Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo Interview, Machete

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Machete was given an offer he couldn’t refuse. Yesterday he was a decent man living a decent life. Now he is a brutal savage who must slaughter to stay alive. Machete knows the score, he gets the women, and he kills the bad guys. Danny Trejo stars in his first lead role as the title character in this action-packed exploitation feature co-written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis and inspired by the fake trailer released with 2007’s Grindhouse.

Machete (Trejo), a Mexican Federale turned renegade, roams the streets of Texas looking to do yard work in exchange for money after a shakedown from drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Reluctantly, he takes an offer from local businessman and spin doctor Michael Benz (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate the corrupt Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) who is exploiting illegal immigrants. Double crossed and on the run, Machete braves the odds with the help of Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a saucy taco slinger; Padre (Cheech Marin), his “holy” brother; and April (Lindsay Lohan), a socialite with a penchant for guns. All the while he is being tracked by Sartana (Jessica Alba), a sexy ICE agent with a special interest in the blade slinger.

MoviesOnline sat down with Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodríguez and Robert Rodriguez to talk about their new film. Danny explained how being a consistent badass paid off and helped him get all the beautiful women. Michelle talked about what it was like to play a sexy badass and how she liked handling the big guns but wasn’t allowed to play with Machete’s machetes. Robert talked about his plans to take Machete off the planet and into outer space in the upcoming Machete franchise: Machete Kills, Machete Kills Again and Machete in Space. He also updated us on the status of Red Sonja and The Jetsons.

Q: Danny, is it difficult to top yourself in each new project since you’re consistently a bad ass?

Danny: I just keep getting beautiful women and beautiful women and there’s the top. I don’t know how I’m going to top that.

Q: Michelle, this is the first time you’ve been both badass and super feminine, how do you do that?

Michelle: It’s amazing. As soon as you show somebody your tits, it’s like “Whoa, you’re like a girl!” “Well I’m like a chick, man. Yeah, for sure.” It’s interesting because I waited a really long time on purpose to reveal my body in any way just because I never wanted that to be the reason why I made it to the place where I am today. So now that I’ve established that I pretty much made my way here respectfully, I can do whatever the hell I want. If I want to do a porno, I can gladly do it tomorrow and be completely comfortable with it. But that’s the whole thing, it took me 10 years to get comfortable, to that place where I can be chill with my own body.

Q: What about you, Danny?

Danny: The first five years of my career I never had a shirt on. I was inmate number one.

Q: Robert, how did you feel about taking your renowned cooking skills and serving fans at Comic Con?

Robert: It’s been great and the fans respond by coming and saying…

Michelle: You didn’t cook anything.

Robert: Yeah, I did. I worked on those tacos.

Michelle: You did?

Robert: Yeah, I had to make sure they lived up to the name. That was a great taco company that brought the tacos, but I definitely got to sample them and make sure they were up to snuff. They were really good. The people that came up were big fans of the Cooking School and they said “We can’t believe you’re cooking and serving us tacos.” It was fun.

Danny: They’re called Knock Out Tacos. They’re on 6th & Hill in Los Angeles on Friday nights.

Michelle: You know all them good eat spots, man!

Q: Danny, a few years ago when this was still in the germination stage, you were saying “C’mon, Robert, you promised.” Now that this is done and it’s coming out finally, how satisfying is it to know that it finally got made?

Danny: It feels awesome. It’s been so much fun. I’ve worked with Robert on 10 movies now. He’s been grooming me for this role since Desperado. In Desperado, I was the quiet, silent type. I never got a line and I begged him for a line and he said “No, no, no.” But I understand now.

Robert: I remember in Desperado, he’d say “Gimme a line, coach. Gimme a line.” “No, no. You’re too nice of a guy. People hear you talking and it will blow the whole illusion. Don’t talk. You’ll be much scarier.”

Q: Obviously this is something you wanted to see through. Was there ever a point where you thought this wouldn’t happen?

Robert: Well I thought once we made the trailer that that was as far as it would go. I thought “Well at least we made the trailer and people enjoyed it. Maybe we should just stop there.” It got such a huge reaction and they saw all the good parts of the trailer. But no, people wanted it so much and kept asking for it that we decided to go ahead and try, and then we got this amazing cast. The story kept growing and the script kept getting even better and the movie just took on a life of its own. It’s best when that happens because then it feels like you’re not even driving the car anymore. It’s driving itself and flying all over the place.

Q: Robert, you’ve worked with all star casts before, but this one is all your first choices – I mean, De Niro, Seagal, Lindsay Lohan – were there any people that you tried to get in but it just didn’t work out?

Robert: Who would be the first choice above De Niro? I want to ask you that. “Okay, he said no. Let’s go to De Niro.” (Laughs) These were first choices. They weren’t even first choice. It was like what the fuck, dream choice. Let’s see, maybe he’s drunk and says yes. But no, it was amazing. I sent him the script. He just happened to have that time off. He’d heard about my place. The nice thing is I haven’t done so many movies with other actors. I’ve built up a lot of goodwill and people have told other actors that when you go to Austin, you get to be in a role that you don’t normally get and get to do things that you don’t normally get to do. So people have heard about that. You get to work with filmmakers who have the final say. It’s not being told by a studio or a number of producers who are going to come and change their mind and you sign up for something exciting and different and then it gets pushed towards the middle and made more straight down the middle. This always ends up staying edgy and cool and that’s what people like about it. So he was interested and he wanted to come try it out. Once you hire De Niro, then everybody else wants to be in a De Niro movie. So you go to everybody else and say “Hey, a De Niro movie!”

Michelle: Don’t sell yourself short, man. People love you and wanna come play.

Danny: Everybody wants to be involved because of you.

Robert: Thank you. It really helped to know and then also Danny, everybody has had him in their movie before. Seagal has killed him a few times. De Niro put a bullet in his head in Heat. They all figured they had to come and return the favor with Danny front and center. I mean, who hasn’t been in a Danny Trejo movie?

Q: Your characters are always so fearless. Is there anything that scares you? What is the biggest fear you have in your own life?

Robert: What scares you, Danny?

Danny: Handcuffs.

Michelle: Ignorant people.

Danny: “Alright Mexican, get out of the car!” That scares me quite a bit. (Laughs)

Q: Robert and Danny, this is a character that appeared years ago in Spy Kids. What does it say about you as a director, Danny as an actor, and this character in this film and the fact that it’s recurring with a completely different tone and meaning?

Robert: Well really what it was is I came up with the Machete character. I’ve had this character or somebody code named Machete since I met Danny during Desperado and we talked about making a movie like that and I didn’t think we’d ever get to it. So when I went to make a Spy Kid movie and he was in it and he needed a code name, I thought as a nod to that project we’d always tried to get off, we’ll call that character…his code name will be Machete too. So it’s not the same character but it was just that we were always talking about Machete. “Well maybe this is the only way that we get to make Machete is in a kid’s movie.” And then we did the trailer and thought that would be it and now it’s here.

Michelle: It goes to show how relentless your mind is.

Robert: How relentless it is when it’s on a project. It will not stop.

Danny: Every character I’ve ever played in a Robert Rodriguez movie refers to a knife. I was Razor Charlie, I was Cuchillo, I’m Machete, I was Navajas.

Robert: Butter knife will be the next movie.

Danny: Butter knife will be the next one.

Q: Michelle, What’s harder – working with an eye patch or working with Navi?

Michelle: No, working with an eye patch or working with Navi…

Robert: What’s harder?

Michelle: Gosh, you know what, it’s very natural for me. I’m in my element. I wouldn’t give anything a tough category. It’s pretty easy.

Robert: She’s like “Bring it on!” When I showed her the size of the gun I wanted her to carry around and she was like “Bring it on! I can carry that with one arm.” It doesn’t even fit in the poster it’s so big. It goes out of the frame of the poster.

Michelle: Dude, that thing is huge.

Q: Being that all three of you are Latinos, is it cool to do a movie where you can party with all the car clubs and taco trucks and everything that’s part of that culture?

Robert: Absolutely. It’s a dream come true. I remember when I started in the business, it really didn’t exist in cinema, and now it seems so normal and everyone’s invited to the party. To see the response the Machete trailer got from everybody – not just Latins – because no one wants to go see just a Latin movie, not even Latins. They don’t want to feel like they’re just a side group. They want to feel they’re part of the world culture so you want to make an entertainment that’s just like with the Spy Kid movies for those that are Latin, it means a lot to them to see Latin superheroes on the screen. But for those who aren’t, it’s just a great, entertaining movie that has a different flavor than what they normally see. I mean, James Bond was British and everybody loves James Bond. So to give it a very specific identity in a way makes it more universal. So, for us, that’s great.

Michelle: I think more people need to be thinking like that because honestly you know you really pigeon hole yourself when you start closing things off to the Latino market or the Black market. Think more along the lines of what Robert does with his casts and what people like J.J. Abrams do with things like Lost or Heroes. It’s really all about multi-cultural and bringing the world together as one. It sounds epic but in reality it should be an everyday thing, especially for city folk. We see it every day. I mean, look at us, look next to you. You’ve got everybody here so let’s start thinking more like that because that old mentality needs to go bye bye. It’s old news.

Q: Robert, did you consider doing any rewrite to the script after the Arizona law?

Robert: I’d already shot all of Machete.

Q: Was there any reshooting after the Arizona law?

Robert: No, not after that. I did finish some scenes that I hadn’t finished – mainly just Danny chopping more people up. But no, not at all. There was really nothing to tie into that. There was a trailer I was able to cut to show – because one of the characters is very similar. It’s Robert De Niro’s character but it’s not the full story. It’s just his sideline story. He just takes a very real issue that he doesn’t have an answer for and exploits it to divide people in order to get more votes. That’s all it’s for. It’s just political grandstanding. But I thought I was doing something fictional. I didn’t think it happened in real life but obviously it does. It’s a very fun movie and there’s nothing to change because it’s not a political movie.

Q: Is there any truth to you being involved with the Deadpool project?

Robert: As far as Deadpool, they did let me read an early draft of the script. It hasn’t really gone out yet to people so I got a privileged viewing because I was working on Predators. No, I haven’t decided if I will actually develop that or not.

Michelle: Deadpool is a cool comic book.

Q: You mentioned unity with films and all the controversy going on with immigration laws, how do you feel about filmmaking and using that to combat civil injustice and ignorance? Have you thought about getting involved?

Robert: Well it’s not anyone’s fault that there’s ignorance. It’s a very complicated issue and people have a very visceral reaction to it. There are a lot of issues and a lot of sides to it. What’s most troubling – everyone wants an answer to it – who wouldn’t want for it to be solved and that’s why there is such a strong reaction. When someone stands up and says “I have a solution,” people get behind that person, but if it’s a bogus solution, then that’s where it’s wrong headed, because there is no border. I live near the border. I know the border very well. This idea that you can put up a Berlin or a Great China wall, it just shows how Washington doesn’t get it. There’s a lot of things people need to know about the real issues, about just the enormous amount of corruption that goes on, and no one’s willing to tackle that. So to grandstand and to make it look like you’re taking a stance for political reasons just to get more votes, it gives people a false hope that there is a solution and actually they’re really not doing anything about it. It’s just another way to not do anything about it for a long time which is very frustrating for everybody.

Michelle: And as far as making movies about the subject matter, the only way you could ever get away with addressing situations like that is through comedy, I feel, or through exploitation films. Just make your statement, people agree with certain aspects of it. You can voice both sides of the story and just make an entertaining film about it. Maybe it’ll inspire people to take action. Maybe it won’t. But, at the end of the day, I really feel it’s not the entertainment industry’s role to play in politics. It’s the entertainment industry’s role to imitate life because it is an art form. I just feel that when you start getting too political with things, you’re Oliver Stone. You know what I’m saying? So go be Oliver Stone. Go hang out with him and make movies. He’s cool. I like him. He’s very political.

Q: In your approach to filmmaking and your reputation as a rebel filmmaker, what do you think about YouTube now that anybody can take a digital camera and upload their short?

Robert: I love that it opens it up. We were just talking about that – the camera that people can use to make a very professional looking movie. I’ve shot with those. They look amazing. You can make very polished looking product that can compete. It really comes down to what it’s always been about – the idea, a good story. Hollywood is always looking for people who can tell a good story so if that opens up the playground and the viewing beyond even film festivals, then that’s fantastic.

Q: Robert, are there any other comic properties that you’d be interested in getting your hands on?

Robert: Comic properties I’m interested in? There aren’t. Well at least none I can talk about. (Laughs)

Q: Whatever happened to Red Sonja?

Robert: Red Sonja is being done by Millenium. Originally they decided they wanted to do Red Sonja first and then Conan, but then they switched and said let’s do Conan first and then follow it with Red Sonja.

Q: Are you still doing The Jetsons?

Robert: No, I developed it for a while but then ended up doing Machete.

Q: What’s your favorite gear?

Michelle: I think that modified gun you see on the poster, the invention of the props unit I think is my favorite weapon – other than his machetes, of course. But those are his weapons and I don’t get to play with his machetes.

Q: What about geek gear?

Michelle: I love anything Steve Jobs makes up but I hate the fact that he makes me wait for the good stuff – like quad processors or a damn frickin’ camera or USB on the iPad. I mean, c’mon, it’s just a little USB attachment. Give me a break. You know what I’m saying? I want to add some memory to this 34 little bit of gigs I got here. So I do get frustrated sometimes when I’m racked up with a bunch of sheep waiting for the next product knowing that they could do way better right now with the capabilities they have. Why don’t they just release it? But I guess they gotta make money so I’ll be patient.

Q: A machete is tool that’s always been associated with worker revolts and revolution, I was wondering if you worked that mythology into any of the characters or the role or is it just a badass weapon to kill people with?

Robert: It’s a badass weapon that does take on that very symbolic meaning which you’ll see at the end of the movie when everyone is holding up the machete after they’ve conquered a particular problem they have. It’s a very small problem but it speaks to a very universal problem.

Michelle: Where in history do they use that machete? I mean, Viet Nam, South America, the cartels, where else? Jungles, Cuba, Philippines, Haiti.

Q: Do you see Machete as being a possible franchise? Is that something you would want to do?

Robert: I always said there’d be Machete and then there would be Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. And you always got to end with Machete in Space. That would have to be the last one. It starts with Machete hanging onto a rocket ship outside of a rocket ship and Machete is in an alien movie.

Michelle: Doesn’t it crack you up when he puts that voice on it?

Robert: You can sell anybody on anything if you give them that voice. It’s the voice that sells and makes you go to the theater.

Q: How was it to work with Lindsay Lohan?

Robert: She was wonderful. She really was.

Q: Will she be involved with promoting the film?

Robert: I’m sure she will.

Machete opens in theaters on September 3rd.

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