The hardest working man in the business shows no sign of talking it easy at the ripe age of 68, and the latest addition to his bustling CV is the part of a retired solider who takes the law into his own hands in the fun, knockabout vigilante flick Bad Ass (out now on DVD).
We recently caught up with the Machete man to talk about the film and his desire to continue working within the action arena for as long as his body lets him.
HeyUGuys: Hi Danny. Thanks for taking time out to chat with us.
Danny Trejo: Now listen, I’m gonna talk real slow because what we’ve done to the English language over here is not so good, and me being Mexican means we’ve really fucked it up (laughs.)
What initially drew you to the role in Bad Ass?
I thought it was would be a fun movie to play a guy who is a Vietnam vet who decides to take the law into his own hands. It’s based on an incident they got off YouTube [an AC Transit Bus fight, filmed by a bystander, went viral]. We used that as a starting point and just went from there, embellishing it a little.
Did you have the opportunity to actually meet and speak to the guy who inspired the film?
Nah, I’ve never met the guy. I haven’t even seen the video (laughs).
During your long career you’ve worked with a number of incredible actors. Is there anyone in particular who you’ve learned from the most?
Well, when you work with someone like Robert De Niro, you can’t help but learn just by observing and watching him on set all the time. I’ve worked with Val Kilmer, Al Pacino – the list goes on. Pretty much every action star in Hollywood worth his salt. My all-time favourite is De Niro, though. When I look at my own career and compare it against other actors I love, and their own work through the years, I look at someone like Charles Bronson…
You were in one of the Death Wish film with him, right?
Yeah, I was in the fourth one and another movie called Forbidden Subjects. He was truly one of the greats.
Judging by the upcoming roles on your IMDB page, there doesn’t seen to be any sign of you slowing down and taking things easy. What drives you?
First of all, I love my job. I’m really happy with what I do, but the truth is, what gives me the greatest pleasure is the fact that I get to speak to kids in trouble, either those in detention centres or jails. What the film industry does, is let them know who I am, and I’m able to get their attention as soon as I walk into any facility.
When you talk to kids about staying out of trouble, it’s usually hard to get their attention, because they have none (laughs). The most important thing to them is what they’ll be doing on a Friday night. The minute I walk on to those campus’ and juvenile halls, the kids don’t wanna hear what I have to say, they want to hear what the guy from Con Air and Spy Kids is telling them.
You’re also credited as a producer on a number of recent films. How did that come about?
People will approach me and say, “hey, I have this film you may be interested in”. If I like it, I’ll see what we can do with it. If I can take it on and help to make it a reality, I will. My own commitment to working in the movies is doing what I can to help those first-time filmmakers out there.
What audiences may forget is the number of comedy films you’ve featured in. Do you prefer making people laugh and killing them?
Well, that’s what I love about doing something like Machete, because the action scenes do both.
Can you tell us a little bit about the sequel? When does it go into production?
We’re actually half-way done with it now. The second Machete makes for first film look like a nursery rhyme. It’s amazing.
This sequel marks your eleventh collaboration with [director] Robert Rodriguez.
Yeah. He and I just hang out all the time. I love Robert. We’ve got such a great rapport going on that when we get to a film set, the crew can’t believe it how tight we are. I know exactly what he wants and he knows exactly want I want.
Does the action get a little daunting for you as you get older? Are you hesitant about jumping into those kind of roles at all?
No, no. If you could see the action we’re doing on Machete Kills, it’s insane. Even the fight scenes we did on Bad Ass were really a blast to do. The director was like, “how do you still do it?” I know how old I am and in reality, I should be yelling at kids to get off my lawn (laughs) but I have a lot of energy and I just want to keep doing what I do.
Do you ever sigh just a little when you get to the set in the morning and see the call sheet is loaded with stunts?
The more I’m on the call sheet, I better I like it! That’s the thing about being a lead in a movie. You have to be there everyday and you’re in almost every scene. The good side to it all is you get the girl (laughs). The only love scene I ever had before I became a leading man was in Con Air (long laugh). Now I get to do scenes with the likes of Michelle Rodriguez and Amber Heard, who’s in the new Machete. In Bad Ass I worked with a lovely girl called Joyful Drake, that’s her real name (laughs). I love working with all the talented and beautiful women more than anything.
Bad Ass is available on DVD now.