Past wrongs in­spire a pos­i­tive twist

Danny Trejo has a life­time of ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

IF Danny Trejo’s aim had been just a lit­tle bit bet­ter, he would be dead and not star­ring in Ma­chete Kills, the lat­est B-grade ac­tion movie from di­rec­tor Robert Rodriguez.

In 1968, dur­ing one of his in­car­cer­a­tions dur­ing the early years of his life, Trejo found him­self in the mid­dle of a prison riot at San Quentin Prison. He threw a rock that struck one of the prison guards. Had the stone killed the guard, Trejo would have been given the death penalty.

‘‘In Lt. Givens’ re­port, he wrote one of the pris­on­ers threw the rock. He didn’t name me. So, by the grace of God, I didn’t die. That’s when I ded­i­cated my life to help­ing other peo­ple,’’ Trejo says. ‘‘Since then, ev­ery good that’s hap­pened to me has come as a di­rect re­sult of help­ing some­one else.’’

Af­ter leav­ing prison, Trejo be­gan to coun­sel oth­ers and con­tin­ues to share his mes­sage that how you start in life isn’t how you have to end your life. One perk of be­com­ing such a recog­nis­able ac­tor is that he can go to a ju­ve­nile hall or school cam­pus and grab the at­ten­tion of those who recog­nise him from films like Con Air and Spy Kids.

‘‘When I go to youth au­thor­i­ties, you al­ready see 15, 16, 17-year-old kids with no hope. They al­ready know they are go­ing to spend the rest of their life go­ing in and out of prison,’’ Trejo says. ‘‘So when I show up, and I’ve been where they are sit­ting, you im­me­di­ately see the light of hope go on in their eyes.

‘‘I tell them that ed­u­ca­tion is the key to any­thing you want to do and any prob­lem you have is go­ing to get worse with drugs and al­co­hol.’’

Trejo’s life changed when he was 40 years old. The Los An­ge­les na­tive was of­fered a job as an ex­tra and box­ing in­struc­tor (a skill he learned in prison) on the fea­ture film Run­away Train and he’s been an ac­tor ever since.

For a decade, Trejo ap­peared in a va­ri­ety of TV shows and films, of­ten play­ing one of the bad guys or an an­ti­hero. It was the 1995 movie Des­per­ado that started his trans­for­ma­tion from a tough-look­ing sup­port­ing player into an ac­tion film star. Des­per­ado di­rec­tor Robert Rodriguez knew then he wanted to make a movie with Trejo as the star, but the right ve­hi­cle took years to find.

Trejo played Un­cle Ma­chete in the Spy Kids movies from Rodriguez and then cre­ated the knife-wield­ing char­ac­ter for a fake movie trailer in the 2007 re­lease Grindhouse. Rodriguez and Trejo were told af­ter Grindhouse that they should make a full fea­ture on Ma­chete, which re­sulted in the 2010 film and now the se­quel.

He’s 69 years old, but Trejo shows no signs of slow­ing down. Along with Ma­chete Kills, Trejo has 17 movies ready to be re­leased, two more film­ing and four oth­ers get­ting ready to start. Be­cause Rodriguez shoots at such a quick pace – Ma­chete Kills was filmed in 29 days – there was lit­tle time to rest. That’s the way Trejo likes to work.

‘‘I don’t want to go back to my trailer to sit and wait. To me, a trailer is like a cell,’’ Trejo says. ‘‘If you are a prima donna, you don’t want to be in a Robert Rodriguez movie be­cause he’ll eat you up. His at­ti­tude is ‘Let’s get this done’. Robert loves what he’s do­ing and his love just fil­ters down.’’

It’s easy to spot Trejo’s dis­tinc­tive face in films. Al­though he’s a man of faith, his etched fea­tures and long hair give some peo­ple the wrong im­pres­sion.

‘‘I was shop­ping in Al­bert­son’s one day and I saw th­ese two lit­tle old ladies look­ing at me like I was on Amer­ica’s Most Wanted.

‘‘When I left the store, the po­lice were wait­ing for me. The women had called them. The cops just laughed when they saw it was me,’’ Trejo says.

Ma­chete Kills opens to­day. Ma­chete Kills stars Danny Trejo and Demian Bichir

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