In Eli Roth's The Green Inferno,out Sept. 25, Daryl Sabara plays Lars, a college student who joins a group of fellow idealistic student activists. The group heads out to the Amazon for a humanitarian mission, set on saving an indigenous tribe whose lives and land are being threatened by a global corporation, but end up crash landing in the jungle and kidnapped by the tribe they are trying to save. If the idea of Sabara getting himself into dangerous situations sounds familiar, you probably remember him as Juni Cortez in Spy Kids, the highly successful Robert Rodriguez family-friendly espionage franchise that started in 2001. The last film in the series came out in 2011 — if the opportunity arose, would Sabara ever make another Spy Kids movie?
"I would always go back to that family — that's my original family," Sabara tells Bustle. "People always talk [about a sequel] — but people get busy. Alexa [Vega]'s on Dancing with the Stars right now. Carla [Gugino]'s been working like crazy. It would be fun. I would definitely be into it."
As for what a fifth installment of the franchise would look like, Sabara says he would want to go in a different direction. Long gone are the days of playful graphics and the child-like wonder of espionage familiar to fans of the first four movies; for a follow-up, Sabara says he wants to get a bit more... intense.
"Everyone's doing darker and grittier," he says. "I think it would be really interesting to make it really gritty — like Robert [Rodriguez's] Sin City vibe with a hard R-rating. Spy Adults — or something like that."
Clearly, his recent darker roles have worn off on him. That said, Green Inferno and Spy Kids are very different movies; for Sabara, the change of pace is what makes it fun.
"Being a kid actor I was like, 'This looks like a fun little transition and being a stoner guy,'" he says, talking about his Inferno character, Lars. "I was blown away. The film was way more graphic than the words in the script."
After Green Inferno, Sabara definitely has the chops to do a darker, grittier, mature and possibly even bloodier Spy Kids, although it might freak out his youngest fans. The actor still gets recognized to this day for playing Juni Cortez— thanks in large part to Netflix. All four movies (the first one being Sabara's personal favorite, he says) are on the streaming service, giving twentysomethings a nostalgic touchstone and introducing the Spy Kids universe to a whole new audience.
"I'm getting recognized from little kids," says the 23-year-old actor. "For awhile there was a time when the parents would be with their younger kids. The parents would recognize me, but their kids wouldn't, but now that it's on Netflix, it's different."
Still, despite Spy Kids' popularity and his work on shows like Weeds and Wizards of Waverly Place, Sabara initially thought he wasn't going to get a role in The Green Inferno. After hearing about the project from his friend and now co-star Aaron Burns, he decided he wanted to be involved in any way possible, especially because of how much he admired the film's director, Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel).
"He [Aaron] told me Eli [Roth] was involved, and I just wanted to watch Eli, cause I've been Eli's fan forever," Sabara says.
Sabara was eventually cast as Lars, the movie's token stoner/comic relief, and he ended up working with a Peruvian tribe that Roth had hired for the film to play the — (spoiler!) — cannibals who take the activists captive. Sabara says that filming with the group was definitely an interesting experience ("We took a lot of selfies," he says) — especially when they discovered the uniqueness that is the actor's red hair. Still, between kidnapping, violence, cannibalism, The Green Inferno is packed with a plenty of things that push the envelope. That said, it's not for the faint of heart. For Sabara, the best way to describe it is as an "everything movie."
"You're freaked out and you laugh," he says. "There's drama, thrills, chills... He [Roth] takes something twisted and keeps you there the entire time."
So if that R-rated Spy Kids sequel ever does happen, it looks like there's a director who'd definitely be up for the challenge.
Image: Blumhouse Tilt/Universal Pictures