The Origins of Machete: How Danny Trejo Went From Convict to Action Hero

Danny Trejo didn't grow up wanting to be an actor. He wanted to be a boxer, a talent he developed growing up in a rough area of East Los Angeles.

His plans detoured when he landed in San Quentin State Prison for a crime he didn't commit. (OK, actually he probably committed it. That just sounded better, or at least more dramatic.)

But this dark chapter in Trejo's life did have a happy ending: Screenwriter Edward Bunker was also doing time and noticed Trejo's boxing skills. Bunker later landed him a job training Eric Roberts to box for "Runaway Train" (1985) and director Andrei Konchalovsky gave Trejo a small role in the movie. You can see him boxing Roberts in the trailer.

Trejo continued getting acting gigs. They led him to his second-cousin, Robert Rodriguez, and a role as Navajas (that's Spanish for "Blades") in 1995's "Desperado."

Rodriguez said he began writing the script for "Machete" in 1993 after casting Trejo as the evil knife thrower.

"When I met Danny, I said, 'This guy should be like the Mexican Jean-Claude Van Damme or Charles Bronson, putting out a movie every year, and his name should be Machete," the director has said.

Instead, Rodriguez became busy directing "Spy Kids" (2001). But he cast Trejo as a character named – you guessed it – Machete, the kids' inventor uncle who helps save the day in all three films.

After Quentin Tarantino got the idea to include fake trailers in their double-feature "Grindhouse" (2007), Rodriguez returned to his original gritty vision of the character.

Audiences watching "Grindhouse" went nuts for the "Machete" trailer and Rodriguez immediately announced plans to turn it into a feature-length, direct-to-DVD movie. It, of course, blossomed into something more, as Rodriguez teamed with Fox for a theatrical release.

At 66, and after appearing in well over 100 films (usually as a nameless thug or bad guy), Danny Trejo finally gets his first starring role, as a renegade Mexican Federale battling for illegal aliens in the United States.  The "Mexploitation" film hits theaters with one of the year's most intriguing ensembles, including Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan and Steven Seagal in supporting roles.

We doubt anyone will argue with the fact that he deserves it.

Latest News