Danny Trejo is back as the Mexican one-man killing machine in "Machete Kills," which opens Friday. The sequel ramps up the action with several James Bond-style stunts and two formidable foes: a crazed former cartel leader (Demian Bichir), who's got a mountain-top lair, and a power-mad supervillain scientist (Mel Gibson), who'd be at home in any 007 film.
If all goes well, Trejo and director Robert Rodriguez will be back with "Machete Kills Again... In Space," the third film that's teased at the beginning of "Machete Kills." We sat down with the film's star to discuss why Machete don't text, his love of "The Road Warrior," and why a Rodriguez set isn't like any other in Hollywood.
Moviefone: You're the Mexican James Bond!
Trejo: [Laughs] The film, if you look at it, has a lot of James Bond references. It's got "Star Wars "references and Mel's character in "Road Warrior." I love it. I love the honor that Robert's bestowed on me [of being Machete.]
How would you describe Machete?
He's a badass. [Laughs]
Is it true even your mother started called you Machete?
Yeah. My mom, before she passed away, started calling me Machete. I would say, "Mom!" And she'd say, "Oh, you're Machete." And I'd say, "Okay."
Do you give Robert ideas what you'd like to do in these movies?
Oh yeah. It's funny, because I was trying to get ahold of Robert at Comic-Con and I couldn't get ahold of him. I finally ran into him and I said, "Robert! Why don't you answer your phone, man?" He said, "Danny, every time you call me, I'm in a meeting or I'm shooting something. Text me." And I said, "Machete don't text." And it ends up in the movie. And this time, I said, "Robert, what about some kind of helicopter scene?" So there's three.
So it's true, Danny Trejo does not text. Or tweet?
No. [He shows off his old-school non-smart flip phone as proof.]
You mentioned "Road Warrior." I assume you're a fan.
Oh yeah. That's what I love about Robert. We're both real big fans of action movies. I don't know about Robert, but don't take me to a drama. My kids love to go to the movies with me because we only watch fun movies. Otherwise, we're all like [groans], "They're kissing!"
So how was it working with Mel Gibson?
When Robert yelled "Action!" I threw my sword down. I said, "I'm not fighting William Wallace. He freed Scotland!" And even Mel laughed. Robert Rodriguez movies are fun, even for the people on them. The minute someone gets there, there's no such thing as a prima donna or a diva, because you come into this family. Everybody is there to have a good time.
You've been in all of Robert's films?
Every one but two. And mine made the most money. [Smiles.] He knows that.
So you are totally on board for "Machete Kills Again... In Space."
Absolutely. This thing came out of an idea Robert had 20 years ago. He just said, "There's a character that you don't even have to act in. It's your face, it's your walk, it's your talk." And we just honed it for 20 years. Then we put it in "Spy Kids" where he was Uncle Machete. And then when they needed a trailer for "Grindhouse," we did this and then the audience just demanded it. After "Machete," they demanded we make "Machete Kills." Now we'll see if they like this one and if they love it, then we'll be in space.
And where would Machete go after that?
Hey, we can go to the bottom of the ocean. [Laughs] I think that would be kinda cool. Fight some kind of ocean monsters and stuff.
Now you're working with Demian Bichir, an Oscar-nominated guy who does do serious dramas. It looks like he had fun cutting loose as this really over-the-top character.
He loved it. We just haf a blast. Me and him hung out. He's a brilliant actor. You just watch the way he chews that olive. I stopped Robert while we were filming and told him, "See, you don't learn that shit at Strasberg." He was just so believably over-the-top. I loved him. I visited him on the set of his series, "The Bridge." He's amazing. I loved working with him. We've got all these guys, Carlos Estevez, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., who are like, kickass dudes.
And Lady Gaga.
She was awesome. If you look, [as El Cameleon] she has a tattoo that says "Machete must die." You never know what to expect, but she was awesome. She just came up, hit it, and left. She cooks her own food, she's very health-conscious. She steamed vegetables and all that. When she was packing to leave, I asked, "What are you going to do with all those pots and pans?" She said, "I can't take them with me." They're the studio's, really. She couldn't take them, so they're at my house. I've got a shelf with Lady Gaga's pots and pans. [Grins].
How have you and Robert changed movies?
I would say Robert has done more for the Latino community than anybody in the past 50 years. And I think he's done more for independent filmmaking than anybody in the last 50 years. The difference between Robert and a lot of movie people is that Robert wants to share. Everybody else wants to keep their secrets, but if Robert comes up with a new way of shooting, he immediately just tweets it. That's what I love about him. He has no secrets. His movie sets sometimes have tours! Any other studio has an armed guard and you need three forms of ID, but [on Robert's] sometimes there's not even a guard at the gate. People come in, "Hi, can I have an autograph?" We get all kinds of tourists. He tells them to be quiet and they do.
I don't think anyone's foolish enough to stalk Machete.
You've got to remember, if they're pretty, it's not stalking.
What else have you got coming up?
I have a TV series with George Lopez called "Saint George," it comes out in January. And then I have "Badass 2" coming out and then I'm going to be working on "Badass 3." And then I've got "Dead in Tombstone," a cowboy movie with Mickey Rourke. It's coming out on the 22nd on DVD.
Who's a bigger badass, you or Mickey Rourke?
Well, I've known Mickey for a long time. And he knows.
He was in the first "Expendables" and Mel Gibson's going to be in the third one. Were you ever asked to be part of that?
They said I was in the "Expendables" for a long time and then I wasn't. But Machete's not expendable. [Laughs]