The first 15 or 20 minutes of Machete was enough for me, and I have pretty much zero interest in the sequel. That said, I’m glad it exists, because it means a Danny Trejo press tour. I’ll gladly sit through a hundred Machete trailers if it means getting stuff like Grantland’s new profile of Danny Trejo.
Here’s a story about him wanting to stab someone on the Con Air set.
On the Con Air set, Trejo recalls the machismo was on full blast: “You couldn’t spit without somebody trying to spit further. Pretty soon, you’d have a spitting contest.” Urquidez, who was the movie’s stunt coordinator, remembers a telling incident: “One day, one of the actors was joking with him. Danny comes up to me, he says, ‘Guy’s talking to me like some kind of punk. I’m gonna stick that guy!'” Urquidez pulled him aside quickly, afraid the old neighborhood survivor mentality would get someone stabbed. “I saw it in his eyes,” Benny says. “Danny was still hard-core at the time.”
They never say who the guy Trejo wanted to stick was, but I think it’s pretty obvious that it was John Malkovich. No one can talk down to people like Malkovich. Malkoviches get stitches.
Oh to be on that set. I just imagine Nic Cage and John Cusack rolling dice in the corner while Steve Buscemi plays the knife game and Ving Rhames shadowboxes.
I’d urge you to read the whole thing, obviously, but here are a few highlights:
- He is shirtless, and will not make the slightest move to put on a shirt — nor the slightest hint that a shirt is somewhere nearby, if he even wanted to put one on — for the rest of the afternoon.
- Trejo was 8 the first time he smoked weed. He was 12 the first time he shot heroin.
- In the street fights, Trejo quickly learned that it wasn’t technique that mattered. “People ain’t afraid of tough guys,” he says. “People are afraid of crazy guys. It don’t matter if you beat someone’s ass or not. If you try to bite them in the jugular vein, it’s like — ‘My god, this guy is trying to eat me!'”
- Trejo’s criminal record was colorful — at one point, after a drunken fight, he stabbed a sailor with the edge of a broken bottle. It was lengthy, too: He was 15 when he was first busted. Quickly, he moved from juvie to the more stringent California Youth Authority. At 23, he hit the big time. He’d sold a dealer 4 ounces of heroin, $30,000 worth — only it was bags of sugar, selectively dabbed on the openings with the real stuff. The buyer was an undercover federal agent. Trejo was shipped to San Quentin, but not before stashing about $15,000 worth of the drug money in his mother’s backyard.
- It was in the joint that he got his world-famous body art. The artist was Harry “Super Jew” Ross, a guy he knew from the neighborhood.
- Which brings us, at last, to Danny Trejo’s origin story. In 1985, a young recovering addict working as a PA on the movie Runaway Train found himself tempted by the rampant piles of cocaine floating around and called his sponsor for help. And when Trejo stepped on set, he was discovered. One of the screenwriters was the crime novelist and actor Edward Bunker,7 with whom Trejo had done time. Bunker had seen Trejo win titles in the joint, and quickly nominated him to train the star, Eric Roberts, for fight sequences. The job paid $320 a day.
I think I identify with Danny Trejo a lot, because one day I took some angel dust and ate a guy’s heart. Don’t judge, it was the eighties. After that I had such a rep around the neighborhood that I got hired as Harry Knowles’ beard guy. I eventually parlayed that into my own movie blogging gig. Life is so loco, ése. (*reclines against hood of lowrider, takes drag of cigarette*)