Rodriguez, meanwhile, likens fourquels to sitcoms or prime-time dramas. "People love checking in with their characters every week — it's what's made television so involving lately. So why not with movie characters?" asked the 42-year-old director.
After "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," in 2003, Rodriguez said he had no intention of making another film in the series. But he reconsidered after a lunch meeting with Alba. The actress was on the way to his house with her baby when she had to contend with a diaper explosion in the backseat of a rental car. "It wasn't a normal diaper explosion," Rodriguez says with a laugh. The moment gave him a flash of inspiration — he thought of "Spy Kids," "and this idea of Alba having to deal with this while on a top-secret mission."
Rodriguez's challenge now will be to lure a new generation of fans, considering that the children who initially propelled the franchise are now nearly adults but probably not old enough to have kids of their own. Weinstein is counting on the series' strong performance on DVD over the years to make it relevant today.
When "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker heard that producers were trying to keep the franchise going beyond a third movie, he had his doubts.
"By the time the fourth one came around, I thought it was stale. I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Really?' Obviously we made the first one, and that catered to pop culture and a youth-driven audience," he said. "But trends shift overnight with that audience. Nine years later, I really questioned if there was even an audience for this anymore."
Walker came back to the franchise. But other actors move on. Keira Knightley, for instance, isn't returning for the fourth "Pirates."
"There's a comfort in seeing the characters you love again and again," she said. "But I never wanted to play the same character again and again. She [heroine Elizabeth Swann] was great and fun, and I loved the sword fighting. But what I really love about my job is exploring new things."
Times staff writers Rebecca Keegan and Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.