We got the chance to take part in a round-table interview with Danny Trejo, who was in Phoenix on Monday promoting his new film, Machete Kills. Find out what he had to say about the movie, his family, and his work with teens!
Zelda: I’m actually a knife thrower and so, seeing both of the movies, I was really interested to know if you already knew how to throw knives like that, or if you had to learn?
Danny: Well, I threw knives in Desperado twenty years ago. So, you know it’s like, it’s all kind of movie magic. You know what I mean? So, ah, but God, Robert gave me a knife our first movie, Desperado. Had to learn how to throw it and throw it, but he certainly wasn’t going to let me throw it at Antonio Banderas. And so this one we ah… there’s a lot of movie magic.
Zelda: Are there plans for a third Machete movie?
Danny: I hope so. This one is doing pretty good already, there’s a lot of buzz. Everyone says, ‘well how come you did another one’? ‘Cause the last one made money, that’s the reality, so if people like it, we’ll probably do another one.
Zelda: So Robert Rodriguez’s movies are, for me anyway, are always a lot of fun to watch. Are they as much fun to make as they are to watch?
Danny: Absolutely, absolutely. The set is so relaxed, your kids are on it and it’s like, I mean you just open up a big gift and so many kids are around and his deals are a family affair. You’ll see his sister in one and one of his kids in one and so he like works, it’s a family owned business. If you watch, he uses a lot of the same people, even the crew, that’s a family, so it’s his extended family.
Zelda: Is it true that you’re related to him?
Danny: I found out that I was his second cousin while we were doing Desperado ’cause all my family is from San Antonio, Texas. And I was the only one born in Los Angeles. And Robert was born in San Antonio, Texas, his family is from San Antonio. So when we were shooting in Acuna, Mexico, my family came down to visit me, and my uncle ran into Robert. Hey, we’re related to him, you know second cousins! Kind of cool. Alright Cuz, let’s make my part a little bigger!
Zelda: In researching you, you’re incredibly interesting and you have a lot to say. Is there going to be another biography soon?
Danny: You’re the second person to ask me that… if I ever find the time or if somebody can keep up with me, you know I think I would do it. It’s funny, it’s like we had a couple of people try, but writers a lot of the time write the way they write, they don’t write the way I talk. And so, like, I think maybe one of these days I’ll get a tape recorder and start trying to record something, but I just… when, I don’t know. Whenever I have time, maybe if I break a leg or something, I’ll have time.
Zelda: Well you do, what, four films a year? Where do you…
Zelda: Nine?…where do you find Danny time?
Danny: For me, it’s like I love what I do you know, so what I do is Danny time. You know it’s, like I remember someone asking me if I was going to take a vacation and I was shooting a film in Hawaii. You know what I mean, I was doing six days, seven nights, I was in Hawaii three months. “Aren’t you ever gonna take a vacation?” What are you talking about? My vacations are my work. I love what I do. It’s like somebody who shoots pool for a living; they better love it. I’m not gonna hate shooting pool and make a living at it. Yeah, I shoot pool.
Zelda: I noticed that Machete is a lot like a superhero, but he doesn’t have any super powers. So what is it like to play the Mexican Batman?
Danny: You know what, it was like, that’s one of the things that Robert wanted to do. He wanted to make this guy [what do you call it], so that people could identify with him. It’s not like, ’cause none of us can identify with someone who flies, or something that can melt steel or stretch. He’s just a regular guy who can kick ass if he has to, so that was kind of the idea. Let’s make this guy identifiable.
Zelda: So I’m actually really curious about the charity work you do with kids and animals. Why do you do that, what pushes you for that?
Danny: Ah, there’s two kinds of people in the world you know, and that’s it. There are people that want to make a difference, and those that are taking up space. And I really want to be known as somebody that tried to make a difference. Whether you did or not, it doesn’t matter, as long as you try. I love going to juvenile hall and telling them kids that are on their way to the penitentiary, hey, you know, you can change. I love going to high schools and telling kids that.
First of all, you gotta remember that when I go to a high school, I first congratulate all the kids that are doing great because our biggest problem is that we always focus on the bad. You know, hey you kids this is what you…??, so the first thing I do is congratulate all the kids that are doing great. And the scholars and stuff, and then we go into the other stuff.
But I think the gift that I’ve gotten is that when you [go to] talk to kids, I don’t care who you are, you first have to get their attention, which is impossible because they have none, you know. And then you have to keep their attention, which again is impossible because they have none. There are 1500 students, forget it, the most important thing to them is what’s going on this Friday you know, or this Saturday and then you have to show them you’re cool.
The biggest problem is that you’re ten years older than them, [so] you’re just not cool, that’s just the law. So the blessing that I’ve got is that when I walk onto a campus, I’ve got their attention. And not Danny Trejo, but the guy from Spy Kids, the guy from Con Air, the guy from Heat, the guy from Desperado, Machete. Woah, Machete! They don’t know who I am, but they know who Machete is.
So it’s like I’ve got their attention, my message is [get] drugs and alcohol out of your life and education is the key to anything you want to do. And I think that because I’ve got their attention, they’ll hear it. But if somebody else says it, they don’t have their attention. They have to give you their attention.
I have seen people say ‘Wait a minute’ and the kid says ‘I don’t give a shit.’ But that guy from Spy Kids… woah. I’ve had teachers tell me ‘You got the kids here that don’t usually even come to these things because [you’re] the guy from Con Air and the guy from Desperado.’ And I’m under no pretense that if it was just me, I could get the same attention, you know. So it’s a blessing and that’s one of the reasons I love to do it.
Zelda: What other projects are you working on or excited about?
Danny: Whew! The Muppets are coming out. I’m just really excited. Me and Ray Liotta are doing a musical. That’s funny. And then you got Dead in Tombstone with Mickey Rourke coming out the 22nd of October. We’ve got Bad Ass 2 coming out, and we’ve got Bullet coming out. So those are all coming out this year. Except The Muppets, coming out in March. Right now I’m working on a sitcom with George Lopez called Saint George. That guy’s the funniest guy in the world. All we do is crack each other up, we love to crack each other up, see who tells the best joke.
Zelda: I have a silly question for you; so Machete takes on jobs that the US Government doesn’t want to do. What would Machete do about the current budget crisis that’s going on right now?
Danny: Go take all the money back we’ve given to the middle east…ok, we’re ok now. You know, it’s like, I’m glad that they’re handling all that, cause I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. All you’ve got to do is go down and take all the drug money that we’re spending in Mexico and bring it back.
Zelda: What is your proudest moment?
Danny: I think my kids. My daughter wants to be an actress. She’s going to college right now and that’s so cool. My son is, he’s like 25 years old, he shadowed Robert Rodriguez, now he’s doing a film in Milwaukee, [and] he’s producing and co-directing a film called Snapshot. And he raised his own money on Kickstarter. You know, they raised $90,000.00 and I thought, DAMN! When I was 25 years old, I was sitting in state prison. And my big boy, he’s into electronics, so they’re all doing really, really good. I think wow… I’ve got great kids. I think that’s my proudest moment.
Zelda: Machete’s a pretty physically demanding role, but you’re one of the busiest guys in Hollywood, so how do you stay fit during these movie shoots?
Danny: 24 hour Fitness. There’s a gym in LA, 24 hour Fitness. I was going at one o’clock in the morning, that way everybody would leave me alone, but then people found out that I would go at one o’clock in the morning, so all of a sudden, like 45 or 50 people there, signing autographs and stuff. So I finally just said, put a gym in my house. And I just work out. I don’t have insomnia but I’ll sleep like 4 hours, I’ll wake up and work out for a little while, and then go back to sleep. So I just try to stay in shape, walk a lot. If I want to go to the store, I’d rather walk there, and walk a couple times around the block, keep the heart healthy, in physical shape. I ran the LA marathon before I turned 60. I wanted to do it before I hit 60, so nine years ago I ran the LA marathon. I’ve been trying to think about doing it before I turn 70, but that’s coming up real quick and it takes a lot to get in shape.
Zelda: You’re always involved in so many different types of film and TV projects. What do you like to watch when you get a little bit of relax time?
Danny: You know what, I love Animal Planet and I like the news. That’s about it. Then there’s a western channel that we have, I love westerns. When my kids were little and John Wayne would come on the screen, I would say ‘It’s John Wayne’, and everybody would stand up and salute – just our little thing to John Wayne. Then finally, my daughter, she’s the first one to say, he’s not really a hero, he’s an actor so they stopped. I have a dog named Cash, a big Rottweiler/Pit Bull mix, and I taught him, ‘Cash, you like John Wayne?’ (Dog barking noise) My daughter says only you… only you would have a dog that liked John Wayne. So yeah, I love John Wayne.
Zelda: In the film, there’s a lot of heavy car and helicopter scenes. How do you prepare for that?
Danny: Well first of all, I love cars, any kind. We had actually, Jesse James built the car for Machete, he did the cars for Machete so that was like a lot of fun working with him and stuff. I’ve got like five oldies, lowered, [makes hydraulic noises], oldies but goodies, and low-riders, cars that I love.
Zelda: You talked about John Wayne, you’ve worked with some other movie tough guys, like Jean Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone; which of the tough guy actors that you’ve worked with would you say is closest to the real deal?
Danny: It’s Charles Bronson, I just think he’s… I love the guys that just do things naturally, like Charles Bronson. He just kinda did things naturally. Other people, it’s like, you kinda can see, oh they’re acting, but Bronson just made it so natural, I loved him. I worked with him on Death Wish 4 and then Forbidden Subjects, and I actually became his friend.
Zelda: Is there anyone that you’d like to work with?
Danny: I think I just worked with everybody. Bring me what you got, I don’t care, I’ll work with anybody. I love what I do.
Zelda: What’s your favorite scene from Machete Kills?
Danny: Machete Kills? Uhm, kissing Amber Heard? She was awesome!
Thanks, Danny, for taking the time to interview with us! And to all our subscribers, be sure to check out the highly anticipated MACHETE KILLS, which hits theaters on October 11th!