Although Danny Trejo’s infamous character Machete first appeared in 2001’s “Spy Kids,” the actor and his friend and frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez first thought of the character while on the set of Rodriguez’s 1995 film “Desperado.”
“I was walking around the set, which was this Mexican town, without a shirt on, and people were coming up to me and asking for pictures and autographs and such when Robert came over to me and said ‘They think you’re the star of the movie’ to which I said jokingly, ‘Wait … I’m not?’” Trejo said. “And that was when we had this idea for the Machete character. We didn’t know where he could put him, and so when Robert made ‘Spy Kids,’ we threw uncle Machete in there.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Uncle Machete appeared in all three of the original Spy Kids films as well as “Spy Kids 4,” but it was not until 2007’s “Grindhouse” that the character, as audiences have come to know and love, came to be.
Between Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” were five fake trailers. “Machete” was one of them.
“We made the ‘Machete’ trailer to finally show the character as we imagined him, and when we came out, people loved it and wanted to know when it was actually going to be made into a movie,” Trejo said.
“Machete,” which was released in 2010, was Trejo’s first leading role. The film, as a parody of Mexploiatation (Mexican Exploitation) films, had a distinct throwback feel akin to the grindhouse pictures released in the 1970s. The film made a whopping $44 million worldwide, along with not one, but two green-lit sequels.
“Robert started writing the sequel maybe a week after the first film was released,” Trejo said. “There was about two years of pre-production, and then we started shooting ‘Machete Kills’ in June of last year.”
“Machete Kills” follows the ex-federale character after he is recruited by the U.S. president to prevent an arms dealer and Mexican revolutionary from causing a world war. The film’s cast is outstanding and includes Charlie Sheen (going for the first time by his birth name, Carlos Estevez) as the President, Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio, Mel Gibson as Luther Voz, Sofía Vergara as Madame Desdemona, and Demián Bichir as Mendez the Madman.
“The cast is amazing,” Trejo said. “Robert manages to get all of these big name stars, and I honestly have no idea how he does it.”
Trejo has nothing but high praise for all of his castmates, but he specifically glowed about the chance to work with Sheen.
“Charlie is one of the most professional actors I have ever had the chance to work with,” Trejo said. “He shows up on set every day, does his thing, takes his feedback, and is ready to go for the next take. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.”
Also starring in the film is Alexa Vega, who played Carmen Cortez in the first three “Spy Kids” films. Vega, now 25, plays KillJoy, a scantily clad working girl at Madame Desdemona’s brothel who is under strict orders to kill Machete.
“Watching her grow up has been an honor,” Trejo said. “And it was funny, on the first day of shooting the film with her, I was almost in shock. I felt like a dad seeing his daughter in a bikini for the first time and almost wanted to tell her to cover up. But she’s incredibly confident in herself, and she’s a really talented actress, and I think she did a great job with the part.”
Besides the upcoming release of the film, Trejo is involved with Universal Studios Hollywood’s upcoming Hollywood Horror Nights, an annual Halloween event. Trejo is helping to create a maze based on El Cucuy, the Mexican legend of the boogeyman. Trejo narrates the maze.
“It’s been a really great experience,” Trejo said. “I get to help them bring this idea that’s terrified people to life in an incredibly unique way.”
Trejo is also currently working on a sitcom with George Lopez set to air in January on FX. Trejo said that it amazes him that the character of Machete has reached the level of popularity it has and that he is honored to be a part of something so important to so many people.
“I look in the mirror every day and think about how lucky I am to play this character and be involved in something this big,” Trejo said. “I love doing big films, but I love doing smaller films that are either independent or student films as well. I’m just blessed that I get to act for a living.”
“Machete Kills” hits theaters on Oct. 11
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