bar, the mariachi goes to the hotel to request a room for the night. The manager agrees, but notices the boy’s guitar case and immediately calls Bigotón. When Moco’s men arrive with assault rifles, the mariachi flees, but turns back after realizing he has left his guitar behind. Retrieving the instrument, he grabs one of the assailant’s guns and shoots four of Moco’s men. Plagued by guilt, he returns to the second bar and convinces the beautiful owner, Domino, to let him hide there until he is safe. Believing he killed the men in self-defense, Domino sends him upstairs to rest in her apartment. A few minutes later, Bigotón comes into the bar and asks to use the telephone to call his boss. Domino overhears him say that the killer has shot ten people using ... +


Outside of Jimenez, Coahuila, Mexico, a hit man named Azul breaks out of prison and vows revenge on the drug lord, Mauricio, also known as “Moco,” for having him arrested. Reuniting with his friends, Azul drives toward Acuña carrying a guitar case filled with knives, guns, and other deadly weapons. Meanwhile, a lonely young musician walks from town to town with the dream of becoming an esteemed mariachi like his father and grandfather before him. In Acuña, he stops in a bar and asks for work, but the owner rejects him. After the mariachi leaves, Azul enters the bar and kills four of Moco’s henchmen seated at a table. The incident catches the attention of Bigotón, Moco’s right-hand man, who warns the local hotel manager to watch out for a fugitive dressed all in black and carrying a guitar. After being rejected at another bar, the mariachi goes to the hotel to request a room for the night. The manager agrees, but notices the boy’s guitar case and immediately calls Bigotón. When Moco’s men arrive with assault rifles, the mariachi flees, but turns back after realizing he has left his guitar behind. Retrieving the instrument, he grabs one of the assailant’s guns and shoots four of Moco’s men. Plagued by guilt, he returns to the second bar and convinces the beautiful owner, Domino, to let him hide there until he is safe. Believing he killed the men in self-defense, Domino sends him upstairs to rest in her apartment. A few minutes later, Bigotón comes into the bar and asks to use the telephone to call his boss. Domino overhears him say that the killer has shot ten people using weapons he carries in his guitar case. Once he leaves, Domino rushes upstairs and holds a letter opener to the mariachi’s throat, demanding to look inside his case. Finding the guitar inside, she orders him to sing. His seasoned voice convinces her that he is telling the truth, and she agrees to let him play in the bar in exchange for room and board. His first performance earns wild applause from the crowd, and charms Domino. The next morning, the mariachi returns to the hotel to get back his deposit money, leaving his guitar and jacket next to the bar. While he is away, Domino goes to the back room to call Moco. Just then, Azul stops in for a beer. He asks the busboy about Domino, and determines that she works for Moco. Azul leaves, accidentally trading his case of weapons for the mariachi’s guitar. Outside, three of Moco’s men jump Azul, but open his instrument case and find a guitar inside. Believing he is the innocent mariachi, they tell Azul he is free to go. When the mariachi returns to the bar, he realizes what has happened and rushes outside to find Azul. Confused, Moco’s men split up and chase both Azul and the mariachi through town. The mariachi uses Azul’s weapons to kill several more men in self-defense. Azul returns to his hideout and orders two of his men to retrieve his guitar case. Back at the bar, Domino tells the mariachi about her complicated relationship with Moco, who bought her the bar and her spacious apartment. In the morning, Domino gives the mariachi money for a new guitar so he can continue to perform for her customers. While he looks in the shop window, Bigotón knocks the mariachi unconscious and takes him to Moco’s ranch. Realizing they have the wrong man, however, Bigotón dumps the mariachi on the street back in town. Meanwhile, Azul returns to Domino’s bar and asks for his guitar case. Believing Moco has taken the mariachi captive, Domino and Azul drive to the drug lord’s ranch. There, Domino declares she has come in search of the mariachi. Jealous, Moco kills her and Azul. When the mariachi regains consciousness, he borrows Domino’s motorcycle and speeds to Moco’s ranch, where he finds Domino dead in the courtyard. Furious with the mariachi for killing his men and stealing his girl friend, Moco shoots him in the hand. The mariachi grabs Azul’s gun and kills Moco, avenging Domino’s death. Now crippled and unable to pursue his dream, the mariachi arms himself with Azul’s former weapons, mounts Domino’s motorcycle, and rides away into the desert. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.