Dialogue: Exclusive Interview with Machete’s Danny Trejo

Dialogue: Exclusive Interview with Machete’s Danny Trejo

Aug 25, 2010

Machete, a film that was originally presented to audiences as a spoof trailer as part of Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, has actually been in the works since 1995's Desperado. After fans relentlessly pursued Rodriguez and lead star Danny Trejo to bring Machete to life, the film is finally ready to explode on screens everywhere. Expect over-the-top action scenes and plenty of eye-candy care of co-stars Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba.

We had the opportunity to talk with Danny Trejo before his big premiere, and he couldn’t be more grateful for what he calls his "dream role." Read on as Trejo talks about Robert Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, and Latinos in Hollywood.

Movies.com: Let's talk about your dream role.
Danny Trejo: This feels unreal. Where I came from…it's funny because Robert Rodriguez said "from ex-con to icon." It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in prison and now I'm starring in a Hollywood film and get to kiss Jessica Alba [laughs].

Movies.com: What did you enjoy the most about the storyline?
Trejo: What I really enjoyed about the film was that we dealt with the corruption on both sides of the border. The drug cartel on one side and the politicians on the other side. Not to say that all politicians are corrupt.

Movies.com: You have Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez playing strong female roles. Not the norm for a Latina character in Hollywood.
Trejo: I asked Robert, "Let's have some strong women in this sh*t." Robert grew up with sisters so he knows about strong women and he knows how strong a Latina woman is…Latinas keep whole families together.

We've gone from Pancho Gonzalez to Danny Trejo in a lead role. We have people like Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez—Michelle can star in any movie she wants to. If Hollywood were smart, she would already be starring in movies. Hollywood is so afraid that the audience isn't there and I think that they are going to be really shocked when they see [the success of] Machete.

Movies.com: How was Lindsay Lohan on set?
Trejo: I've known Lindsay for a long time and Lindsay on set is very professional. She remembers her lines and does what they ask her to do. In movies you can go from being a small [character] to a hero and I think that's what’s going to happen in her real life.

Movies.com: Working with Robert Rodriguez…fascinating?
Trejo: For me it's like working with my best friend. We've done nine movies together and we've developed a chemistry—I know what he wants and he knows what I want. I think Robert has done more for Latinos in cinema than anybody. I am so absolutely grateful to him and diosito that they choose me.

Movies.com: When was Machete born?
Trejo: When we were in Mexico shooting Desperado—about 15 years ago. On set we realized that nobody knew who Antonio Banderas was because he's from Spain. So people would see me with my tattoos and would gravitate towards me to take pictures and Robert said, "I think they think you are the star of the movie." So he started talking about a character named Machete. How this character was a federale in Mexico and the cartel kills his wife and daughter so he crosses the border to the U.S and he gets hired to kill a Senator.

What we didn't expect was the reaction of the fans. People in Iceland told us they couldn't wait for Machete. I don't even know where Iceland is. I don't think there are any Mexicans there. The same happened with people in Germany and Cape Town, South Africa…I was just blown away.

Movies.com: How did you get the nickname "The Mayor"?
Trejo: They used to call me that in Venice. When there were problems with the gangs, the police would come and call me to go and talk with the gangs. I still do that. I work with Pacific Rehab and work with drug addicts and alcoholics, communities and schools in the Valley. I'm also working with Homeboy Industries right now.

Movies.com: Did you ever feel like the token Mexican?
Trejo: I didn't really give it much thought. The part would call for a mean-looking Mexican with tattoos, well if you've ever seen me—I look like a mean Mexican with tattoos. [Laughs]. So I would just get parts and I didn't put much thought into it. I was just working and supporting my family. I knew that if I would stick to it long enough that good things would happen and they did. And I'm still playing the mean-looking Mexican! [Laughs].

Movies.com: Can't help but wonder if people compare you to Charles Bronson?
Trejo: Yes and what an honor. I did two movies with Charles and he was such a nice man, so cool. Machete is like Bronson and [Clint] Eastwood, real men who still have that vulnerable side to them.

Movies.com: Seems like you're not taking any time off. Tell us about your next project.
Trejo: Vengeance is a wall-to-wall action movie that's probably coming out around October. It's set in Salt Lake, Utah. It's got a great cast with Dallas Page, Tech Nine, Rashad Evan, Houston Alexander and 50 Cent is also in the movie. People are really going to like Vengeance as well as Machete.

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In the movie Rio 2, what is the name of the character played by Rodrigo Santoro

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Tulio