Danny Trejo’s latest is “Ranchero”, the story of a thirtysomething Jesse Torres (Roger Gutierrez) who, following his parents death, sets his sights on Los Angeles and quickly learns that life in the city isn’t for the faint of heart. Trejo plays the character of gangster Capone, the type of tough, hard-ass role we’ve become accustomed to seeing the veteran actor play via the likes of “Desperado”, “Con-Air”, “From Dusk Till Dawn” and, most notably, “Machete”.
Jonathan Urban caught up with the veteran actor to talk everything “Runaway Train”, the actor’s 1984 feature debut, and “Machete Kills”, due out next year, and all that went on in-between, including “Ranchero”.
Hey, Danny. How are you doing?
Yeah. I’m blessed. Tell me, how are you doing?
Doing well. Doing very well. I just wanna start out by saying how big of fan I’ve been of yours over the last, I guess, 20 or 30 years, actually.
Wow! Thank you, thank you Jonathan. 23 years? So, then you saw Runaway Train?
I have. I have.
You are a fan. That was the number one right there.
Well, you have a really inspiring story that I’d read about too as how you got into movies and everything like that. And I just wanted to tell you how much I, as a fan, admire that too. And I’m pretty sure I can speak for all your other fans. They really admire that about you.
Wow! Thank you, man.
You’re welcome. So, basically, how did you get involved in the Ranchero movie?
Well, actually, a really good friend of mine, Rick, Roger’s brother, Roger’s older brother who… Rick and I were together in the University at San Francisco, called San Quentin State Prison. And he was a good friend of mine and asked if I would help his little brother out in doing this movie. Then I said, “Sure. What you got?” So, he gave me the script. I read it and it was okay. I said, “Hey, well let’s tweak it a little bit and I’ll do it.” And so, they did what I asked and everything and I … It started out as the love for a friend and I’m really glad I did an educational movie.
Well, you play the character of Capone, who is the main bad guy. What can you tell us about Capone?
Well, he is a regular kind of guy with bad ass. This kid wants to date one of his girls and he said “Nah, nah, nah. It ain’t happening.” So then, they’re kind of in this competition of who’s going to win. You know what I mean? I think, you have to see the picture to see that it’s a great little story. The whole story kind of involves somebody coming over and trying to get the American dream and soon realizes that there’s not that many of them for sale anymore.
Exactly. Well, you seem like you’re a real advocate for independent films and do you choose projects based on… What’s your, I guess, the way that you look at a project and how you decide whether it’s something that you wanna be involved in? Does it have to be a big ensemble movie? Do you prefer that or do you like a movie where it’s a smaller movie, but has other good cast and everything?
I kind of look at a project as what’s it about, what’s going on, who’s doing it. A lot of times that I’ve got so many movies that are all low budget Indie films, and first time directors, and student films. So, it’s mainly because I… “Give me what you’ve got.” I’ll do three or four big studio movies a year and that pays the rent. After that, I don’t care. After that it’s just like I’ll do a student film in a minute.
Well, your career has really exploded in the recent years. Do you owe a lot of it to your buddy Robert Rodriguez?
Yeah. Geez, that’s my guy right there. Yep, buddy. We just started on Machete Kills on June 14th and we’re ready to kick ass.
Oh, that’s right. You got the sequel to Machete coming out. He’s also doing Sin City 2. Do you think you might get a cameo on that?
I better. [laughter] If he wants to do Machete 3.
Is there anything you can say about the sequel to Machete?
Well, I’m telling you that the sequel to Machete, Machete Kills is going to be a lot more over the top than Machete. And we’ve got Sofia… I always forget her last name. Vergara, who is a star in her own right.
Well, of course, you’ve got Michelle again, Rodriguez, and Jessica Alba, and Sonia… That girl that played the Colombiana, I forget her name. Zoe Saldana, yeah. So, there’s gonna be quite a cast.
And Jonathan? I get to kiss all of them. [laughter]
It would not be a Machete film if you couldn’t.
Not too shabby. [laughter]
Not too shabby at all.
So, that’s kind of cool.
So, basically, you’re known as a tough guy and you play tough guys. Are there any tough guys that you work with that you would consider tough in real life that you would have out there watching your back? You’ve been in movies with Seagal, Van Damme…
You know what’s so funny? Let me tell you something about tough guys. Tough guys aren’t guys that you think are tough. Tough guys are those that, you can look in their eyes and you’re just not too sure. You’re not too sure what they got. Everybody else, you can look in their eyes. Let me tell you, the three guys in Hollywood that I was never sure of them, I don’t know, okay? Anyone else, I don’t care. But there was Charles Bronson; when you look in his eyes, you couldn’t tell whether you could kick his ass and it would stop there or he would come kill your family. You never knew. Matthew McConaughey is the same damn way. When you look at his eyes and you’re not sure, this guy seems kind of cute, but… George Clooney, you look in his eyes and he’s like the nicest guy in the world but there’s just something there that says, “I will not only kill you, I will come find the guy that dry cleans your clothes and kill him too.” [laughter]
You know what I mean? It has nothing to do… And all these other guys are like, “I know karate.” “Shut your mouth. I’ll slap you, then I’ll slap your mother.” You know what I mean? But there’s those three guys and I’ve sized them up and I’ve sized up some pretty tough dudes in the prisons that I’ve been in and I’ve known who’s who and the who’s what, you know what I mean? But when I look at those three guys, it’s like you’ll never quite know.
Well, it’s interesting that, I guess, you just can’t look at someone and size them up as being a tough guy. It’s really in the eyes and everything like that.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Well, speaking of tough guys because I’ve got to ask this question, obviously with the Expendables 2 coming out this year, can we make a promise to have you in the Expendables 3?
I don’t think that movie’s tough enough for me, is it? [laughter] I think, the last time, they tried to tell everybody I was in The Expendables, in Expendables 1 and Expendables 2, and I remember telling no from the start. I think, the trade said that The Expendables was trying to be what Machete was.
That or they’re trying to remake The Magnificent Seven. It’s either one of those movies, but another question I have is, of all the characters you’ve played, and you’ve played a lot of characters, what character do you just really, really like having played and why is that character important to you?
Are you talking about besides Machete?
Oh, God! I think, this character in Heat I really love.
You really love the Machete character?
Yeah, Machete and then the character in Heat. In Heat with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer.
That was a good role too. I saw one of your latest movies, Bad Ass, recently.
Yeah. Bad Ass was an awesome flick, man.
Very, very great job.
Bad Ass was a good movie. Yeah. Thank you, thank you. And you know, you got to check out one that I did called the Dead in Tombstone. It’s gonna be coming out pretty soon. It’s a film by the director of the Death Race 3 and 2.
Okay. I’ll definitely have to check that out.
It’s a Western and I love Westerns.
Are there any actors that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to work with?
I’ve worked with pretty much all of them, so it doesn’t matter to me. Bring me what you got, I’ll work with them.
Well, you mentioned Charles Bronson. Are there any actors like him that unfortunately are no longer with us that you would have liked to work with?
Well, I worked with Bronson twice already before he passed away, and then, I would have loved to work with John Wayne. I would have loved to work with him.
Yeah. I think, a lot of actors would like to work with him. Well, as far as Ranchero, since that’s coming out today, what can you tell people that would get them to go out there and see it?
I think, they will have a lot of fun. I think, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. This is a really good movie. I think, they’re gonna really, really just see what the struggle is like of somebody trying to make it day by day by day, living mouth-to-mouth is a real deal. I think, it’s gonna be a great little movie. It’s won quite a few of little awards now.
Yeah. I know it’s won quite a few of the Cine in the independent awards, and it looks like a movie that everyone should be checking out. Well, I appreciate your time, Danny.
Thank you again.
And I wish you the best. And definitely, we’ll be looking forward to you and Ranchero. We’ll pick that up and see that, and see you in Machete Kills.
Awesome. And don’t forget Dead in Tombstone.
Dead in Tombstone and…
And Bad Ass and Bad Ass 2.
And we will be crossing our fingers to see you in Sin City 2.
Awesome, you’ve gotta help me. Hey, in fact, you can go ahead and tweet, “Robert, let’s see Trejo in Sin City 2.”
I will do that. [laughter]
That would be awesome. I owe you, buddy.
Thank you for all the films.
“Ranchero” is now on DVD