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Carla Gugino's Spy Kids Revelation Will Make You Look Twice At Her Character

Millennials probably remember Robert Rodriguez's 2001 family-friendly action comedy "Spy Kids" quite fondly, but they might be a bit horrified to realize just how young star Carla Gugino was when she played the matriarch of the Cortez family.

In the film, Gugino's character Ingrid and her husband Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) are secretly spies for the OSS (the Organization of Super Spies), a fact the couple hides from their daughter Carmen (Alexa Vega) and son Juni (Daryl Sabara) until the two are captured by the sinister children's TV host Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) — at which point Carmen and Juni have to try and save their parents. Here's the really mind-blowing part of this entire thing, though: Gugino was only 27 years old when she played Ingrid.

In an interview with Nora Dominick for Buzzfeed, Gugino mentions being 27 during filming, at which point Dominick expresses complete shock at how young the actress was. Laughing, Gugino responded, "It was a really beautiful kind of double-edged sword because I love that movie so much. And the whole experience was incredible, and the movies continue. Like, every generation gets to watch it and love it so much. I love Ingrid [Cortez].

Plus, as Gugino pointed out, the character's timeline made no sense when you considered her age: "But it was funny because I was 10 years, AT LEAST, too young for the role because I was, like, a spy for 10 years and then somehow had children who were like nine and 11. So it was physically totally impossible."

How did Carla Gugino get cast in Spy Kids?

From there, Nora Dominick asked Carla Gugino how she got involved with the project despite her young age — at which point Gugino revealed that she was never even on any of the original casting lists for Ingrid. According to the actress, it all came down to a meeting she had with Robert Rodriguez after the film's production had already began; Gugino refers to a "longer story" before giving Dominick the apparently abbreviated version.

"I was sitting with [director and writer] Robert Rodriguez; they'd already been shooting for two weeks," Gugino recalled. "He was like, 'I feel like I'm looking for a mother for my kids.' We were talking about it, and I had auditioned for him and he said, 'I think if we do our job right, no one will ever question it.' And it's so funny like you said, nobody did," she said directly to Dominick.

Not only that, but Gugino revealed that she and her onscreen husband Antonio Banderas knew each other, which helped create believable chemistry once she was cast: "Antonio Banderas and I had worked together on a movie called 'Miami Rhapsody' that David Frankel directed, so we also had a little bit of a history, which was really nice to come into it that way."

What has Carla Gugino been doing since Spy Kids?

"Spy Kids" ended up spawning a small cinematic universe of its own after 2001, and Carla Gugino returned for two sequels — "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams" and "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" — in 2002 and 2003. She also teamed up with director Robert Rodriguez again in 2005, albeit on a project that was decidedly not family-friendly — namely, the Frank Miller adaptation "Sin City."

In recent years, Gugino has forged a new path thanks to her continued work with writer-director Mike Flanagan, and has become a staple of modern horror. In 2017, she worked with Flanagan on the Stephen King adaptation "Gerald's Game," a masterful showcase for the actress that casts her as a woman handcuffed to a bed and trapped after her husband unexpectedly drops dead. After that, Gugino joined Flanagan for 2018's hit Netflix series "The Haunting of Hill House," where she plays the mother of the troubled Crain family, Olivia; she also appeared in Flanagan's follow-ups "The Haunting of Bly Manor" and "Midnight Mass" in 2020 and 2021. In 2023, Gugino scored what is perhaps her most fascinating role in a Flanagan project yet thanks to "The Fall of the House of Usher," where she plays Verna, a woman who haunts the Usher family for generations. You can also see Gugino in the Max series "The Girls on the Bus" as Grace Gordon Greene, a journalist who tails presidential candidates.