“The only difference in doing the lead is I got to kiss Jessica Alba.”
That’s how much-beloved veteran character actor Danny Trejo describes the difference between being the star of a movie instead of one of the supporting players, which he’s finally getting the chance to do with Robert Rodriguez’s over-the-top exploitation flick Machete, in which he plays what Rodriguez calls “a Latin James Bond” – in this case, a Mexican ex-federale who has been double-crossed, left for dead and is now out for vengeful justice.
“It’s a little different because usually, you show up, you do your stuff,” he explains, more seriously. “And now you’re on the set every day, and you have to realize this is your movie. So it’s not that your attitude is different or your performance is different, it’s that you just help any way you can. When we were in Austin, we had 70 days over 100 degrees. Everybody was passing out water, whether you were the lead or just a PA. We had to keep water going because it was 100 degrees, but on the tarmac we were working on, it was about 120. It was a lot of fun, but Robert is the first guy to say, ‘You’ve been around long enough, let’s put you on the first team.’”
“We started with Danny, and that in itself attracts a lot,” director Rodriguez explains. “Everyone’s worked with Danny. Danny’s done over 200 movies. Seagal’s killed him a few times, De Niro’s put a bullet in his head, so everyone felt like, ‘Oh, Danny’s getting a shot? We should be there for Danny.’”
Co-star Michelle Rodriguez offers this on Trejo’s magnetism. “He’s a sweetheart, man. That guy’s heart could attract 1000 women, I’m sure. There’s something about him as a person that is very innocent and sweet even though in appearance it may not seem that way. I could see him in his youth attracting a lot of women. It’s the face – the face is so rough, it’s so weathered that it looks like he’s been through so much that it would put you off, but when you look in his eyes, you see this innocence, and you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s okay to lay on this guy’s chest. It’s okay to hold him. It’s alright to be around him. He’s not going to attack you.’”
That’s not to say getting that shot came easy. After the director cut a fake trailer for the film in support of his Grindhouse experiment with Quentin Tarantino, Trejo had to be extremely persistent to make the imaginary film into reality.
“Robert’s been training me for this movie since we did Desperado,” he revealed. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re perfect for this character. I want to do this movie called Machete,’ and that was 14 years ago. So 14 years and 780,000 phone calls later, ‘when are we doing Machete?’ It was like stepping into the guy.”
The director confirmed this, and believes the same thing is going to happen again considering how he ends this film. “As you saw at the end titles, we have to make Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again,” Rodriguez explained of the sequels the film promises. “Once you put it out there, like we found with the trailer, you have to make it. When I made that trailer, for years – more than Sin City 2 – people would come and say, ‘When are you gonna make Machete? We’ve seen the trailer.’ This movie was almost a response to the fans because if they hadn’t been after me – and Danny himself too – about making the movie, I really don’t think we would have gotten around to doing it. So this was very much made for the fans, and I’ve always wanted to see it made, but that really helped push me to make it. I saw that once you put it out there, now I’ll be getting those kind of calls from Danny, ‘When are we doing Machete Kills Again?’ So I’ll be hearing that now for the next several years until they’re made.”
Trejo also knows how dedicated the fans are. “I sent Robert a text from England where some guys had tattooed a picture of Machete on their backs. And I thought, ‘Wow, I hope they like the movie.’”
As for the controversial themes dealing with illegal immigration? Trejo shrugs it off. “Along the border, I think only 4% of the people believe there’s an immigration problem. The other 96% are saying, ‘¿Que lio?’ We had fun making this movie. The movie is made to entertain, but any movie that you do, somebody’s gonna be able to take something negative out of it because of the issues that are at hand, but I had a blast making this movie, and I think the whole cast did. I think we’re gonna make everybody happy equally and we’re gonna offend everybody equally.”