Danny Trejo has one of the most recognizable faces in cinema, having appeared in more than 250 films since he first began acting at the age of 39. Despite such an enormous resume, he didn’t see his first headlining role until the 2010 release of Machete, based on a fake trailer created for the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino team-up, Grindhouse. But the seeds of the character were planted long before audiences ever saw him.
“The first time we talked about Machete was 20 years ago when we were doing Desperado,” Trejo recalls, speaking with journalists during a recent stop in Phoenix. “[Robert Rodriguez] saw me and my character and said, ‘Danny, I’ve got the perfect role for you.’ We used Machete in Spy Kids and when we did the fake trailer, when we came out of the theater, audiences just ran us down. ‘Hey, [you’ve] gotta make the movie.” We thought we were gonna be done with it when we did the trailer.”
Indeed, audiences wanted more of Machete, and while the first film certainly won’t be remembered as a box office blockbuster, it grossed more than double its production budget and built a solid cult following on home video. A sequel was only a matter of time, but Trejo and writer/director Rodriguez wanted to be sure they upped the ante for the character’s next adventure, Machete Kills.
“He’s got some of the craziest ideas ever,” Trejo says of his longtime friend. “But it’s a lot of fun and they look great on screen.”
Aside from cranking up the level of violence and sexuality for the sequel, Rodriguez and Trejo have amassed an impressive list of guest stars, and Trejo admits to being a little wary of Mel Gibson, who plays the film’s chief baddie.
“I have a swordfight with him,” Trejo reveals, a grin twitching at the corners of his mouth. “When Robert yelled ‘action’ I threw my sword down. Robert said ‘what’s wrong, Danny’ and I said ‘I’m not fighting William Wallace. Are you crazy? With a sword? Give me a pistol.'”
Trejo has plenty of anecdotes about the rest of his costars, which include Charlie Sheen, Sofia Vergara, and Amber Heard, but the most unique is certainly the eventual fate of Lady Gaga’s pots and pans, which she used to prepare food on the set.
“I’ve got them at home,” he confesses. “When she was packing up to leave, I asked her ‘Gaga, what are you doing with those pots and pans?’ She was getting on a plane, so I took them. So I’ve got them at home, I have them on a shelf and there’s a sign that says Lady Gaga’s Pots and Pans. She Cooks.”
“And no, they’re not going on eBay,” he adds with a laugh.
While Machete Kills is hitting theaters this weekend, Trejo already has his sights set on other projects, which include Bullet, Muppets Most Wanted, and the third installment in the Machete franchise. He has a busy schedule, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’m just having a blast,” he says. “This is our job, this is what we do. It’s no different than a house painter or a plumber or a writer – it’s our job. The only difference is, instead of using a hammer or nails, you use your face.”
And what does he see in the future of the Machete franchise?
“It can go where ever it wants,” Trejo insists. “I think that was Robert’s intention, I think his intention was creating the first Mexican superhero. But he’s a superhero that doesn’t see through walls, he doesn’t fly, and he doesn’t wear tights. He just kicks ass. He’s not Iron Man, he’s not Superman, he’s not Batman. He doesn’t have a great car, he just has a machete and he’s a badass.”
Machete Kills opens on October 11, 2013.