EXCLUSIVE: Deadline reported this week that Sony TV will produce an El Mariachi series based on the 1992 Robert Rodriguez film. Now I’ve learned that Robert Rodriguez and his reps are really pissed about it. I’m told that Sony TV execs reached out to Rodriguez only once to say that they were “thinking” about doing a TV show based on the writer-director’s trilogy of El Mariachi/Desperado/Once Upon A Time In Mexico characters. “After that they stopped returning our calls. So we thought that this had been abandoned,” one of Rodriguez’s insiders tells me. “Not only does Robert not have any involvement in this show, he wasn’t even given a ‘head’s up’on Sony’s press release. In it we noticed that Sony mentioned something about ‘staying true to the original story.’ Good luck with that without involving the creator! Not that it matters as the budget that’s allocated for the television production will make Robert’s original budget of $7,000 for El Mariachi look like Avatar. This TV series is a sloppy and lazy replica for the tourist trade, without any of the heart and soul that made the original El Mariachi win the Sundance Audience Award and become a landmark in independent cinema.” Ouch! The feeling by Team Rodriguez is that Sony TV is trying to piggyback on the hoopla surrounding Rodriguez and his English-language El Rey television network that has backing from Univision, is geared to young viewers and scheduled to debut this December.
The first film written and directed by Rodriguez, the Spanish-language El Mariachi, was shot in Mexico with a mainly amateur cast and originally intended for the Mexican home video market. But Columbia Pictures executives bought U.S. distribution rights and upgraded the film from 16mm to 35mm and spent relative big bucks on promotion, marketing and distribution. The original begat two more episodes – Desperado (1995) and Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003) — in what became known as the Mexico Trilogy. Because of Columbia’s involvement, Sony TV got its hands on El Mariachi which will be adapted for the Latin American TV market as a one-hour scripted drama with 70 episodes to start airing on Sony Entertainment TV across the region. It is the first series to be produced by SPT and Teleset entirely in Mexico. And frankly I find this bad business and no way to treat a creative.