Whatever happened to the tooled-up youngsters of Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Spy Kids’ franchise? We tracked them down…
Daryl Sabara – Juni Cortez
As a kid, Daryl Sabara’s goofy grin and cute ginger curls made him a child star – even before he landed the co-lead role in Robert Rodriguez’s gadget-packed kids franchise, he was making us laugh in the likes of 'Will & Grace’. Rodriguez made three 'Spy Kids’ movies in three years and Sabara played a starring role in all of them, alongside Alexa Vega as his sister Carmen.
Over time, Sabara’s red curls have been tamed as he looks to take on more serious work. Aged 15, he appeared in Rob Zombie’s 'Halloween’ remake; two years later, he was Robin Williams’ obnoxious teenage son in black comedy 'World’s Greatest Dad’, where his screen father found him dead after an auto-erotic asphyxiation accident. By now, Sabara had established himself as an in-demand voiceover actor in the likes of 'Generator Rex’ and 'Ultimate Spider-Man’, and with director Robert Zemeckis, Sabara made great strides in the field of motion-capture animation with roles in 'The Polar Express’ and 'A Christmas Carol’. A baton-passing cameo aged 19 in 'Spy Kids 4D: All The Time In The World’ – featuring Aroma-scope 'smell-o-vision’! - seemed to indicate his time as a cutesy child star was over, as did a recurring role in drug dealer drama 'Weeds’ and a cameo in Robert Rodriguez’s significantly more adult franchise, 'Machete’.
Now aged 23, we’re entering the serious part of Daryl Sabara’s post-'Spy Kids’ career: 2013 Eli Roth horror 'The Green Inferno’ built some great festival buzz, while in the same year, philosophical thinkpiece 'After The Dark’ put a great spin on the nuclear apocalypse drama. So far, the really huge roles have eluded him, but he did play a significant part in Andrew Stanton’s 'John Carter’, bookending the movie as Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the original story. For up to the minute Daryl Sabara news, you can follow him on Twitter @darylsabara where he mostly tweets about his playlists and saving the rainforest.
Young Alexa had 20 acting credits to her name before Robert Rodriguez picked her for the role of butt-kicker Carmen Cortez in 'Spy Kids’ – previous roles included Steven Seagal’s daughter in 'The Glimmer Man’ and the young Helen Hunt in 'Twister’. When 'Spy Kids’ took off, so did the 13-year-old Vega’s career, and she appeared in all manner of high school movies, like 'Sleepover’ and 'Odd Girl Out’.
Outside of the 'Spy Kids’ trilogy, Vega’s next big movie role wouldn’t come until 2009’s 'Repo! The Genetic Opera’, a bonkers sci-fi musical about organ harvesting from 'Saw’ series director Darren Lynn Bousman, in which she played the lead. Vega also followed Bousman to his excerable 2010 horror flop remake 'Mother’s Day’. Somewhere along the way, Vega grew up – she took on more adult and daring roles, like busty vixen Killjoy in 'Spy Kids’ director Robert Rodriguez’s exploitation sequel 'Machete Kills’, and stripper Gilda in 'Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For’.
Robert Rodriguez became something of a father figure for Alexa – not only did he keep casting Vega in his movies, he walked her down the aisle too. Vega’s 2010 marriage to film producer Sean Covel, however, was not to last, and the pair divorced just two years after the wedding. There was a silver lining, however: free agent Vega was then able to take a cruise with friends, where she met her current husband, Carlos Pena Jr, star of Nickelodeon’s smash hit 'Big Time Rush’. The pair married less than a year after meeting and combined their surnames: Alexa is now credited in her movies with the surname 'PenaVega’. Still on the slate for 2015 is low-budget animation 'Pixies’ (still likely to be more warmly received than 'Pixels’), 'Single White Female’-esque thriller 'Roommate Wanted’ and a rumoured return for Killjoy in 'Machete Kills In Space’ from – you guessed it – Robert Rodriguez.