When Hollywood needs someone to play a badass Mexican, the only guy to call is Danny Trejo. With his craggy face, pony tail and chest tattoo of a sombrero-clad woman, he’s the kind of hombre that would make plump pasty Gringos run back to the border on those loco toe-dipping trips to Tijuana. And he doesn’t just have the look for these roles, he’s got the résumé too. Highlights include past drug addiction and multiple stints in prison. He spent time in San Quentin in the 1960s and at one point during a riot threw a rock that struck a prison official — during that time a gas chamber offence.
But he’s come a long way from those dark days.
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"Machete Kills" — the sequel to "Machete," his first leading role — sees Trejo (a.k.a. Machete) in the employ of the quippy U.S. President (Charlie Sheen). His mission? To shut down a psycho billionaire arms dealer (Mel Gibson) intent on blowing up the world. A 12-step program followed by a series of serendipitous events led Trejo to this new life — it’s a change he attributes to the “grace of God.”
“Every morning I wake up is an absolute blessing and every night I go to bed is an absolute blessing,” he says. At 69 years old, Trejo’s interests have moved from prison brawling to golf and his rescue dogs. Today, he’s supervising a team of workers who are installing a driving range in his backyard.
“I’m doing a sitcom with George Lopez right now called 'Saint George' and he gave me a set of golf clubs so it’s like, ‘Let’s learn how to golf,’” he says.
There’s a pause, a crash and raucous barking.
“HEY! YOU STOP THAT,” he shouts.
In another minute he’s back on the line.
“I have the most disobedient dogs in the world. I’ve got six of them. I just rescue them. I think they were all going to the gas chamber too,” he laughs.
But back to Machete and all his other characters, like that knife-thrower in "Desperado" who takes down Steve Buscemi and almost ends Antonio Banderas. “I can throw a knife, but you gotta remember that’s movie magic, and [director Robert Rodriguez] is the best at it.”
Apparently Machete is better at throwing double-headed axes. “I’m really good at that,” he insists.
But for all his tough guy swagger, Machete isn’t invincible. “I had a sword fight with Mel Gibson in this movie and when Robert Rodriguez said, ‘Action,’ I threw my sword down and he said, ‘What’s wrong Danny?’ and I said, ‘I’m not fighting William Wallace, come on, he saved Scotland, are you crazy?’”
Fun facts about Danny Trejo
While doing time in San Quentin, he won the lightweight and welterweight boxing titles.
His first role came about through someone he met at a Cocaine Anonymous meeting in 1985. That person took him to the set of Runaway Train where he was offered a role as a convinct extra. He also trained some of the actors on the set in boxing for $350 a day.