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Exclusive: Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo Talk Machete Kills

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From Desperado to the Spy Kids franchise and beyond, Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo have largely become household names due mostly to the work they’ve done together.

With the sequel to Machete about to hit theaters, Machete Kills expands on their body of work and might remind audiences just why they fell in love with the indie spirit of Rodriguez and the stoic badassery of Trejo in the first place. Shortly before the premiere of Machete Kills at this year’s Fantastic Fest down in Austin, TX, Rodriguez and Trejo sat down with Dread Central for a few minutes before they were rushed out to meet the fans on the red carpet.

Read our Machete Kills review!

DC: So, I actually remember being on the set of Predators at Troublemaker a few years ago. Danny, I didn’t get to interview you; I got to interview everybody else. And I remember you were editing Machete at the time and you wouldn’t tell me a thing about it, Robert. I was wondering if you had plans all along to do three films?

Robert Rodriguez: I didn’t have plans. It wasn’t until we were actually mixing the movie. In the final mix, I’m there on the mix stage and I’m a few days from finishing the movie. And he’s riding off at the end with the girl and the credits roll, and I thought, ‘Man, it really feels like it needs another punch!’ So let’s do a couple title cards. Not just ‘Machete will return!’ but Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. And everyone would think that obviously they’re not going to make those but it’s funny to imagine – Machete just going on and on. But that caught people’s imagination and people would ask me at Comic-Con if I was going to do another one … another two. I said, ‘Well, I’ve been kicking around this idea and this image of Machete in space’ so it was going to be Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again… In Space and people erupted and applauded. They were really excited about the space one. So I thought, ‘God, I’m excited about that, too. We might have to do, like, a hybrid double feature of some sort.’ And we started talking about doing another one.

DC: Now, were you guys both a fan of the old luchador horror movies starring El Santo and all of that stuff?

Danny Trejo: Oh, of course, man.

DC: I’m honestly not that familiar with them, but you guys did grow up with them?

RR: Yeah, we wanted to have some kind of homage to that.

DC: I’m always curious how long the shoot is at Troublemaker.

RR: Fast. Do you know how long a film shoots? About how long they are? Like an action movie?

DC: Probably a few months, something like that.

RR: Usually, an action movie’s about 60 to 100 days. Like Django Unchained was like 160 days. When you have a lot of actors, it usually takes longer. This was 29 days that we shot. It’s the fastest I’ve shot since El Mariachi. It’s even ten days shorter than the first Machete. But just to get that kind of scope and scale, we had to just shoot faster and longer to have the budget to make more sets and hire more actors and make it feel… we went really big with it.

DC: Have you ever thought about doing a documentary about Troublemaker and the whole process? A kind of filmmaker’s camp about it?

RR: People have always kind of offered to document people making this movie and I’m always like, ‘Man, I’m going to be so crazy, I’m not going to have any time to devote to it.’ So we never really did it. But I have a television network now, so that would be a whole other show. Like a reality show just showing the work we do at that studio because it’s really fun. A lot of times you’re pulling in the crew and making them act in the movie. A lot of cool stuff happens on a day to day basis.

DC: Danny, would you mind having other cameras following you around like that when you’re already having to go on set and get cameras shoved in your face? Would you be on a reality show?

DT: Hey, it don’t matter to me. (laughs)

RR: Hey, there are cameras following him around already!

DT: You know, I’ll do whatever we decide on. It’s my job and I love my job. I love working. I can’t stand not working. It just kind of drives me crazy and then I drive everybody else crazy. So my agent and everybody just say, ‘Keep him working!’

DC: Oh, it’s insane. I’m shocked by the amount of work that you do. But I think, when it comes down to it, the work that you’ve done with Robert is the stuff that you’re going to be remembered for and this role, especially being the title role.

DT: Machete has washed out everything else I’ve done. Certain people say, ‘I loved you in Con-Air’ or ‘I loved you in Heat.’ But, in the end, 90 percent of people are, ‘Man, Machete’ is the shit. They drive by my house and honk the horn, ‘Machete!’ And my Mom was calling me once and called me that. That’s my name.

DC: And if “Machete” is on your tombstone, you’re okay with that?

DT: Oh, that would be kinda cool.

RR: Here lies Machete, but Machete don’t lie. (laughs)

DT: (laughing) Oh, that was great.

DC: Nice. One thing that I liked about the movie a lot is the fact that it just completely turned and went sci-fi. It really got more energetic. It kind of combined the creativity that you were doing in the Spy Kids universe – all the machinery and gadgets that you had and you were able to bring that back a little bit. Were some of the weapons and designs that were used originally going to be used for Nerverackers? I remember Steve Joyner showing me some of the guns from that and these looked very familiar.

RR: None of those specifically, but one of the ideas for one of them: the inside-out gun was something that I had in Nerverackers but it was called something else. But it was a whole new design. I don’t think we’d designed it yet for Nerverackers. But the other ones, yeah, it’s always hard to try and come up with new gadgets because we’ve created so many of them. In fact, I’m starting to borrow from old movies. Like, I grabbed the crotch gun from From Dusk Till Dawn and gave it to Sofia. I was like, ‘This is a good design; it could be multi-purpose!’

DC: I guess [Tom] Savini was okay with that?

RR: Well, I came up with it so… (laughs)

DT: It wasn’t Savini’s…

RR: I’m sure he was fine with it.

DC: So, was there any discussion about Mel Gibson taking a ride in Machete’s Mad Max-inspired automobile?

RR: It wasn’t Mad Max-inspired. I had seen this story about these armored vehicles from the cartels that were impounded. They looked like Road Warrior. They found them all around the Border. I remember they had an El Camino and it looked kinda cool like somebody had taken pride in building an armored vehicle for the cartel. When I saw it, it was this rust brown and, to me, it looked like a Road Warrior vehicle. There’s no way Mel would ever have this in a script so I thought maybe if he impounded it off camera and somehow he transported it and it says ‘For Inspection’ or some nonsense just to get him to get into it for no real darn reason except to kind of see Machete escape. And Mel was game for it. He saw the car and thought it was really cool. But it wasn’t planned that way at all. It’s just one of those things so people would say, ‘How come Machete’s in that car; that’s a Mel car.’

DC: Well, I know, Danny, you especially and Tom [Savini] are just ripped in the film. I was thinking it would be great if you two could put out a mock workout tape from Robert – like a Bubba Smith inspired thing. Have you guys ever worked out together or is that an uncomfortable question to answer?

DT: (laughs) No, I’m not uncomfortable. Me, I work out whenever I can. I’ll go into the gym at one o’clock in the morning and work out. In fact, I work out so hard that I tried to put a gym in my house just to wake up in the morning, work out, and go to work; come home late, can’t sleep and work out. I have a little routine that I’ve been doing since I was about sixteen years old.

DC: So you’ve just been doing the same thing and doing it forever.

DT: Yeah. You have to stretch, you have to do… for anybody over forty, cardio is one of the best things even if it’s just walking around the block a couple of times.

DC: Yeah, my Dad does the Jack LaLanne stuff, like the arm circles…

DT: Yeah, same thing. Jack LaLanne, I love that guy. God man, he was like ninety and he was still like, ‘C’mon, you’ve got to start juicing! Just juice!’

DC: I remember being a fan of yours, Danny, and seeing Desperado when I was in high school; but then seeing Champion, the documentary that you did, it really kind of showed me the path that you’ve been down. My Dad does prison ministry and I was wondering if you’re still talking to inmates as well?

DT: Absolutely, absolutely. I still go to high schools and juvenile halls and prisons. We do that every chance we get. I still work for a rehab in Glendale called Western Pacific Rehab. So nothing’s changed there. This is what I do.

RR: Do you have any more for me? I have to get to the premiere?

DC: Yeah, I was curious about Marko Zaror. It was great seeing him in the film. Did you get to know him when he was at Fantastic Fest with Mandrill and all of his films?

RR: Yeah, I’m a big fan of his so I wrote him a special part. He gets the script and the character is Zaror. I liked the name, too! I liked everything about him.

DT: God, he was fantastic.

RR: It’s always hard finding villains. It’s Mel Gibson in this one but Machete is just too strong a character. He needed to go against something superhuman and Marko’s the real deal.

DC: Yeah, he had to fight him multiple times, literally. How much of the cast is going to be returning for the next one?

RR: Well, well, he’s already thinking about the third one! (laughing)

DC: Well, I got excited about the idea! I really do like the last half of the film and it really just felt like it got injected with something and it seems like you guys would be excited to do it. But, yeah, obviously it’s the fucking premiere tonight so I know it’s a little bit of a bother to ask.

RR: If I had a good story, I think everybody would return. They had so much fun and it was painless. Sofia [Vergara] was there two days, Charlie [Sheen] was there two days, Mel [Gibson] was there three days. They have a lot of fun and it’s kind of hard to say no because they all have a great time.

DC: With Troublemaker, and the legacy of Troublemaker, when people look at that banner and Quick Draw films, what do you want them to remember about your films and your catalogue?

RR: Well, it’s kind of fitting when you see it come on and there’s an explosion behind it. It’s explosive, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s action, it’s unexpected, it’s renegade, it’s independent. There’s a lot of creative freedom and it feels very free. You don’t see that logo and see some kind of straightforward thing; it’s always kind of an oddity. So I think it’s become a brand and I’ve been trying to do that and become a bit of a brand.

DC: Okay, well, I will let you guys go.

RR: Thank you, man. Good stuff.

Machete Kills is directed by Robert Rodriguez (Machete, Sin City, Spy Kids franchise) from a screenplay by Kyle Ward based on a story by Marcel Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez. The film stars Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Carlos Estevez/Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demián Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., William Sadler, Marko Zaror, and Mel Gibson.

Synopsis:
In Machete Kills, Danny Trejo returns as ex-Federale agent Machete, who is recruited by the President of the United States for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man – he must take down a madman revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and anarchy across the planet.

Machete Kills

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Night of the Living Dead 4k and The Silence of the Lambs Come to the Criterion Collection

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It’s been a long time coming for these two classics. Especially Night of the Living Dead, after the ridiculously bad transfer put out by Mill Creek Entertainment whose transfer was supposedly remastered from a new 2K scan. I swear I thought it was some kind of a joke when I first put it on to watch. In any event…

IndieWire is reporting that horror classics Night of the Living Dead and The Silence of the Lambs will be added to the 2018 Criterion Collection, a hallmark label for home video cinephiles.

According to the site Criterion will release a new 4K digital restoration of The Silence of the Lambs, which has been approved by the movie’s cinematographer Tak Fujimoto. Included on the DVD and Blu-ray sets are 35 minutes of deleted scenes and audio commentary from 1994 featuring Demme, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas. Night of the Living Dead will also be released in 4K, with never-before-seen 16mm dailies included as a bonus feature(!).

These will be added February of 2018.

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review: A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

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