Director Robert Rodriguez somehow skips back and forth between edgy, violent films like From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado, Sin City and Planet Terror to the family-friendly Spy Kids franchise without missing a beat. Danny Trejo—a man whom Rodriguez describes as having an incredible face that "you could rock-climb on"—has been a supporting player for Rodriguez and others for years until becoming a leading man in Rodriguez's latest film, Machete. Rodriguez chatted candidly about Machete's long journey to the screen, how Machete is the "Latin James Bond" and why "Machete don't text."
Movies.com: In Grindhouse, Machete was the fake trailer that got the biggest reaction in the audience. Was it always your hope that this one would eventually become a feature-length film?
Rodriguez: Danny and I have talked about it since the time of Desperado. We talked it about so much that, during Spy Kids, I said, "Hey, we're going to go ahead and give your character the code name Machete," an homage to that idea that hadn't gotten off the ground. When it came time to do fake trailers for Grindhouse, I had my idea for this Mexploitation movie that would actually fit great if done in the style of a grindhouse trailer. I shot it and Danny and I figured that was it, but at least we got to make the trailer. Then people responded so strongly to the trailer and, more than Sin City 2, people asked if I was going to make Machete. I went back to thinking it was something we needed to make a feature for.
Movies.com: Was Danny Trejo always who you had in mind to play Machete?
Rodriguez: I came up with it the time I met him. I saw people gravitating toward him on the set of Desperado and people just cheer for him when he comes on the screen in any of my movies, so he seemed to be the right guy.
Movies.com: Machete seems to bed every hot actress on the set, from Lindsay Lohan to Jessica Alba to Michelle Rodriguez. What's his secret?
Rodriguez: He's the Latin James Bond! [laughs] How many trailers do you see that trick you to get into the theater? You ask yourself, Why couldn't they just make the movie like the trailer? It was set up in Grindhouse that "He knows the score, he gets the women, and he kills the bad guys." People loved that so much, I had to deliver a movie that was like that or better. So we had to systematically go through the women in the picture and figure out how he gets them somehow. It was fun to reverse engineer the movie like that. The trailer said it, so it would have been a lie if we didn't make it the way we did.
Movies.com: Did you match shots from the Grindhouse trailer?
Rodriguez: I actually used the shots from that trailer shot five years ago. If you look at the scene where Jeff Fahey pulls up to Machete in a car and says, "Get in," that's from the trailer and Jeff's hair is much shorter because that was five years ago. It's really funny.
Movies.com: You've known Danny Trejo for a long time. What do he and Machete have in common?
Rodriguez: Danny is such a nice, sweet guy. We've been talking about the character for so long, he just knew how to play him. They have some similarities, but mainly because he's been doing it jokingly as a persona for so long that he became the character. One of the best lines is "Machete don't text." Danny calls me all the time and I told him, "Why don't you just text me?" and that's what he said, "Machete don't text." His fingers are all gnarled from boxing.
Movies.com: The theme of the movie is a crazy crackdown on illegal immigration that is creating a war zone. Did you film this before the immigration laws in Arizona went into effect?
Rodriguez: Way before…over a year ago. I figured it's done so fantastical that people wouldn't buy it as something that would really happen. Now people watch it and think, Wow, this sh*t is real! It just accidentally happened to our benefit because these exploitation films could always jump on a topic that was hot before a studio could do it, which is why they're called exploitation films. Then you can say, "Ripped from today's headlines!" This feels like that case, but it was actually the reverse.
Movies.com: Danny rode a motorcycle to the Los Angeles premiere that was leading a line of low riders carrying the rest of the cast…with the exception of Lindsay Lohan. How was she on set?
Rodriguez: She was awesome. She was really great—totally professional and cool and got the joke. She loved the whole idea of it. I showed her the original trailer and a fake poster mock-up I did by taking a picture of her from the Internet and putting it on a nun habit with guns. She cackled and thought it was terrific.
Movies.com: Will Sin City 2 ever happen?
Rodriguez: The newest script is something that we're still working on. I'm shooting Spy Kids 4 next month and, right after that, I could be going on Sin City 2 if it's ready, but it is coming for sure.
Movies.com: The end of Machete suggests that Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again are sequels we can look forward to. True or tease?
Rodriguez: Once you put that out there, people keep coming at you and asking you if you're going to make it. Those would be very fun.