Danny Trejo feels like he’s been preparing to play the title character in Machete for 14 years — about as long as he’s been working with writer/director Robert Rodriguez.
“Robert’s been training me for this movie since we did Desperado," says Trejo, who’s appeared in eight of Rodriguez’s films. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re perfect for this character. I want to do this movie called Machete. And that was 14 years ago. And so, you know, 14 years and 780,000 phone calls later — ‘When are we doing Machete?’ — it was just like stepping into the guy.”
And from his first role with Rodriguez — as the knife-throwing assassin Navajas in Desperado — Trejo has noticed a common theme in their collaboration: “Basically in each movie, if you’ll notice, I have some sharp object,” he says with a laugh.
A veteran character actor who’s appeared on screen close to 200 times, Trejo gets to finally play the lead in Machete, something he was excited about.
“As far as being the lead, the only difference is I got to kiss Jessica Alba,” he jokes. “It’s a little different because usually you show up, you do your stuff and you leave. But now you’re on the set every day. You’re on the set every day and you have to realize that this is your movie. It’s not that your attitude is different or your performance is different. It’s that you just help any way you can.”
While the idea for Machete came about years ago, the character first appeared on screen as something of a gag. Rodriguez filmed a trailer for the non-existent film as part of his Grindhouse project with Quentin Tarantino, sandwiched between Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof. For Trejo, filming the movie years after making the trailer was more than a little disorienting.
And with Machete already being in the public consciousness — the trailer was one of the most popular parts of Grindhouse — the actor and the filmmaker found they had a new set of expectations to worry about.
“I sent Robert a text from England, where some guys had tattooed that picture of Machete on their backs,” Trejo remembers. “I thought, ‘Wow, I hope they like the movie.’”