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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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 7

Day 7 of the TCA Press Tour technically began on Day 6: just as the ABC all-star party wrapped up, Fox hosted a cocktail party which doubled as an early check-in for their day of the tour…and, better yet, it was hosted by Will Arnett and Keri Russell, the stars of one of Fox’s upcoming new sitcoms, “Running Wilde.”

You’ll get more details about the show in due time, since there was a “Running Wilde” panel as well, but for now, I’ll just mention that two other individuals affiliated with the show made unexpected appearances at the early check-in: executive producer / co-creator Jim Vallely and co-star Peter Serafinowicz.

I didn’t really get a chance to chat with Russell (she was pretty well surrounded from the moment she arrived), but I did talk to Arnett for a few minutes. Thanks to my wife, though, I ended up having a relatively lengthy conversation with Serafinowicz and Vallely. I knew I’d recognized Serafinowicz, and he quickly reminded me why: he had his own series in the UK, one which many YouTube clips reveal to be extremely hilarious. Indeed, he’s the one who told me I should check them out, particularly his Beatles-related parodies, of which he’s quite proud. No wonder he was cast to play Paul in Robert Zemeckis’s “Yellow Submarine” remake.

In a strange “small world” moment, I also learned that Jim Vallely is the father of Tannis Vallely, the actress who played Janice, the glasses-wearing, cello-playing prodigy on “Head of the Class.” She’s now on the casting side of the business, having worked on such films as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Oceans’ Thirteen,” and “It’s Complicated.” Eventually, my wife and I grew tired and retreated for the evening, but it would only be a few hours until we were back in the thick of it again, this time for the real beginning of Day 7.

Breakfast was brought to us by the casts of “Human Target” and “The Good Guys,” shows which, back in the days when the networks weren’t too cheap to spread their series across a two-day period, would’ve earned their own panels. Instead, we had to settle for chatting with them over bacon and eggs, bagels or donuts, and that sort of thing. In truth, the only person I really had the chance to speak with was Jackie Earle Haley on “Human Target,” and that was mostly because I feel like I kinda sorta know him (he’s friends with Bullz-Eye’s own Ross Ruediger and, as a result, has come to recognize me on sight as “Ross’s friend”), but as you can see, everyone was in the house from both series.

Soon enough, the actors headed out to start their own days, and having finished our breakfast, we took our seats and prepared for the first panel of the morning to begin.

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Greetings to the New Season: Fox

The network upfronts roll on, this time with the fine folks at Fox trotting out their new fall schedule and revealing which new series have been selected to accompany those series which have survived. As of this writing, there are no clips to accompany the descriptions of the new shows, but I’m led to understand that we’ll be getting those in due course, so…oh, wait, scratch that: they just arrived!

Well, with that being the case, you can read the descriptions and check out the clips of what Fox has for us for the upcoming season. Just be sure to let us know what you think about what they’re offering up! Oh, and before you ask, we didn’t forget to include a clip for the last series. They didn’t offer a clip for the last series…but, hell, I don’t even think they’ve cast it yet, so at least they’ve got a good excuse.

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: HOUSE

9 – 10 PM: LONESTAR: a provocative soap set against the backdrop of big Texas oil, from Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, the creators of “Party of Five”; Marc Webb, the director of “(500) Days of Summer”; and creator Kyle Killen. Robert / Bob Allen (newcomer James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of Texas. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies. As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to Cat (Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights”), the beautiful daughter of Clint (Jon Voight, 24, “Midnight Cowboy”), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naïve girlfriend, Lindsay (Eloise Mumford, “Mercy,” “Law & Order: SVU”). In Midland, he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. In Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out. Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any suspicions…so far.

While one brother-in-law, Drew (Bryce Johnson, “Popular,” “The Mentalist”), admires Bob, his other brother-in-law, Trammell (Mark Deklin, “Nip/Tuck,” “Desperate Housewives”), is suspicious of his motives. Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel. With the cons closing in on him, Bob is divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, John (David Keith, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “The Class”); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint. Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat.

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