Exclusive Q&A: Danny Trejo on Rob Zombie and “MACHETE: THE SERIES”!Features/Interviews,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
With the recent release of FANGORIA Legends Presents: Rob Zombie, FANGORIA sought out some of Zombie’s most trusted repertory actors to speak on their experiences with the horror rock maestro. Of course, there are few actors who as prolific in Zombie’s films as they are in mainstream exposure as Danny Trejo. In our exclusive one-on-one chat, Trejo opened up about working with Zombie, the original fate of his HALLOWEEN character and the small screen ambitions in his near future…
FANGORIA: When did you first meet Rob Zombie?
DANNY TREJO: I did a film called THE DEVIL’S REJECTS for Rob, so I went and met him for that. We hit it off right away and he was just so cool. So we did that together and now I break bread with him. He’s one of my friends now.
FANG: Considering his stage persona, was his presence as a director different than what you expected?
TREJO: Oh, hell yes. Rob Zombie is kind of like Robert Rodriguez in that he’s laid back and he’s cool. He’s still in love with the process [of filmmaking]. You know, a lot of directors who have been around for a while still love the end result, but are burned out a little bit on the process. So I love working with directors who are still in love with the process and Rob Zombie is one of them.
FANG: For THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, you boarded the project as one of the “Unholy Two”…
TREJO: Yeah! Rondo!
FANG: Yeah! And it’s interesting because in the film, those characters aren’t necessarily as bad as the people they’re hunting. Were you glad that Rob Zombie gave you the chance to play that kind of character specifically?
TREJO: Well, the character was a combination of both a good guy and a bad guy. I loved that about him. I really loved getting to portray that killer attitude, but in a character that’s really somewhat of a good guy. And Rob has a way about him that brings the best out of you anyways. On his movies, you’re not being pressured. He just takes the things that you’ve got inside of you anyways and brings it out. I’ve always thought that is so cool.
FANG: From what I’ve gathered, Rob Zombie has a laid back approach to actors. He often lets them improvise and really get into their characters. Did you find out that was true on THE DEVIL’S REJECTS?
TREJO: Absolutely. Every once in a while, he’d come up and say, “Stop acting.” [Laughs] He lets you be yourself. He knows in the casting what he wants from the character. So when he casts you, he casts that character as you. Most directors don’t work that closely with their casting agents, so when you show up, you have to make this character.
FANG: Afterwards, Rob Zombie cast you in HALLOWEEN (2007) against type as this generally nice character.
TREJO: I know! I’ve gotta tell you this story. When we first shot HALLOWEEN (2007), Michael Myers didn’t kill my character. At first, Mikey let me go. But when the bigwigs watched it for the first time, they all looked at each other and said, “He didn’t kill Trejo…”
You see, if he spared me, it would have made Michael Myers a redeeming character because he didn’t want to kill me. So I got a call from Rob while I was in New York on another film, and he says, “Hey, Trejo, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” So I say, “Alright, let me have it.” And he says, “The bad news is we have to kill you.” And then I knew that the good news is they had to make another contract because we already had wrapped!
So Rob and those guys gave me the same rate, we went back and had a lot of fun. And I got to spend some more time with Sheri Moon, who is an absolutely gorgeous person inside and out.
FANG: Had they let your character live, it definitely would have made Michael Myers somewhat redeemable. But your death scene in HALLOWEEN (2007) does act as one of the film’s most emotional moments. Did you have any idea about how much of an impact your character would carry in the final film?
TREJO: Well, you know, I work with a lot of kids. I work with kids who are in trouble and inmates; that’s what I do when I’m not doing films. I go to juvenile halls and talk, because I understand these kids. So when Michael Myers is killing me and I’m screaming, “Mikey! Mikey!” Rob loved it. Rob kept thinking of new ways to kill me, like, “Let’s kill him this way.” Rob really had a blast with that death scene.
FANG: Outside of the death scene, did you find it refreshing to play a nice character for once instead of an intimidating killer?
TREJO: Yeah; as I said, that really reflects who I am. In fact, I actually deal a lot with kids who are autistic and in juvenile hall. That’s really sad because they’re in juvenile hall because they got into trouble, but only made trouble because they’re affected with autism. So with that role, I was just being me and it was sort of refreshing; I liked it.
FANG: You worked with Rob Zombie again in THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO as a voice actor. It’s interesting to see him give you different material to work with on each movie, going from a badass bounty hunter to sentimental janitor to a goofy cartoon character…
TREJO: I like that Rob gives me the chance to play with those roles, though. He lets me have fun with them, and Rob is just a great guy. He’s like family.
FANG: How different was working with Rob on EL SUPERBEASTO as opposed to his live action projects?
TREJO: You know what’s so cool about working on a cartoon project? You can show up in your pajamas. You don’t need any make-up or anything. You just show up in front of a microphone and it’s a lot of fun. It’s one of the more fun parts of working in film. You can do whatever you want, including showing up in your pajamas.
FANG: That role also plays to your strengths as a comedic actor as well. Do you ever actively look for more opportunities to play funnier roles?
TREJO: Well, I’ve done a few comedy-driven movies. I like doing them, but I also like the process of acting. I like working in films, so give me anything you’ve got! I’ll play a tree if you want me to! If you want me to stand there and hang fruit, pay me more money and I’ll hang fruit for you [laughs].
FANG: I know Rob is currently developing a new movie called “31,” which appears to be another crazy horror project. Have you talked to him at all about the project?
TREJO: Well, it’s funny because he was going to do a hockey movie called BROAD STREET BULLIES, right? So, I kept telling him over and over, “Hey, Rob, did you know I played hockey at San Quentin Prison?” And he’d go, “Really?” But then he’d realize, “Hey, wait a minute, San Quentin doesn’t have a hockey team!” From then on, I’d keep sending him pictures of me in a hockey uniform. Unfortunately, I don’t think that project worked out.
He hasn’t contacted me about the horror movie, but he better contact me! In fact, you can put this in the interview: “Hey, Rob, call Trejo!” [Laughs]
FANG: Earlier this year, you alleged that you would be joining the next season of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES. Any truth to that?
TREJO: Oh yeah, on the El Rey Network. We’re doing FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, which I start on this season, and then I think Robert Rodriguez wants to do a MACHETE series. I think we’re going to do that, and I think it would be great. So we’re going to wait and see what happens with that. But I am going to be involved in the next season of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. I know Robert is working with the writers now to see what I’m going to do.
FANG: Do you have any other horror projects that you’re working on or have in development?
TREJO: I did a supernatural western called DEAD IN TOMBSTONE where Mickey Rourke played The Devil, and I think the studio that made it wants to do DEAD IN TOMBSTONE 2. So I’ll be doing that as well.
For more on Danny Trejo, you can visit his official website or you can follow him on Twitter: @officialDannyT. And don’t forget to pick up FANGORIA Legends Presents: Rob Zombie, available only at the FANGORIA Store.