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.
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.
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