I should smoke a cigarette, I thought. So that my voice sounds rough and badass. I looked around the office and tried to figure out who the smokers were. Maybe I had enough time to run down stairs and inhale a few deep puffs. I was about to ask the new guy with the leather jacket and the spiky hair if I could bum a smoke when my phone started to ring.
Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit. It’s Danny Trejo. Danny Trejo is calling me.
Since 1985, Danny Trejo has starred in more than 250 film and television roles, often playing angry, gristly, and mercilessly violent characters. He’s an actor known for his intimidating visage, with a face that looks like it was chiseled from stone by the god of death, tattoos that would make a Russian mobster weak in the knees, and a mustache that pushes his mouth into a permanent snarl. He is, to put it simply, a legitimate badass, and easily one of my favorite actors of all time.
Which is why I jumped at the chance to speak with Trejo and Craig Moss (the writer and director of the fan-favorite Bad Ass series) about an upcoming crowdsourced project called Social Security. The movie’s Indiegogo campaign describes it as “a film about Danny Trejo taking on a group of thieves at a senior living facility.” That’s right, it’s a movie about Danny Trejo (as played by Danny Trejo) killing bad guys in a retirement home. I mean, come on, how could you not fund this movie? If the film itself isn’t reward enough for you, funding levels for Social Security include a year of tacos from Trejo’s Tacos, a speaking role in the movie, and — my personal favorite — the chance to be killed on screen by Danny Trejo. (Would it be wrong to start a Kickstarter to fund an Indiegogo perk?)
My phone continued to vibrate. After a few seconds of staring at it, cold sweat prickling my skin, I picked up the call.
In the video that you made for the Indiegogo campaign, you said that you’ve always wanted to play yourself. Why is that?
Trejo: You know what? I think I’ve led a pretty interesting life. And I really believe in this movie. I’m 72 years old and I’m still pretty badass! [Laughs.]
Is that how you came up with the story, realizing that you’ve just gotten more badass with age?
Trejo: When we were doing Bad Asses on the Bayou with Danny Glover, we were kind of messing around and we thought wouldn’t it be funny to have one of these badasses in a retirement home? And Craig just took that idea and ran with it and wrote Social Security. I read the script and, you know, it was a given. I love working with Craig and we had a great time. The script is awesome. It’s a laugh-a-minute but it can be serious too and man, there’s a lot of action.
Did you use any stories from real life when you were writing the script?
Trejo: Craig wrote it and Craig knows me pretty well. So the script comes from how we are now, not just how I was. There aren’t any robberies and, you know, we’re not going to shoot at people. [Laughs.]
Moss: Danny playing himself is kind of a cool thing because Danny has done so many movies and so many action films. And when Danny came up with the idea, we talked about it, and the core idea was “how great would it be if he was in a real situation where he had to utilize all the crap he learned in all the action films throughout his career and he used it in a situation and it actually worked.” So having that sort of history and being able to utilize it was really fun for us to do.
Why did you guys decide to crowdsource this movie specifically?
Moss: We did all the Bad Ass films with Fox and then they were going to do Social Security, they were interested in doing it, but then they shut down their lower-budget production entity. And basically Danny and I loved this project so much and weren’t going to take no for an answer. We decided to go this route because we had heard so many great things about it. Danny has such an incredible fanbase — such a loyal fan base — and he loves his fans, and this is an opportunity for them to be involved in the making of the movie.
You know, it really seems like you made a lot of the perks in the campaign specifically for the fans. There’s one that caught my eye almost immediately, and it’s the opportunity to actually be killed on camera by Danny.
Moss: I mean, who wouldn’t want to get their ass kicked by Danny?
Honestly it would be a dream.
Trejo: You can get hit in the face or you can get killed. [Laughs.]
So, Danny, have you thought about how you would kill these people on camera?
Trejo: Oh well they would be one of the bad guys in the script and either we’d shoot them dead, blow them up, or beat them to death. [Laughs.]
Yeah, that sounds lovely.
Danny: The usual stuff, you know?
Without really knowing that much about this movie, I think it’s fair to say that a big part of it will be about what it’s like to get older. For you, Danny, what’s the best part about getting older?
Trejo: I used to tease my kids when they were little because I’d get up from the table and say “you know what’s good about getting old? You don’t have to finish your food.” [Laughs.]
But you know what it really is? It’s having experience. Having the experience of going through what your kids are going to go through. The only problem now is that the kids who are growing up today are so far advanced. You know, a lot of us don’t even know how to use a cell phone as a camera. When people come over to take a picture with me I say “sure” and they end up having to hand the phone to the 8-year-old to take a picture. [Laughs.] And the kid is all “Here let me do it.”
I’m starting to feel old myself. I mean I’m only 30 and already I’m seeing some white hairs. What advice do you have for a 30-year-old? What advice do you wish you could give to your 30-year-old self?
Trejo: Me? I would say “slow down!”
I’ve heard you say a few times that Social Security is a movie that has to get made. Why is that?
Moss: The bottom line, first and foremost, is that we love the script so much. The fact that Danny is playing Danny, and that these action set pieces are bigger and better than anything that we have done together, and obviously that there is so much heart in this story. You’ve got all the action components and it’s got great one liners and we just know that it’s a movie that we’ve got to get made. In addition to that, being able to help and support the elderly is something that we’ve been discovering in doing research for this film. We want to be able to highlight that and to give to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elderly Abuse.
Trejo: You know, six million elderly people are abused annually in the United States, either at home or in institutions. So we’re really trying to shine a light on that.
Moss: We want to make sure that that’s something that we can create awareness for and make positive moves to try and change.
I was hoping that there would be some connection like that, given the subject matter of the movie. Really I think it’s a perfect fit. And it sounds like the perfect role for Danny, who has been kicking ass in every movie that he’s ever been in. I mean, wasn’t your first role playing a boxer?
Trejo: Yeah, I was in a movie called Runaway Train.
Do you still box?
Trejo: Oh no, I train. You know, at 72 years old you don’t want to get hit in the face anymore. [Laughs.]
Oh I know. I did an article a few months back in which I had to fight in a motorcycle club’s underground boxing match and it did not go well.
Do you have any boxing tips?
Trejo: Yeah, Move. A lot! It’s like, you know, that is one of the things everyone is so angry at Floyd Mayweather about, because he doesn’t get hit. In boxing you cannot get hit, and he’s the only one who does it well.
Ha ha, well I certainly did not move at all. It’s a good tip, Danny, I appreciate it! Thank you for your time man and thank you too Craig.
Moss: Thanks man!
Trejo: Thank you bro, stop by Trejo’s Tacos sometime!