Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara, the actors famous for playing Carmen and Juni Cortez in Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids quadrilogy, reunited on Instagram Live yesterday to reminisce about their time on the iconic film series from the early 2000s. Joined by Sabara's wife, singer Meghan Trainor, the two swapped stories and showed off props and costumes they got to keep from the set.
"Remember how we used to have the harness on for hours and we'd be like, 'Can someone take it off?'" Sabara remembered, alluding to the movies' over-the-top action stunts.
It's also good to know that PenaVega and Sabara both remember their characters' full names: "Carmen Elizabeth Juanita Echo Sky Brava Cortez" and "Juni Rocket Racer Rebel Cortez." That just proves how fun and memorable the whole experience was for them as young actors.
In the prop department, PenaVega prominently displays a metal, lunchbox-looking briefcase in her home office. Fans may recall this object as the one Juni accidentally handcuffs himself to when he and Carmen are first becoming spies. A moment later, he tries to break it open by slamming it against a wall, only to have the thing comedically rebound and hit him in the head.
"It is super beat-up, but one day, my kids will appreciate that," she said.
Sabara, on the other hand, got his spy-suit costume framed by his "amazing" Trainor in-laws.
"I'm like, 'Whoa, I used to wear that?'" he said. After all, he was only eight or nine when the original movie was made.
Spy Kids was released in the spring of 2001 and centered on two kids who discover that their mother and father (portrayed by Carla Gugino Antonio Banderas) are secret agents for an agency called the OSS. Carmen and Juni are forced to enter the world of espionage themselves when their parents are captured by a troubled madman named Floop (Alan Cumming). With its depiction of wacky gadgets, rehydratable McDonald's meals, and a refreshing lack of adult supervision, Spy Kids fast became an exemplar of childhood wish fulfillment on the big screen.
The movie spawned three sequels: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Game Over (2003), and All the Time in the World (2011). PenaVega and Sabara were the main stars of the first two follow-ups and cameoed in the third. Together, the four flicks brought in half a billion dollars at the global box office.
If you say you didn't want a R.A.L.P.H. (Juni's spider-legged robotic pet from Island of Lost Dreams) of your very own when you were a kid, then you're a liar or you have no taste. In addition, the Cortez siblings' uncle, Machete (Danny Trejo), received his own cinematic spinoffs — a very strange occurrence for a kid-friendly series to result in R-rated adult fare.
Trejo, however, was just a small part of the talent associated with the series. Robert Patrick, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Christopher McDonald, Ricardo Montalbán, Teri Hatcher, Mike Judge, Steve Buscemi, Holland Taylor, Emily Osment, Matt O'Leary, Bill Paxton, Sylvester Stallone, Elijah Wood, Selena Gomez, Angelina Jolie, Joel McHale, Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Piven, and George Clooney all played roles across the four pictures.
An animated series based on the films, Spy Kids: Mission Critical, is currently streaming on Netflix.