A roundtable chat with actor Danny Trejo, aka “Machete”

Danny Trejo is More than a few tough guy actors have been, to one degree or another, actual tough guys — soldiers, cops, even petty, and not so petty, criminals. Still, Danny Trejo earned those intimidating facial lines with perhaps the toughest real-life background of anyone to ever transition from a life of crime to a successful life in the fantasy factory of Hollywood.

Of course, it’s that authenticity that’s attracted casting directors since the start of Trejo’s career in the mid-80s. His early small roles eventually led to Trejo’s association with Robert Rodriquez, who coincidentally turned out to be his second cousin as well as the filmmaker who would finally give him his first starring role. Starting with “From Dusk ‘Till Dawn” through the “Spy Kids” trilogy, it was a long path that first led to the funniest fake trailer in “Grindhouse” and then the ultra-violent yet entirely tongue-in-cheek Mexploitation action-fest, “Machete,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD. In his mid-60s, Danny Trejo is now a movie star.

A Los Angeles native with an astonishing 201 roles to his credit, the actor grew up within a half-hour’s drive of the film studios in Burbank, but his tough neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley might as well have been in Tierra del Fuego. He was a heroin addict by age 12 and, way-too-shortly thereafter, an armed robber on a supersonic path to jail or the grave. Fortunately, as depicted in the biographical documentary “Champion” (available via streaming video on Netflix), jail got Trejo first. He eventually found his way to a 12 step program that allowed him to turn his life around to the poing where he could stop being a hard case and, with the benefit of a fortuitous encounter with the late ex-con author and “Reservoir Dogs” actor, Eddie Bunker, start playing them instead.

A voluble gentlemen, Trejo enjoys talking to the press and is not a difficult interview by any means. The roundtable nevertheless started with a slightly awkward moment of silence when a writer who had been patched in via telephone for some reason didn’t come up with the first question and was never heard from again.

Eventually I chimed in with a query, perhaps a bit serious for an opener. I mentioned “Champion” and how, in the film, Trejo discusses how criminals, both inside and outside of prison, are forced to present their natural fear as anger in order to survive in a brutal environment. I wondered if Trejo considered that world of false but convincing bravado to be his first acting class.

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RIP Frank Frazetta (update 2x)

It’s just one of those days. Frank Frazetta has passed on at age 82. He was key artist in the fantasy and science fiction field who, in his own way, had a major impact on the movie world. Though he was primarily known as the painter whose work graced the covers of books by Conan, the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and Tarzan/John Carter of Mars author Edgar Rice Burroughs, he also worked in comics, movie posters, and record album covers, primarily heavy metal. His work doubtlessly influenced its share of film imagery as well. (Princess Leia’s outfit while being held captive by Jabba the Hutt comes immediately to mind.)

Anyhow, below are some random movie-related works by Frazetta, starting with this very Frazetta poster for a Clint Eastwood actioner many would rather forget but I remember fairly fondly. (Of course, I was 15 or so when I saw it.)

frazetta-eastwood-movie-poster-gauntlet1

Much more after the flip.

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The MTV Movie Awards…Bringing People Together

So, just to explain myself real briefly, for the time being you’re going to see the tiny little letters of my name a lot more often ’round these parts, as I’ll be blogging a couple of times a day, every day (or close to it), on movies and such. I’m going to try and keep things short and sweet but my record on those matters is a bit, er, mixed. It’s just very important to me that you know the whole story.

Anyhow, one interesting aspect of this gig is that I’ll be paying attention to things that before might have only gotten a cursory glance from me. Like the MTV Movie Awards.

Not surprisingly, as per Variety, Twilight” won the most awards and High School Musical 3: Senior Year” won stuff as well in the teeny-bopper friendly proceedings, while Andy Samberg and Will Ferrell performed a routine noting the ever increasing filmic phenomenon of movie tough guys who are so cool they refuse to look at explosions. (I haven’t seen the clip, which has already been pulled off YouTube, but that action film cliche goes back at least 13 years to “From Dusk ‘Till Dawn” and continues on into 2007’s “No Country for Old Men” and beyond I’m sure. Personally, I really would like to see Daniel Craig or Russell Crowe as a movie bomber pause to look at an explosion and go, “Wow…that’s so cool; I probably just incinerated a bunch of people, too. Sweet.”)

But none of that is the big news. That would be Sacha Baron Cohen, promoting his upcoming film starring his very, very gay character, Brüno, by doing what he always does — and his target was the rapper most frequently associated with the word “homophobia.” A video is worth a thousand words. (Via Nikki Finke.)

MTV Shows

So, the big question is: Was the event staged and, if so, to what degree? Eminem looked genuinely surprised and angry to me and Nikki Finke’s commenters (those elusive “industry insiders” perhaps?) have theories on how some, but not all of it, might have been spontaneous. He might be an okay actor, but I don’t think his reaction, though somewhat understandable if all is as it appears, does anything for the extremely talented but seriously messed up Shady’s image, so why would he fake that? Also, if a hand-puppet could get him angry, a real Anglo-Israeli’s buttocks and barely covered private parts should really do the trick. Via MTV, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, has already weighed in. (“I sat on Eminem’s face long before Brüno ever did.”) Any other thoughts?

Somewhat more “real” movie news coming later today.

  

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