How Robert Rodriguez Helped Turn Billie Eilish Into A Cartoon Character


The native Angelenos have a special kind of pride that transplant recipients will never understand. It’s a way of looking at the world, our surroundings and who we are, and recognizing that each of these perspectives influences the other because of where we come from. For most of us, being from LA isn’t just about origin or childhood, it’s about identity. Billie Eilish (who grew up near Highland Park) is clearly a part of this passionate group, and her new concert film, Happier than ever: a love letter to Los Angeles, highlights not only his new album, but also his inspirations of local love.

LA Weekly recently spoke with one of its directors, Robert Rodriguez via Zoom, about the project, and the filmmaker (best known for the Machete, Spy Kids and City of sin film franchises) provided extensive insight into the creative process and explained how music plays a role in his own dramatic ideas.

“I love working with musical artists,” Rodriguez tells us from his home in Texas. “From Ariana Grande to Lady Gaga, to whom I entrusted her first roles as an actress [in Machete Kills and Sin City- A Dame to Kill For]. More recently, I made their video “Rain On Me”. These artists are at the top of their game. So creative. So when they do something cinematic, I try to help them realize their vision. What they actually do informs a lot of what I do.

Rodriguez says her 15-year-old daughter brought her into Eilish’s music, and since she’s an aspiring young entertainer, she consulted on the project, which includes all 16 songs from the new version of Eilish. Happier than ever performed in order of the tracks from the album on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, interspersed with animated vignettes featuring blonde avatar Billie driving around town.

“Billie said she thought anime characters were cool, and she wished she were that cool,” Rodriguez shares. “But I said, ‘I bet they would like to be as cool as you, because you’re real.’ We talked about that and how we all have ideas about ourselves that are so idealized, who we wish we could be. But that identity probably wants you to be. So this idea – of the two characters, real. and not real, in the same city, on a collision course to the Hollywood Bowl – I thought that would be an interesting way to merge the two.

Oscar-winning host Patrick Osborne created the cartoon parts, evoking a somewhat nostalgic feel, which is perfect for Eilish’s latest collection of tracks. Most of the new songs are understated and jazzy, instrumentally and vocally, with the singer’s slender, introspective vocals and lyrics in the lead. It’s a step into a more sophisticated phase for the pop star, in case the opening number, “Getting Older”, wasn’t a clue. Our favorite song, “Oxytocin” (which is about the love hormone released during sex), is another nod to the singer’s maturation. In the film, her sensuality is heightened, with Eilish bathed in red light as she dances and hums, and Rodriguez’s camera movements and bold angles attempt to reflect and capture her energy.

Rodriguez wasn’t just in attendance for all the live Bowl performances for Happier than ever, but also during Eilish’s motion capture segments (of which she has shared behind-the-scenes clips on her social media in recent days). He worked with similar technology (“CG reel)” as the director of the inspired anime Alita: the angel of battle and on City of sin, but he said it was the first time he did a “Roger Rabbit “ movie style, where you have moving and live images and locations together on screen.

“It was fantastic to co-direct with Patrick and Billie herself,” he says. “She is very involved and has a strong vision. Her family is wonderful too. Just really great people. It was cool for my daughter to see people who can reach that level. “

Robert Rodriguez (Wiki Commons / Andrew Evans)

Rodriguez is originally from Texas and still resides there, but has worked in Los Angeles on several projects and his longtime co-conspirator Quentin Tarantino (From dusk to dawn, Mill) is famous, as enamored of our city as Billie. We asked him if he had heard of Tarantino’s purchase of the legendary Vista Cinema in Silver Lake and if he had heard of the Cinerama Dome being put on sale.

“I did. I love what he did with the New Beverly,” he replies. “We need this. We have to keep those benchmarks. It’s so sad to walk past your favorite old theater. and he is no longer there.

Can he push QT to do the same with the Dome? “Well, Quentin loves the Dome,” he replies. We have created From dusk to dawn the. And Danny Trejo said, “Dude, I built the Dome.” He was one of the guys who built the Dome at the time. One of the workers.

It’s a tangent interview, but appropriate since LA’s landmarks are central to his latest work. From PCH and the Sunset Strip to the Roosevelt Hotel, Happier than ever shows LA in a whole new light, and much of it is done by car. It’s LA, after all, and as Eilish shared in her previous streaming TV project, the doc A little more blurry on AppleTV +, she just got her license last year.

“We made a list of places she liked and thought about how many we could include on the trip and have time to do some entertainment for everyone,” says Rodriguez. “Those who survived are quite revealing. So many great places. We filmed her live in these places, and then we brought her anime character (with her motion capture), so it’s like this alternate version of her is walking through town. It was a fun and unique idea.

Accompanied by her brother and co-writer Finneas O’Connell, the Bowl performances also feature the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (of which Billie has revealed to be a member. , at the drive-in media preview last week at The Grove).

“It’s so exciting to be able to do this in my hometown of Los Angeles, a place that really informed me of who I am and I think I took it for granted,” Eilish said in a voiceover in the film. “The older I get, the more I love Los Angeles so much and the more grateful I am for my childhood and my growth as a person. LA really got me there.

Eilish will be touring the world as she promotes the album, but it’s good to know her heart will always be in Los Angeles. As for Rodriguez, he’s busier than ever. He shares with us his upcoming schedule and he understands Boba Fett’s book, a long awaited Star wars spinoff series for Disney, an upcoming thriller starring Ben Affleck called Hypnotic, and a sequel to his successful family series We can be heroes for Netflix. But he says more music-oriented projects are definitely welcome. “I tend to shoot my movies really fast for Hollywood speed, but nothing is faster than the music industry,” he says. “I like this energy and this speed. I like this immediacy and move at the speed of thought. When I have the time and even if I don’t have the time, I raise my hand when a project like this presents itself.

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