What The Cast Of Spy Kids Is Doing Today

The year was 2001. Britney Spears was on top of the world, 9/11 hadn't happened yet, and in the trailer for "Spy Kids," Carmen Cortez (Alexa PenaVega) uttered the line, "My parents can't be spies! They're not cool enough!"

Such was the world of "Spy Kids," Robert Rodriguez's classic 2001 children's film about a brother and sister who learn that their parents are international secret agents. Kids fell in love with the film's blend of action and adventure, helped along by some then-revolutionary CGI special effects. Adults liked it, too; the first film has an impressive 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "Part of it is I write for both [adults and children]. I am the parent and the kid," Rodriguez told CBR. "I'm such a big kid."

Four sequels have followed, and the cast has rotated in and out over the years. Impressively, most of the film's stars are still quite active in Hollywood. More than two decades since the film hit theaters, the cast of "Spy Kids" is continuing to make waves in the industry.

Alexa PenaVega is a Hallmark regular

Alexa PenaVega was just Alexa Vega when she played Carmen Cortez in "Spy Kids," the too-cool-for-school older sister spy. She told Insider that she grew up on set of the film and its sequels, and she remains proud of the movie and how it opened the door for others like it. "They didn't have movies like 'Spy Kids,' where the kids were really the ones that were in charge, and they were doing something awesome and amazing," she said, pointing out that the family at the heart of the film was Latino. "That was pushing the envelope for the time."

In 2014, Vega married "Big Time Rush" star Carlos Pena, and they combined their names. Both PenaVega and her husband are Hallmark regulars now, but she spoke with Fox News about "leaving Hollywood" to focus on raising her kids, with faith, in Hawaii. "I needed a heart reset," she said, describing her certainty that she needed to get out of Tinseltown. She insisted, "God pulled me out of that so I could learn how to be an awesome mom and an awesome wife."

While the PenaVegas now mostly make family-friendly programming on Hallmark, the "Spy Kids" star doesn't shy away from showing her children the classic franchise she was once part of. Unfortunately, they are not all that interested. "My kids only watch 'Sharkboy and Lavagirl,'" she told E! News, referencing Robert Rodriguez's other film for kids. "They don't like 'Spy Kids.'"

Daryl Sabara is married to a popstar

Juni Cortez, the redheaded younger brother spy, was played by Daryl Sabara. He seems to have had a great time on set with the other stars of the film. In particular, Sabara told Entertainment Tonight that Antonio Banderas joked around with them while shooting. If he screwed up a line, Sabara said that Banderas would shout, "Daryl, I told you to stop messing me up like that!" He also got along well with his on-screen sister, and that relationship bled off-screen, too. "Alexa was really nice," he said. "We acted like brother and sister. We'd play-fight and we'd fight sometimes. But it was fun!"

After "Spy Kids," Sabara has done some voice acting, including working on "Ben 10." He's also had a few small TV roles on shows like "Weeds." These days, though, Sabara is perhaps best known as the husband of popstar Meghan Trainor of "All About That Bass" fame. They frequently overshare about their lives as a couple, including going viral for stories like an anecdote Trainor told on a podcast about having two toilets next to each other... which they occasionally use at the same time.

Sabara has a son named Riley with Trainor, meaning the former spy kid is now a dad. "As much fun as I had doing the 'Spy Kids' movies, I did miss out on a lot of childhood," he told Mr. Feelgood. "Riley is now teaching me to play," he added.

Carla Gugino is making waves on Netflix

The kids aren't the only ones who are spies in "Spy Kids." In fact, they only get into the business because their spy parents have been kidnapped. Their mother Ingrid, played by Carla Gugino, told ET some 16 years after the film was released, "That was such a magical experience." Furthermore, she noted just how young she was at the time. "I was 27 when I played that role!" she said, pointing out that the character was meant to have been a spy for a decade in addition to raising two kids.

Gugino has enjoyed a long career in the decades since the film. She was Sally Jupiter in Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" and starred in "San Andreas" opposite The Rock, and she even had a role in "New Girl" as an executive who pursues Schmidt (Max Greenfield). 

Since 2018, Gugino has starred in a number of horror productions for director Mike Flanagan on Netflix, including "The Haunting of Hill House," "Gerald's Game," "Midnight Mass," and "The Fall of the House of Usher." She told Netflix that Flanagan's use of the horror genre to tell emotional stories was what convinced her to sign on. "Some of the stories that he tells are the most profound stories, but they happen to be within a genre so you can disguise them in some way with [horror] elements," she explained.

Antonio Banderas voiced an iconic animated character

The spy kids needed a spy dad, and Robert Rodriguez cast Antonio Banderas to play suave superspy Gregorio Cortez. Co-star Carla Gugino told Entertainment Tonight, "The great thing about Antonio is, you know, he's obviously a handsome, dashing man, but he's also really funny." The "Mask of Zorro" star was happy to throw himself into the silly film, reasoning, "I love just being a little bit clumsy." He added, "I just think it's very important for actors in general to have the capacity of laughing at themselves."

While Gregorio was in the first two sequels, Banderas didn't return for "Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World" as he would have a much smaller role, so his appearance was nixed. "His character is too important," Rodriguez told Cinemablend. "I'd rather save it for a sequel where we can give him a bigger role and then reveal that, so I'm saving it for another movie."

However, Banderas would go on to play the cute but deadly Puss in Boots in the "Shrek" franchise and solo films. He saw huge success with 2022's "Puss In Boots: The Last Wish," which raked in both dollars and critical raves. The actor told Collider that the film's darker subject matter resonated with kids in a post-pandemic world, explaining, "I think it's important that instead of hiding, we just show them a reflection about the importance of existence and life itself."

Alan Cumming is a man of many talents

Alan Cumming has been in some of the most recognizable projects of the last few decades, including playing Nightcrawler in the "X-Men" films and starring as Eli Gold in "The Good Wife." Cumming still loves the fact that he was in "Spy Kids," where he played the villainous children's entertainer Fegan Floop. Cumming told Larry King that he enjoys being recognized from the Robert Rodriguez film explaining, "People [who saw the movie as kids] who are [now] young adults that come up to me, the way they react to me is about something magical in their childhood, and I love that. I love that."

In addition to his work on screen, where he's both an actor and host of game shows like "The Traitors," Cumming is a stage veteran. He runs a club named after himself in New York City, and he told The Catalyst that he's tried to curate the kind of vibe he himself enjoys. "Club Cumming's byline is 'All ages, all genders, all colors, all sexualities,'" he explained. "Everyone is welcome and anything could happen."

In 2023, Cumming lampooned Broadway in the second season of Apple TV+ original "Schmigadoon." The show includes stars like Cecily Strong, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana DeBose, and more. Cumming told AwardsRadar that he loves being surrounded by his peers. "They're all darling," he said, "and we all have such a laugh when we're hanging around doing group things."

Danny Trejo made multiple Machete movies

Danny Trejo played a character named "Uncle Machete" in "Spy Kids." Director Robert Rodriguez went on to make two "Machete" movies with Trejo, films in which he starred as a character of the same name. However, the "Machete" films are most definitely not kid-friendly — they're films full of bloody violence.

Rodriguez explained in a Reddit AMA that the films are an "alternate universe" of the "Spy Kids" films. Among many other "Spy Kids" alums who crossed over, Alexa PenaVega reunited with her former co-star in "Machete Kills," which Trejo discussed with Objection Network. The now-grown PenaVega's racy costume surprised her co-star on set. After all, he'd worked with her as a child. "I was almost in shock," he recalled. "I felt like a dad seeing his daughter in a bikini for the first time and almost wanted to tell her to cover up."

In addition to still being a prolific actor, Trejo is now a restaurant mogul. His restaurants, like Trejo's Tacos, have multiple locations all around Los Angeles. He also writes cookbooks. "My mom gave me her whole 80 years' worth of recipes," he told Sharp Magazine. The book "Trejo's Cantina" contains recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails, which Trejo is particularly proud of. "I don't drink, I've been sober for 50 years, but when I go to a bar or nightclub, people are always trying to buy me drinks," he said. Trejo's restaurants allow non-drinkers to blend in.

Teri Hatcher was a YouTuber for years

In "Spy Kids," Teri Hatcher played the gleefully goofy villain Ms. Gradenko. She's a former OSS spy who turns out to be a traitor, and she loses most of her hair in a wild jetpack accident. Hatcher was proud of her role in the film, sparring with Craig Kilborn in an interview on "The Late Late Show" as he tried to tease her about exactly how many minutes she was on screen. "I'm throughout the movie!" she insisted, guessing that she has "more than five, less than thirty" minutes of screen time. Kilborn seemed disinterested and tried to move on, but Hatcher interjected, "Well, wait, I just wanna say that 'Spy Kids' is a great movie. ... Robert Rodriguez, you know, shot the heck out of it, and it's just great."

After "Spy Kids," Hatcher went on to play Susan on "Desperate Housewives." She later appeared on "Supergirl," a nod to her breakout role in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." In 2018, Teri Hatcher shifted her focus to her YouTube channel, creating a series she called "Hatching Change." Speaking with Haute Living, Hatcher explained, "I travel around Los Angeles in my 1978 VW bus camper, looking to connect with people willing to talk to me about all things big and small." She added, "I'm learning and sharing so much, but one thing that seems so common and simple is that people just want to be seen and heard."

Tony Shalhoub is a streaming star

In "Spy Kids," Tony Shalhoub played a villain called Minion — years before the little yellow guys from "Despicable Me" showed up. Shalhoub's Minion ends the film with three additional faces attached to his own, one of the standout visuals in a film full of them. He told Vulture that the film's whimsical visual identity was one of the things that drew him to the project. "All of these images that Robert [Rodriguez] was throwing at me, I was kind of trying to see it all through my kids' eyes and how much they would get excited and inspired by it," he reflected. "I didn't question that at all. I embraced it fully."

After starring in "Spy Kids" and the sequels, Shalhoub played the title character on "Monk" for eight seasons. He then spent five seasons on the Amazon Prime series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which ended in 2023. On that show, he played the father of the title character, and as the series came to a close, Shalhoub's character got to deliver a speech about how proud he was of his daughter. He told Entertainment Weekly that the speech resonated with his own life. "I related to it because I have two daughters around the age of the character of Midge. I've seen them grow and evolve and become advocates for themselves," he beamed.

George Clooney's Spy Kids cameo got recast

Believe it or not, George Clooney was in "Spy Kids." He previously worked with Robert Rodriguez on "From Dusk Till Dawn," which is presumably why he agreed to do this film. The "E.R." hunk played Devlin, head of the Organization of Super Spies, visible only through a video call and usually sporting a black censor bar over his eyes. When he returned for "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," Devlin had become President of the United States. Devlin also returned in "Spy Kids: Armageddon," but this time, Clooney was nowhere to be found. "We even have a new Devlin, played this time by D.J. Cotrona, filling in for George Clooney," Rodriguez told Netflix. This was an in-joke for the director, who pointed out that Cotrona also took over Clooney's role in the "From Dusk Till Dawn" TV show. 

Clooney's star has only risen in the years since "Spy Kids." Between then and now, Clooney has been nominated for an impressive eight Academy Awards, winning two. In recent years, the "Gravity" star has focused primarily on directing. However, he did star in the sci-fi drama that he directed in 2020 titled "The Midnight Sky." "I haven't been acting very much lately. But this was a part that, the minute I read it, I felt like I was probably the right guy to play it," he told W Magazine

Cheech Marin's name is on a museum

In "Spy Kids," legendary comedian Cheech Marin played Uncle Felix. The character turned out to be a fellow spy who watched over the kids while their parents were off on a secret mission. Before that collaboration, however, Marin wanted to work with Robert Rodriguez on a film version of his comedy record "Cheech the Bus Driver." Studios balked, given the violent reputation of most of the director's films. On Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, Marin recalled, "After 'Spy Kids' ... came out and I said, 'So, who's laughing now?!'"

Marin is still a prolific actor. He's been in five projects in 2023 alone, including a role in "Champions" and an appearance on "The Muppets Mayhem." In 2022, Marin opened The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in partnership with California's Riverside Art Museum. It features over 700 works of art that he's collected over the years. "It will be like Disneyland or Vegas," he told Widewalls Magazine of his lofty ambitions for the museum. "Seriously, my goal is to make Riverside an international art destination."

Fittingly for Marin's long career as a professional stoner alongside fellow comedian Tommy Chong, the duo now operate Cheech & Chong's Cannabis Co. He told HollywoodLife that he had a message for other celebs trying to get in on the marijuana game. "It's a tough business," he said. "Good luck!"

Robert Patrick lent Spy Kids some credibility

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" baddie Robert Patrick played Mr. Lisp in "Spy Kids," the businessman who bankrolls Floop and Minion's dastardly plan. According to Robert Rodriguez, he received numerous calls from other actors after "Spy Kids" came out, people who wanted to be in the movies because they saw Patrick had done the first one. "The reason I was always able to get a great cast was because I would get calls from actors actually saying they wanted to be in them because ... They saw, like, Robert Patrick," he told Yahoo. Speaking with Cinemablend, Rodriguez specifically clarified that Bill Paxton was the one who signed on to the sequel because of Patrick. "My kid can't watch anything that I make!" he recalled Paxton saying.

The "Fire in the Sky" star is still a prolific actor; recent roles include "Perry Mason," "Goliath," "The Walking Dead," and "Yellowstone" spinoff "1923." In 2022, Patrick starred in the Max superhero show "Peacemaker" as the titular John Cena character's father. Patrick's character is an awful person, and he told /Film that he was drawn to villainous roles because they're easier to play. He explained, "When you're playing something farther away from you, thank God in my case a racist, xenophobe, misogynist, that's about as far removed from me as you can get, and so it's easier to grab."

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