A friend of director Robert Rodriguez since high school, Gallardo first got into the movie business as the lead character in Rodriguez’s breakout hit, El Mariachi, then followed with its sequel, Desperado. Now he is starring in Bandido, a project he’s had on his mind since the days of El Mariachi.
Gallardo plays Max "Bandido" Cruz, a successful thief who has to perform one last dangerous mission for the CIA or else risk getting framed for murder. With the help of a female partner (Angie Everhart), Max enters a world of mysterious people at every turn, and attempts to recover a stolen disc that the CIA desperately needs back.
Aside from starring in the film, Gallardo also developed the characters and did most of his own stunts. He said he surprised some of the crewmembers with his resiliency to do the stunts again, including many in a high-paced Jet Ski scene.
"I hurt myself a little bit, but I wanted to do them again," Gallardo says. "I know how to fall down. I’ve been doing this with Robert (Rodriguez) since I was 13."
Gallardo recalls the story of how he met Rodriguez. Born and raised in Mexico, Gallardo was sent to high school at a Catholic seminary in San Antonio.
"It was the first Saturday, and I was sitting by myself, and there were tons of beds everywhere. Three beds away, there were a group of five guys making plans to go see a movie. One of them was Robert Rodriguez."
Gallardo got the courage to introduce himself to Rodriguez and ended up accompanying the group to the movies. "I remember very well in my mind, that moment when I went to the movies for the first time. And from there we started talking about movies for the whole year."
Their friendship became stronger over the years, and eventually they started showing each other films that they had made on their own. "I started looking for him all the time," Gallardo says with a chuckle. They saw movies every Friday, and Gallardo fondly remembers Mad Max 2, Rambo and the Sergio Leone films as the ones that left the biggest impressions on him.
Eventually, Gallardo and Rodriguez started to pull together what would become El Mariachi. There was just one problem.
"I used to hate my voice so much," Gallardo says. "Then I saw Mad Max 2, and I thought, ‘This is perfect! Mel Gibson doesn’t speak!’ That’s why in El Mariachi, I don’t speak that much."
Eleven years after El Mariachi debuted – with six starring roles, six producer credits and a directorial debut (Single Action) on his resume – Gallardo describes working with Bandido director Roger Christian (Battlefield Earth) as a lot more serious. "When I’m working with Robert, it’s like working with a longtime friend. But when I’m collaborating with someone else, I get very serious."
Gallardo says he learned a lot about acting from being a producer on Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, where he was on the set most every day.
"I had a lot of fun on that film – watching the actors, studying their technique," recalls Gallardo. "You don’t go to the set to learn about film, you go to school for that. But school should be going to the set and learning."
Gallardo says he hopes to apply the skills he has learned from the past to his next projects. These currently include a film produced by his friend Rodriguez, and developing Bandido 2, which is already in its third draft. Gallardo was recently awarded a book deal as well.
Gallardo is proof that there is hope for film professionals without managers or agents, emphasizing that you can succeed on your own. "You can do something and you can control what you do. You must think like a businessman, because it’s not just about the movie, but what’s behind it."
Bandido is currently in theaters.