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A child star as Carmen Cortez in the excellent Spy Kids series, Alexa Vega has now become one of Hollywood's hottest young starlets on the rise. Branching out beyond her spy kid past, Alexa has also become one of the most popular teen actresses today. Born on August 27, 1988 in Miami, Florida, Vega spent her early years living on a nearby Florida farm. When she was four, her family relocated to California, where her mother got a job with a talent agency. Inspired by Vega's precocity, her mother brought her to an audition for Burt Reynolds' TV series Evening Shade -- she landed the two-year gig on her first try. Vega worked continuously ever since, landing guest-starring roles on E.R. and Chicago Hope, and appearing in Little Giants (1994) and Nine Months (1995). After portraying a young Helen Hunt in Jan de Bont's Twister (1996), she played Steven Seagal's daughter in The Glimmer Man (1996), Alec Baldwin's daughter in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and Michelle Pfeiffer's daughter in The Deep End of the Ocean (1999). Vega returned to series television as Alfred Molina's daughter in CBS' short-lived sitcom Ladies Man, before taking center stage in Spy Kids. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film followed two preadolescents who must save their secret-agent parents from the grips of a madman bent on destroying the world. Along with co-star Daryl Sabara, Vega insisted on doing the majority of her own stunts, instantly becoming a hero to kids everywhere. The movie, which also featured Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, and Tony Shalhoub, was a box-office smash. Vega returned a year later for its highly anticipated sequel, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002), which featured the kids traveling to a lost island in an effort to thwart the evil plans of a mad scientist played by Steve Buscemi. After the Spy Kids series wrapped with 2003's Spy Kids 3-D, Vega focused her efforts on parlaying her newfound stardom into other high-prolife projects. In the Summer of 2004, Vega's first post-Spy Kids film, Sleepover, debuted in theaters.
More fun stuff about Alexa Vega
Birth name Alexa Ellesse Vega
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Sister of Makenzie Vega.
Second cousin of MayaRae Vega.
Has two other sisters named Greylin (b. 2001) and Krizia (b. 1991) and a half-sister named Margaux (b. 1982).
She enjoys freshwater fishing.
She is half-Colombian and half-Italian.
She can speak Spanish fluently.
She is an experienced gymnast
At 15, placed fourth in the hottest female teen stars in February 2004.
Spy Kids director, Robert Rodriguez, is buying her a new car for her 16th birthday. She wants a Range Rover so she can drive her four sisters around and put a surfboard on top.
Alexa Vega's 'Sleepover'
Alexa Vega stars in “Sleepover,” a 'tween comedy about an all-night scavenger hunt between the cool girls and the geeks. You probably best know her as one of the "Spy Kids", but she's making the jump to teen queen with her first starring role as junior-high nerd, Julie Corky.
"She's a dork,” Alexa tells The Early Show contributor Laurie Hibberd, laughing about her character. “She plays a loser in the film, but you know, she's really likeable. She tries to be popular and she's trying in all the wrong ways.”
It is a struggle Alexa doesn't seem to have in her own life, but she admits teenage girls can be pretty tough.
"They're brutal,” she says. “The girls are exactly like they are in the film. They're really catty at this age. And it feels like everything is a competition when it doesn't have to be. But that’s OK. You know, that’s part of growing up."
One look at Alexa's resume and you can see that she has grown up in front of the camera. She's been a working actor since the age of 4, but didn't really hit it big until a little movie called "Spy Kids" took the box office by storm in 2001.
It was on the “Spy Kids” movies that Alexa got her first taste of life as an action star, something she continues in “Sleepover.”
Alexa says, "The action is definitely the best. They don't work you too much, but I'm able to do most of my own stunts, which is awesome – very, very cool. And you know you wouldn't be able to do a lot of these stunts in real life because, I was hanging in ‘Spy Kids 2’ off an 800-foot-drop cliff. And in real life, without all that security, there's no way I'd be doing that.”
Alexa turns 16 next month and is officially hot on the heels of other teen film stars, like Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. She knows the next few years will be very challenging for her.
Alexa says, “I'm almost 16, and from, like, about 16 to, like, 21 is just like rocky roads, especially because so many teens out there, like, drinking and going to parties.”
There's a lot of temptation and that is just why she doesn’t go to the parties, she says. “Nothing good is going to come out of that. They can only write bad things about you. So, if you're not there, they can't say anything.”
Alexa Vega Reunion and Sleepover Preview
I wasn’t sure Alexa Vega would still remember me. It had been over a year since we’d last met at the Spy Kids 2 junket. Plus, I’ve grown a beard now, so she might have thought I was just Joel Silver scouting new talent on the set of her latest film, Sleepover. But sure enough, as soon as she noticed me watching her and the girls filming, she waved in my direction. Then, between setups, she came over and gave me a hug.
We caught up with Vega several times on the set. Briefly before lunch, a little bit more after lunch walking back to the set, and finally the coup de grace interview after she wrapped filming and had a chance to shop at Old Navy. The scene took place in the display window of Old Navy at the Del Amo Mall, where four teenage girls tried to redress a mannequin while a security guard pursued them.
Vega leads the cast which also includes Mika Boorem, Scout Taylor-Compton and Kallie Childress. The four play the unpopular girls who are challenged by the popular girls to a scavenger hunt. One of the items on their quest is to dress a mall mannequin in their own clothes. Hence the current scene had the four scampering to fulfill their task before a security guard (Steve Carrell) caught them.
Seems like you’re doing more takes than on a Robert Rodriguez movie. Yeah. That’s true. There are a lot more takes, but also because with Robert, it wasn’t film. It was all video.
Was it hard to go back to film? I have to be honest, it is a little weird because I’m not used to hearing “checking the gate.” For the past three years, it’s always just been easy, moving onto the next thing. This one’s checking the gate, reloading film. It takes a lot longer. It’s a longer process. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to, but then again, when I first started doing all the digital stuff that Robert was doing, I was like, “Whoa, it’s so fast.”
Is this the big action scene today? I would have to say this is probably the least action in the movie between me kissing Steve and me falling out of this treehouse which is kind of freaky.
That must’ve been nothing compared to Spy Kids. I know. Well, that’s what was great. It was funny because when I first got here, they were like, “So, have you ever been in a harness before?” And they’re like, “Wait a minute.” Like, I lived in a harness for four years. But it also makes such a difference going from Spy Kids to something else, because it makes it so much easier to go do other stunts because you’re just used to it. So it’s easy to go to. Like let’s say the treehouse. I’m falling out of it. It’s easy to do that now because I’ve learned how. So I think not only do you learn acting. You learn more stunts just going as an actor and a person going from movie to movie. You just pick up so many different little maneuvers I guess.
Do you have any funny catch phrases? No shitake mushrooms this time. One thing is my screen name is Flatgal at AOL because it’s before she actually gets boobs. That’s a cute little thing in there. I’m sure there are, I just can’t think of any at the moment. Oh, there’s one. I can’t think of it right now, but I’ll let you guys know. There is one though.
How is today’s scene going? We’ve been taking apart mannequins and putting clothes on them and hooking them back together. It’s such a workout, I’m telling you. Oh my gosh. You have to pick ‘em up, put ‘em back down, put ‘em in the right little spot and it’s a lot of memorizing, because you have to do it exactly the same way each time, so you can’t just take it off, fling it out of your way. You have to organize it. It’s a long process, but it’s a lot of fun.
What shopping did you get done on your break? Oh, I went shopping and I went to Aahs. I went in there and I bought Mika her early wrap gift, which was a Von Dutch bag. Sort of like candies, silly string. And then I got my sisters who are coming home from Canada at the moment lots of cool stuff.
Go to page two to hear about the new Alexa Vega, page three for more Sleepover talk and page four for future projects.
Are you sad Spy Kids is over? Yes and no. Like to a certain extent. I miss the crew, working with Robert, working with Antonio, Salma, Carla. And the one thing I really do miss is just being in that situation, working in Austin, but I have to say I’m happy that Spy Kids is over. But Robert has me taking guitar lessons at the moment, but he won’t tell me why. So I’m wondering.
Could there ever be a Spy Kids 4? No, that’s a done deal.
How did you celebrate your 15th birthday? Robert came to town and took me out to dinner. He bought me three guitars for my band.
What’s the name of your band? We’re coming up with it right now. We’re still in the making. But anyway, Robert at the end of the night handed me a key chain and he said, “You have between now until you turn 16 to pick out whatever car you want.” So he’s buying me a car for my birthday.
Have you set up your website yet? No, not yet, I haven’t started it actually. I feel bad. I have not had time.
Do you keep in touch with Daryl? No. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s- - I don't know how to put it. I don’t want to be mean, but it was hard. It was a hard four years, but we got through it and it was fun. We all moved on.
It always seemed like a bit of real sibling rivalry. It wasn’t so much as we kind of view sibling rivalry as okay, yeah, he can be my little brother. But I guess after a while, it becomes like okay, we’re not really siblings so we just need to cut the little act that we have going on. And it didn’t go out too well, so we don’t talk really.
Is that why you were separated from the third film? I think yes and no. The reason why the third one was different is I wanted to get out of the Spy Kids thing and be able to move onto something else, and not just be considered a Spy Kid. I’m very blessed and happy to have Spy Kids. It helped me get to where I am now. But there’s a time where you don’t want to be stuck as The Brady Bunch, the Spy Kids.
Can you spend your acting money or is it saved? I was actually given the choice. My mom said, “What do you want to do?” because when I was little, I never really had that choice. It was always "This is the way it’s going to be." But now that I’m older, I was asked that and I think it’s smarter to keep it in the bank right now because I would just go spend it and have way too much fun with it. And it’s something that I want to wait until I’m at least 21 and then I’ll start looking to see what I have, but right now I’m not really interested in it.
How do you feel about growing up on camera? Honestly, it’s a little interesting because one minute people picture you as the little Spy Kid girl. Then I showed up at the Teen Choice Awards, they’re like, “Whoa, she’s not little anymore.” And it’s just funny because I’m always going to have the movies of myself basically growing up because you see me in Spy Kids and then you see me now, and it’s just a transformation. It is interesting, but it’s also kind of weird. A lot of questions I get are like oh, do you think you’re losing your childhood? I’m playing dress up every day, so I really do enjoy it.
What do you think of being a role model? This is what I think. You put yourself in the position to be one whether you want to be a role model or not. People do look up to you. You’re in the spotlight. People are going to say things about you so you have to be ready to be a role model. It just depends on what kind of role model you want to be. That’s just what I think.
Do you have a boyfriend? I have crushes. I think everybody has that. I used to like Shia, but I’m back to my old crush which is the guy from Spy Kids 2. We’ve been best friends for a long time, the stunt double on that. I like plenty of guys but you have so much time to grow up, and right now I really want to focus on what I’m doing. I have priorities. I never really get to see my family a whole lot, so I want to spend time with them a lot. Then comes my career and then comes friends or boyfriends or whatever you call it. But if that ever does become a situation where do I want to go public with it or whatever, honestly I don't know. I want to be able to walk hand and hand with a guy on the red carpet, but I don’t want it to be like- - and nothing against Hilary Duff and Aaron Carter, whatever that situation was, but I think it’s a little overplayed and it just didn’t make her look good when she’s a better person. I don’t want to do that.
What attracted you to this role? When I first read this script, I thought two things. This could either be very cheesy or this could be very real. And when I was talking to them about it, I had just met Joe [Nussbaum] the director. He told me he wants this to be either the Sixteen Candles or the Ferris Beuller’s Day Off of our time. And that’s what sold me on it because those were two very real movies. I wanted something with a love story, and it has it in it. And it’s just basically I’m in high school right now, like regular high school. There’s so much reality to this film of what you have to go through to be cool or whatever, but this has great messages in it. It’s something I think that young girls, parents would enjoy, even some young guys because there’s plenty of cute girls running around here on set.
Is there responsibility to be the lead? I find a little bit of responsibility as in you really want to stay professional. You want to have a good time, but you’ve got to keep it- - I mean, I don’t like to picture it as work but it is. You have to focus. Even though there’s a whole mall here and I want to go shop around, you need to focus on what you’re doing. Then when you’re done, then you can go shopping.
How do you feel about doing comedy? I love doing comedy. It’s a lot of fun. I actually have the worst comedic timing and so far this has worked, so I’m happy about that. But there’s a lot of great laughs in this movie, but right after this movie, I want to try to do something dramatic. I want to be able to switch it up.
Did you have a real sleepover with the girls? The Sleepover sleepover, yeah. I wanted to try to get to know the girls more.
Does that help the movie? Yeah, I think so, it definitely helps. Mika and I got to know each other really well and you can just tell on camera, we’re just really good friends. It’s kind of funny though because I became great friends with the guys that’ve been chasing us the whole time throughout the movie, the three guys. We’re supposed to be so annoyed by them, but I love them so much. They’re the coolest guys. See, I’m more of a tomboy. I'm more the athletic, like I play water polo, so I get along with guys easier. But I think it really makes a difference when you know the people that you’re working with, when you develop a relationship. Even if it’s just a working relationship like getting to know people on set, I hang out with all the crew on set. But it just makes it easier to work because you feel more comfortable with everyone.
But you organized the sleepover? I kind of came up with the idea because I thought it would be fun for all the girls and right after, the next day, we would all go to Universal Studios and it would be cool. And, we had fun but sleepovers don’t always go well. It’s kind of hard to please everyone and that’s what I’ve always found. Guys are so easygoing and girls are a little harder to please but that’s okay.
How much do you worry about how this movie will turn out? You always have little bits of oh my gosh, I hope that scene turns out okay, and I hope this isn’t cheesy, I hope this is very real. You’re always going to have those questions about anything you do. But it’s just a matter of you have to be confident. You have to play it as well as you can and I guess what really gets me the most is yes, I want to make sure that I have a good performance, but this is the first movie that I’m actually the lead in and whether I do good in it or not, if the movie doesn’t turn out well, it’s kind of stuck on my shoulders. No matter who directs it, no matter what the other actors are like, if the other acting’s bad. And so far everything has been great, but if it’s bad and I pick a job, it’s still on my shoulders because it was oh, Alexa Vega’s new movie. And that’s how they were putting it. So I’m kind of scared on that, but so far, everything’s been great, so not to worry.
What’s next? After this, I think I’m doing another one. I can’t really say too much about it because it’s not a sure thing. I don't know yet. I almost want to hold off and find like a Natalie Portman role because I love her. And I want something very different. Like I just did State’s Evidence right before this which is a very different film from anything I’ve ever done. I play a suicide kid and it’s a very dark and scary movie. It’s about six suicide kids but it ends up turning into the Columbine situation, because one of the kids takes it out of control. And it’s very different from anything I’ve ever done, but it was great because people wouldn’t ever expect me to play a character like that and I want to surprise people. I want to keep people interested and by switching characters, that’s like whoa, she went from Spy Kids to doing something like that, and then back, so I want to be able to have all these different characters. And watching people such as Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman, they always keep you interested in.
You’ve said you want to write and direct also? What did you learn from Robert Rodriguez? From Robert I learned wearing a lot of hats. He writes, directs, edits, produces, a father of three boys and an excellent father at that. So it’s something that you look up to him as an incredible person because he’s really easygoing. He’s very low maintenance and the fact that he does it all, he makes it look so easy. So I think working with Robert, he really gave me all the ideas that I needed, all the creativity. And he says anything that you have when you’re younger, save it for when you’re older. If you make little home movies now, save the ideas because you never know. You could turn them into a movie when you’re older.
What projects are you interested in doing? I’m always making home movies with my friends, I’m always writing and coming up with crazy different ideas. It’s fun writing action stuff, but I really enjoy writing real life drama things. I just did State’s Evidence, which was about this whole suicide thing. But about three years before I did this movie, with the whole Columbine incident, I started writing about that and it just so happened that when State’s Evidence came on, it was very similar, the script. So I was kind of bummed out, like man, I wanted to be the first one to come up with that.
You’ve written full scripts? Yeah, I’ve written like three of them. It’s crazy. I’ve had a lot of fun with them.
How many home movies? Home movies? Oh, my gosh, like 25 maybe. I mean, we make so many home movies and thanks to Final Cut Pro, we can edit them all together.
Do you see turning this into a lifelong career and going to film school? Yeah, I really want to go to either USC or UCLA, something like that. My sister’s attending Berkeley at the moment and she really enjoys it there. You know, a lot of people say, “Well, you’re already on set, you already have the on hand experience. Why even go to film school? It’s a waste of time.” I want to go one, for the experience of college. Two, because I want to know more about the background. I can see the camera but I don’t know exactly how it works. I want to know every little detail about film school. I want to know the history behind film. So I think it’s very interesting, so I’d definitely like to go to college, get the experience that I need.
Go to page on to hear more about The Sleepover, page two to hear about the new Alexa Vega, page three for more Sleepover talk and page four for future projects.
Alexa Vega: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Acting since the age of five, 15-year-old Alexa Vega has grown into the role of OSS agent Carmen Cortez over three hit films. But her experience is much wider than these larger than life adventures. Her other films include "Ghosts of Mississippi", "Twister", and "Nine Months", while her television work includes appearances in ER and Chicago Hope.
For the second film running you get to sing on the "Spy Kids" soundtrack - do you hanker for a career as a rock star?
That would be nice! Robert asked if I wanted to try a song again and I said "definitely". Then a couple of days before the premiere he asked if I wanted to sing the song live. We were trying to practice everything on stage and it was kind of chaotic. But when it happened it was fun. When I finished I told my mom I wanted to be a rock star, because the rush you get on stage is so great.
On screen you are trapped in video games - do you play them much in real life?
We used to have a whole lot of video game sets at home, but then my mom decided that we weren't doing our homework so she kind of flunked that idea. While we were on set we played video games and we have the GameBoys when we travel. But for the most part we don't play them at home.
Your big stunt sequence has you surfing through a sea of lava. How was that to do?
There was this contraption shaped like a really wide U, it looked like we were either on a skateboard or snowboard, and we had all these stunt guys pulling us back and forth. I thought it was going to be really weird going up there, and it was, but it was really cool because you really felt like you were up there surfing with all the wind blowing and hearing Robert shout: "There's a monster behind you!". I have to say, that was the best stunt we did. Apart from that it was mostly just walking around in front of the green screen.
Robert Rodriguez has said this is definitely the last "Spy Kids" movie. Were you sad when you heard that your association with Carmen Cortez was at an end?
I cried like a baby. On the last day of shooting Elijah Wood was on set, telling me it was OK. I was a little embarrassed that he was there and I was crying, but then I was a little embarrassed in front of everyone. It's sad because we've worked with everyone for four years, they've become like my family and they've seen me grow into a teenager. But it's been a wonderful experience, because Robert's given us a real boost and hopefully we can go far in our careers.
Spy Kids: Real Action Heroes
The child stars of new film Spy Kids plunged straight into character during the making of the movie - by insisting to do all their own stunts. Alexa Vega, 12, and eight-year-old Daryl Sabara play siblings in the gadget-filled action flick, and rather than sit back and allow their stunt doubles to carry out all the work, the pair insisted on doing as many on-screen stunts as possible. Alexa says, "We did most of our own stunts, which was really cool, but every time they said, 'Ok, now your stunt double's gonna do it, ' we'd say, 'Please! Let us do it, please'. We loved doing the stunts and it wasn't hard at all - it was a lot fun." And fearless Alexa, whose scenes included flying and battling with aliens, found no action sequence too challenging. She explains, "If they said, "Can you do this?' we were like, 'Can we do this? Come on!' And we went right ahead and did it."
Meet Alexa Vega
One of the more endearing moments in the new Spy Kids adventure, Island of Lost Dreams, is at the end when 14-year old Alexa Vega does a 'Britney Spears' and performs on stage. Jokingly asked if she will be the next 'Britney Lopez' because of her Hispanic heritage, the actress, who did her own singing for that sequence, just laughs hysterically. It's clear that the young actress, who shot to fame in the first Spy Kids, is having a blast. Even during press junkets. "I just love meeting new people and talking about myself." It's not feigned, as Vega remains an unpretentious teenager through and through, verbally bulldozing her way through questions. Back to her singing, it was a fantasy-come-through for Alexa to bounce about on a stage, with headset, singing enthusiastically to thousands of screaming extras. "When I was younger I used to sing a lot and I think that's what I really wanted to do," she hurriedly explains. Then once the Florida native moved to California, "I fell into acting, which was a good thing", adding that she feels "blessed that it happened because so many people try to get an agent and everything, and it was easy for me."
Born on August 27, 1988 in Miami, Vega spent her early years living on a nearby Florida farm. Vega says that she was inspired to want to act early on because "my mom was a model and we also had some friends who were going to move out to California, and it just kind of picked up from there." Vega was four when her family relocated to California. Once there, her mother got a job with a talent agency. Inspired by Vega's precocity, her mother brought her to an audition for Burt Reynolds' TV series Evening Shade - she landed the two-year stint on her first try. Vega worked continuously ever since, landing guest starring roles on ER and Chicago Hope, and appearing in Little Giants (1994) and Nine Months (1995). After portraying a young Helen Hunt in Twister (1996), she played Steven Segal's daughter in The Glimmer Man (1996), Alec Baldwin's daughter in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and Michelle Pfeiffer's daughter in The Deep End of the Ocean (1999). Vega returned to series television as Alfred Molina's daughter in CBS' short lived sitcom Ladies Man, before taking centre stage in Spy Kids. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film followed two preadolescents who must save their secret agent parents from the grips of a madman bent on destroying the world. It took seven auditions before getting the female lead in the first Spy Kids. "That was because I was considered too old for the part. They didn't want some girl who was going to go through puberty after the second Spy Kids and then deal with her growing up." But she so impressed Rodriguez that Vega won the day and the role. Along with co-star Daryl Sabara, Vega also insisted on doing the majority of her own stunts, instantly becoming a hero to kids everywhere. The movie, which also featured Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, and Tony Shaloub, was a box office smash. Vega is now back for the film's highly-anticipated sequel, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams which has the kids travelling to a lost island in an effort to thwart the evil plans of a mad scientist. Shooting the sequel, Vega says, was like a family reunion, "because we got to see all the crew as well as the added cast. It's like a big family". The family included its patriarch, director Rodriguez. "Robert treated me as his daughter," says Vega who has nothing but praise for her multi-tasking director. "What makes the movie so great is Robert's imagination; the man's a genius."
At a mature 14, Vega is now something of a pro in the effects-laden fantasy franchise, agreeing that shooting the first movie was more challenging than its sequel, "because we were so new then. We didn't know the crew and we had to prepare to be in all the harnesses and the green screen. The second one was so easy because we knew what we were doing and went right in there," she adds enthusiastically. "We also got to show the new kids around and tell them what it was like to be on set, so THEIR idea of the second one was our idea of the first one." Working with the green screen effects, meant that Vega had to wait, like the rest of us, to see the end result. "Oh my gosh, that was AMAZING", she girlishly gushes with increasing enthusiasm. "To see the movie with all those monsters all over the place is just so cool." Vega says that thank goodness, like most kids, she has a big imagination, and "which was the best part of making this movie, because kids have an incredible imagination that goes far beyond any other." No wonder that making a Spy Kids movie continues to bring out her childhood fantasies. "A lot of people ask me if I feel like I'm missing out on my childhood. With acting, I feel like I'm playing dress up every day, get to travel and learn things that you'd NEVER learn if you were just a normal kid." Normalcy? Who needs it, when you get to play spy kid? Vega can hardly wait for Spy Kids 3 to begin.