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Machete – Director Robert Rodriguez and star Danny Trejo on a total badass doing badass things

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Machete - Danny Trejo
Machete (Danny Trejo), a legendary ex-Federale with a deadly attitude and the skills to match © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox

It started as an idea on the movie Desperado in 1995. It was made into a trailer for the film Grindhouse, but now … finally … Machete, starring Danny Trejo and directed by Robert Rodriguez is a full-fledged action movie, opened on September 3rd.

Left for dead after clashing with notorious Mexican drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal), Machete (Trejo) escapes to Texas, but what he discovers is a web of corruption that leaves a bullet in a senator, and Machete is a wanted man, forced to clear his name.

Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo spoke about their movie which, I’m sure at times, they wondered whether it would ever get made.

What does it mean for you when you see The Expendables number one at the box office last week?

Machete - Danny Trejo
Machete (Danny Trejo), a legendary ex-Federale with a deadly attitude and the skills to match © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox

Robert Rodriguez: Oh, it’s fantastic. I wrote them over the weekend and said, ‘Thanks, you just paved the way for Machete.’ The studio could see that there is an audience for this kind of movie.

You ask film students what their favorite movie is, they might say a foreign film, but really probably their favorite first film, that got them in love with movies, was probably seeing Rambo or Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a dark theatre as a kid.

Those movies travel really well, that’s why those actors were big stars. So you want to create these kind of entertainments that harkens back to that, where you know who the good guy is and you know who the bad guy is, and they are really just strong, fun entertainment.

Are you psychic? How did you know there would be an immigration issue when this movie came out?

Robert Rodriguez: I am psychic. We knew to come in after The Expendables, we knew that if we put out the movie at this time an immigration issue would rise to the surface, we knew that the stuff with Lindsay Lohan would be perfect timing.

I just tend to make movies very quickly, and after awhile you’re going to end up hitting something that hits at the right time.

I think this one was just a very blessed project from the beginning, and it’s been around forever. When I met Danny I told him about Machete, this was on Desperado in ’95. So for it to come out now, and then for all the timing to hit, it’s very surreal for me.

It felt like once we made that trailer in Grindhouse, it had such a huge response from all fans of all types, who had never seen a Latin superhero, I felt we had to make it.

How anxious were you to make this, Danny?

Machete - Danny Trejo and Steven Seagal
Machete (Danny Trejo) and drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal) have an epic showdown © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox

Danny Trejo: I would call him every other day. I sent him an e mail from England after we did the trailer. I was doing an autograph signing in England, and this guy said, ‘Will you sign my back?’ I said, ‘What?’ And he turned around and he had a tattoo of Machete about that big on his back, so I said to Robert, ‘We have to do this movie.’

Robert Rodriguez: And we had to make it good, or he would have to have his tattoo removed.

Did you feel Robert was teasing you about the idea in ’95, as it didn’t happen until 2010?

Machete - Elise Avellán and Electra Avellán
Nurse Mona (Elise Avellán) and Nurse Lisa (Electra Avellán) take a break from healing to wage war against an army of vigilantes © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox

Danny Trejo: We both got real busy but we never forgot it, and then when we did the trailer it was another innovative idea out of trouble-maker (his affectionate name for Robert), because you usually shoot a trailer after you’ve done a movie. And the response from that trailer was so great.

Was Lindsay Lohan the first one you wanted for the role of April? And was any of this done within the timeline when she was in the headlines?

Robert Rodriguez: No, it was done last summer. I met her in person for a possible role. Basically this movie is very strange, it was very fun to do creatively because I shot the trailer first, and I wanted to use every shot from the trailer in the movie.

I had to reverse-engineer the movie, so I looked at the trailer and I’d go, ‘I need to use this shot of him doing this, how did he get there?’ And then come up with things to do that.

So the scene of Danny in the waterfall with the two beautiful blondes, I was like, ‘Okay, how did he get into that waterfall, and what twists can I put on it so that it surprises an audience?’ And then I thought of Lindsay, because I looked at one of the girls, whose hair was covering her face, and I went, ‘Oh, that could easily be Lindsay if we style her hair the same way. She could be the daughter of the bad guy.

I met with her and we talked about some ideas, I showed her a poster, where I photo-shopped her into a nun’s (costume) with guns, and I said, ‘You’re going to start here, as this man’s troubled daughter, and then turn into this by the end.’ And she was like, ‘I’m there.’ She loved the idea. So I kind of fashioned it for her after that.

Danny Trejo: I’ve known Lindsay for about five, six years, and I hate to say it, she’s basically not doing anything that lot of other girls are doing that are her age, she just has a camera on her all the time, and she keeps getting caught.

What’s Robert like as a director to work with?

Machete - Don Johnson
Von (Don Johnson), a twisted border vigilante leading a small army © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox

Danny Trejo: I’ve been with Robert for fourteen years, we’ve watched our kids grow up, so there are kids running around our sets. My son shadowed Robert to get an eight week course on how to be a director. So the sets aren’t real ego-driven.

Hollywood’s a little different, because you’re here and your ego’s here. When you are in Austin it’s a completely different atmosphere, but you still get to work on time, you do your job. Robert’s crew is like M*A*S*H.  Remember Radar? Robert will go, ‘I want –‘ and it’s already there, everybody is kind of like a machine, so it runs pretty smoothly.

Do you consider this a good B movie?

Robert Rodriguez: There’s a quality to a B movie. Like you saw with The Expendables this weekend, it means that you’re really giving yourself permission to have more fun than you’d normally have. What are you doing? You can go to the opera, or you can go to the rollercoaster.

Some people want to go on the rollercoaster. So that’s what I consider to be the B movie.  (It’s about) getting people into theatres and off their videogames, to see something they don’t usually get to see, which is a total badass doing badass things on the screen.

Danny Trejo: This movie is like a Six Flags (Amusement Park), it’s not just a rollercoaster!