Danny Trejo Got His Big Hollywood Break By Letting An Actor Beat Him Up

When it comes to iconic Hollywood badasses, it doesn’t get tougher than Danny Trejo, who worked his way from a convict to one of today’s most prolific actors. But the big screen muscle also has a heart of gold and a true devotion to paying his blessed life forward, and his journey from behind bars to behind the cameras is explored in the upcoming documentary Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo.

In an exclusive clip for The Hollywood Reporter, the documentary reveals how Trejo caught his first Hollywood break. It involves a fortuitous colliding of the actor’s work helping recovering addicts and his past as a prison boxer. (Did we mention Danny Trejo was a prison boxing champ? Danny Trejo was a prison boxing champ.) According to Trejo, he was called down to the set of the 1985 film Runaway Train, which was filming a scene at a nearby warehouse full of extras dressed as convicts. A young man, who Trejo was mentoring, was concerned about the amount of drugs floating around the production, so being the dedicated sponsor that he was, he booked it over in the middle of the night to be his moral support.

While on the set, Trejo was asked if he wanted to play an extra, and he jumped at the easy money and opportunity to bring some authenticity to the production, which he felt was sorely lacking. After taking off his shirt to put on his convict blues, screenwriter Eddie Bunker immediately recognized Trejo from his prison boxing days and offered him a job coaching Eric Roberts for his role in the film. Trejo was warned that Roberts was a little wild, and there was a good chance he could get hit. Trejo, naturally, was not concerned.

“I said for $320, give him a stick!” Trejo laughs in the clip. “Are you crazy? I’ve been beat up for free, holmes.”

Here’s the official synopsis:

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo is the feature documentary experience revealing the extraordinary life journey of Hollywood’s most unlikely hero, Danny Trejo. From an early life of drugs, armed robbery and hard prison time, to the red carpets of Hollywood blockbusters and helping troubled addicts. Danny gives a first hand account of one of the greatest transformations of human character ever put to film. To this day, Danny continues to council recovering addicts and speak at state prisons.

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo hits VOD on July 7.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)