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The Mexico Trilogy or Mariachi Trilogy (also Desperado Trilogy on some DVD releases) is a series of films: El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, all written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez, beginning in 1992 and ending in 2003 and distributed by Columbia Tristar which tell the continuing story of the movies' main character, "El Mariachi".
The trilogy was originally conceived as a way for Rodriguez to make three movies for the Spanish-language home video market to hone his skills as a director. Quentin Tarantino, a friend of Rodriguez, is reported to have said to Rodriguez that El Mariachi and Desperado were the start of his Dollars Trilogy, the trilogy of Western films directed by Sergio Leone consisting of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Rodriguez agreed on this idea, and the resulting conclusion of the trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, has many similarities with its Spaghetti Western counterpart. This is often the explanation of, and reason behind, the inclusion of much more screen-time and story centered around different characters other than El Mariachi within Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
The trilogy began with the 1992 low-budget production of El Mariachi. The film was made on a budget of only US$7,000 using 16-millimeter film, was shot entirely in Mexico with a mostly amateur cast, and was originally intended to go directly to the Mexican home-video market (a process detailed in Rodriguez's book Rebel Without a Crew). Reportedly Rodriguez got some funds for the film by offering himself up as a human guinea pig to science labs. Other finances came in the form of prize money won by his short student film, Bedhead, at film festival competitions.
Executives at Columbia Pictures liked the film so much that they bought the rights to it for American distribution and eventually spent several times more than the film's original production budget on 35 millimeter film transfers, a marketing campaign and the eventual distribution/release of the film. It was so well received that they eventually chose to finance the second part of the trilogy, Desperado, and subsequently the final chapter, Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
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