Danny Trejo is a veteran actor of 340+ credits on IMDb. He is famous for playing tough guys, and his work with director Robert Rodriguez in films like Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Machete have turned him into a global star. He has one of the most fascinating backstories in history, a former prison inmate and boxer, he turn towards acting is the stuff of legends. For over 30 years, Trejo has appeared on the big screen going from playing prison extras to getting top billing. In 2013, he joined Mickey Rourke and Anthony Michael Hall in a western horror flick called Dead in Tombstone directed by Roel Reine. Trejo played Guerrero, an outlaw brought back from Hell to collect souls for the Devil. This week, Trejo and Reine reunite for Dead Again in Tombstone. I got a chance to interview the star and we spoke about the film, his amazing story and career, George Clooney, and more.
Check out my interview with Danny Trejo here below.
Geeks of Doom: Hello, sir.
Danny Trejo: What’s up, Homie?
Geeks of Doom: How are you? Very excited to talk with you.
Danny Trejo: Man, I am blessed! It’s another beautiful day in paradise. Where you at?
Geeks of Doom: I am in Brooklyn, New York.
Danny Trejo: Brooklyn! All right, I love New York, man. I honestly believe everyone in New York has ADD because they can’t slow down.
Geeks of Doom: I know what you mean.
Danny Trejo: [laughs] I love New York.
Geeks of Doom: Well, I just finished checking out your new movie Dead Again in Tombstone, and you again play “The Devil’s Outlaw,” which I feel is perfect for you. What is it like playing Guerrero, and what do you like about this character?
Danny Trejo: Well, first of all I love westerns. I love horses and if I had the money I’d buy five. I just love westerns, John Wayne was one of my biggest heroes. I go all the way back to Lash Leroux, that’s before your time. I love westerns, so anytime a western comes up and I get to be a part of it, I’m like absolutely! My first western was a movie called Los Locos with Mario Van Peebles. I had done Dead in Tombstone with Mickey Rourke so when this came up I said absolutely. The director, Roel Reine, I love him, we did Death Race together. So when you work with a director you kinda know what he wants, and he kinda knows what you want and it becomes like a match made in heaven. It’s like a vacation really.
Geeks of Doom: The director has directed two episodes of my favorite show on TV, Blood Drive …
Danny Trejo: Yeah and I’m waiting for him to call me!
Geeks of Doom: Me too because you would fit perfectly on that show. You mentioned your love of horses: My favorite scene in Dead Again in Tombstone is when you come riding in on the buffalo.
Danny Trejo: YEEEAAAH! I was talking with everyone and we were like, has Schwarzenegger ridden a buffalo? No. Has Stallone ridden a buffalo? No. Has anyone ridden a buffalo? No. Give me ’em! [laughs]
Geeks of Doom: I’ve followed your career for a very long time from the mid ‘90s with films like Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, and according to IMDb you’ve been in way more than 300 films. When all is said and done with Danny Trejo, which character or movie role do you want everyone to remember?
Danny Trejo: Well, let me just say, I would’ve loved the movie Machete even if I wasn’t in it. You know what I mean, it was just a great movie and I love Robert Rodriguez. A movie with 8 dead in the first two minutes I love. But I got to say Heat was a movie that kinda pushed my stock up a little bit. I got to work with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer; I got to work with the big guys there. I was in awe of that whole movie. And Michael Mann actually knew my Uncle Gilbert, who was my mentor in Folsom. Because Michael Mann did a movie called The Jericho Mile (1979) in Folsom and that’s where my uncle happened to be.
Geeks of Doom: Your story is a truly unbelievable one, they can make a movie about your life and you becoming an actor. Did you ever imagine 30 years ago that you’d become one the most recognizable genre actors on the planet?
Danny Trejo: Well, thank you, but I never thought I was gonna get out of prison, so my life since 1969 has really just been on God’s time, you know what I mean?
Geeks of Doom: It really is an amazing story. For the Geeks of Doom readers who don’t know, can you give us the quick story of how you got into the acting business?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, a friend of mine invited me to the set of the movie Runaway Train. My friend asked me if I was still boxing, and I said no, I’m training; I’m almost 40 years old, I don’t wanna fight anymore. He tells me they needed someone to train one of the actors how to box. So I started training Eric Roberts how to box for the movie Runaway Train and the director Andrei Konchalovsky saw I could help Eric and Eric was a movie star and movie stars can do whatever they want. So he gave me a job fighting Eric Roberts in that movie. And that was it, that part led to all this other stuff and next I knew I became an actor. I played “Inmate #1” for the first five years of my career. They’re doing a documentary on my life right now, and they’re calling it Inmate #1.
Geeks of Doom: Wow, that’s great. Like I said, you have an amazing story that would work great as a documentary or a film.
Danny Trejo: One of the producers that I met on Machete, she is the one doing the documentary. We were sitting and talking and she says, “Your life is a miracle, Danny.” I said, yeah, to everyone but me. She said it was so interesting and so yeah, we put together this documentary and they went back to some of the prisons and to some of the places where I’ve haunted, you know.
Geeks of Doom: When I said you were one of the most recognizable actors, the thing most will instinctively think of is your tattoo on your chest.
Danny Trejo: That’s the most recognizable tattoo in the world!
Geeks of Doom: It probably is. Is there a story with that, or just something you did when you were younger?
Danny Trejo: Harry Walsh did that tattoo, we did it in like three different prisons. Harry passed away, but the tattoo lives on. And it was his first tattoo, so he hated it. He went on to become an amazing tattoo artist, and you know when you start painting, your first ones you don’t expect to last, but this one did.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, I remember that as far back as From Dusk Till Dawn, which I saw way too young.
Danny Trejo: Ha ha, my kids saw From Dusk Till Dawn when they were 6 and 7.
Geeks of Doom: My dad and I call it the “don’t tell Mom movie” and last year I was able to take my son to see it for the 20th anniversary.
Danny Trejo: Aw, that’s a great film.
Geeks of Doom: Since really that film back in the mid 90s, you’ve become a staple of the horror genre. What is it about horror movies that draws you back in continuously? Even the Dead in Tombstone films are rooted in horror.
Danny Trejo: First of all, I love the horror fans. They are so loyal! They will buy a bad horror movie just to say they have it. They are so loyal; if the monster shows his sock, that thing becomes priceless. I go to Comic-Cons, and horror fests, Wizard World and those conventions, the horror fans are the ones who gravitate, and they’re like ‘Oh my god! You were in From Dusk Till Dawn‘ and really Robert Rodriguez helped restart that whole genre with From Dusk Till Dawn. He brought back the zombies and vampires, before that they really slowed down. You had Lon Chaney, Frankenstein, and Dracula, but he really helped bring them back.
Geeks of Doom: My friends and I met you back at a MonsterMania convention and we remember you were one of the nicest guys there, took pictures with all of us.
Danny Trejo: Yeah, well don’t tell anyone, I got a reputation to protect [laughs out loud]. Let me tell you something, George Clooney, his best work is in From Dusk Till Dawn.
Geeks of Doom: I 1 million percent agree. When I saw Robert Rodriguez at Comic-Con last year I asked him if Clooney gives him credit for jumpstarting his career.
Danny Trejo: It’s so funny, he was doing that movie Up in the Air, the airplane movie, and I was at premiere and I walk up behind him and he just starts screaming “TREJO!”, and talking about how I was in his first movie with him. He was so funny and a really warm guy. I love him. George Clooney is top of the list.
Geeks of Doom: Well, this interview was a real honor for me, I’ve been a huge fan for over 20 years. I really appreciate the time.
Danny Trejo: Thank you, man, God bless.
This in no way felt like a phone-interview with a veteran actor of over 300 films. Danny Trejo comes off as the most carefree, heartfelt, and inviting actor you could imagine. It’s a total detachment from the ruthless characters he so often portrays. But don’t tell anyone I told you. Trejo can be seen as Guerrero, The Devil’s Outlaw, in Dead Again in Tombstone, out on Blu-Ray, DVD, and On Demand Tuesday, September 12th. Here’s hoping that documentary gets done soon, because I can’t wait to check it out.