I don’t ever want to take it for granted that I get to talk to Danny Trejo. Sure, it seems like he’s in a new movie every month, and always game for an interview, but that wasn’t always the case. It took the vision of Robert Rodriguez to cast the character actor in bigger roles, and now Trejo is a marquee name on the front of posters.
It’s not always action and bad guys anymore either. In this week’s release Preggoland, Trejo does comedy. He plays a grocery store janitor who helps a woman (Sonja Bennett) fake a pregnancy so she can fit in with all her pregnant friends. Preggoland is on VOD and in theaters Friday May 8. I spoke with Trejo by phone this week to talk about his comedy and his legendary movies.
Nuke the Fridge: You don’t get many chances to do comedy, do you?
Danny Trejo: No, they usually peg me for the bad guy, but comedies are just so much fun. Preggoland was a blast. I help this girl fake a pregnancy and then I blackmail her. I get to work with James Caan which was a real treat.
Nuke: How did you get involved with Preggoland?
Danny Trejo: My agency always gets a ton of scripts a week and my agent goes through them for me and picks out the few they know I’d like. When I read Preggoland it was just funny. The other two scripts I didn’t like too much, so I said, “Let’s do this one.” They all agreed, and I got to work in Canada. I love Canada so we went up there. It all kind of fell into place, and like I said, wanting to work with James Caan. I met the director and he was pretty cool. I liked him.
Nuke: Do you actually read all the scripts people send you?
Danny Trejo: No, God no. I could never. I’d spend my life reading, but when I read Preggoland, it was directed by Jacob and the script by Sonja Bennett. It was funny. It kind of tickled me so I said okay. They only hand me about three of them and I’ll go through them. They’ll have their recommendations, and my agent’s recommendations are pretty good. They’ve steered me right so far.
Nuke: Did you have good chemistry with Sonja?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, and James. I had good chemistry with everybody. I’m easy to get along with once they get over the fear.
Nuke: So what was James Caan like?
Danny Trejo: He was awesome. We sat and talked for a while and he goes way back in unbelievable movies. It was fun talking to him and hanging out with him.
Nuke: There are a lot of drugs in Preggoland and you’re a drug counselor, so did you feel any conflicts about that?
Danny Trejo: No, no, no. I love playing bad guys in movies and doing whatever I’ve got to do. No conflict. I know movies are movies.
Nuke: When you do so many movies every year, do they actually make you audition?
Danny Trejo: I do a meet and greet more than anything. When people look at my picture, they kind of know what they’re getting. And now with social media, it’s are you easy to work with? There’s a lot of other factors now. I pride myself with being easy to work with. I understand the formula that producers hire directors and directors are hired to direct and actors are hired to act. I don’t have any conflict with any directors because I know they’re the boss.
Nuke: What are some things you haven’t done yet that you still want to do?
Danny Trejo: After I finished playing Marcia Brady on the Snickers commercial, I think that topped it. I don’t know what else I can do.
Nuke: Can you believe how much that commercial plays?
Danny Trejo: That commercial, I went from being one of the baddest guys on the planet as Machete to being Marcia Brady in one day.
Nuke: Were there a lot of special effects in that commercial to put you in an episode of The Brady Bunch?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, that was fun. That commercial was just like bang, bang, bang, let’s do it. We did it all in one day. Steve Buscemi, who’s a really good friend of mine, went “Marcia, Marcia Marcia,” it was hilarious. My secretary, Mary, her daughter called us from Paris, France and said “Hey, I’m watching Danny playing Marcia Brady speaking in French.”
Nuke: Was it green screen?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, there was some green screen and they did the special effects. My stuff was doing my stuff. I don’t even need makeup.
Nuke: We did see you in Muppets Most Wanted, and you were actually Danny Trejo.
Danny Trejo: Me and Ray Liotta had so much fun. We were walking around London just having a blast. That was a great, funny movie. We got up to Buckingham Palace and I’m a big show off. I’m standing there by the gate and everybody’s watching us. I just started yelling, “Mom! Mom! Elizabeth! Let me in! It’s me, Danny! Remember when you were little kids?” Everybody started laughing hysterically.
Nuke: Had you ever sung before that movie?
Danny Trejo: Once I did a movie called Delta Farce with Larry the Cable Guy and I sang, “At first I was afraid, I was petrified.” I was doing karaoke and I did that but I never did a tune from A Chorus Line or dance. I kept messing up and I told the director, “Why are you laughing? I messed it up.” He said, “Danny, keep messing up. It’s funny.”
Nuke: You were credited on Project A and I’ve seen all the Jackie Chan movies. I think I’d remember you but how did you get involved with that?
Danny Trejo: For some of the Jackie Chan movies, we dubbed them in English. I remember one I was a pirate and said, “Oh, we will kill all of you” and the lips kept moving. We dubbed them.
Nuke: So you do a lot of voiceover work too?
Danny Trejo: Are you kidding? I’ve done King of the Hill, I was in The Book of Life, and now I’m doing Puss in Boots and I play El Moco. “Puss in Boots, I’m going to kill you!”
Nuke: Con Air was a classic. What did you think of Johnny 23?
Danny Trejo: I love that movie. That movie was the biggest test of testosterone ever. Let me tell you something, that movie had every wannabe Hollywood tough guy, and if you spit, somebody would try to spit further. Everything was a competition. I just thought it was funny.
Nuke: Heat was another classic. What was it like making Heat?
Danny Trejo: I got to work with the guys, with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Val Kilmer. Now it gets no bigger. Jon Voight was a friend of mine that I did Runaway Train with, and it’s funny because Jon Voight put Eddie Bunker’s picture in the makeup trailer and said, “I want to look like that.” He literally looked exactly like Eddie Bunker while he was doing Heat. He played the role that Eddie Bunker played in life. He was selling robberies.
Nuke: Are you going to make Machete in Space?
Danny Trejo: Robert’s writing it now and what we’re going to do is we’re going to put little pieces of it on the El Rey network.
Nuke: Is the movie still going to be a movie, or is it just for El Rey now?
Danny Trejo: That’s going to be a movie movie, a monster.
Nuke: What do you play in Ridiculous Six?
Danny Trejo: I play the main bad guy. I’m the leader of all the bad guys, Cicero, leader of the evil crew. I take Nick Nolte hostage.
Nuke: When Adam Sandler says he wants you to be the bad guy, do you say, “Of course?”
Danny Trejo: Adam Sandler is funny and I get to ride horses. That was so funny. We were in Santa Fe, NM, beautiful, beautiful country. It reminded me of those old westerns with John Wayne where the screen looked huge.
Nuke: Does Robert have a role for you in Fire and Ice?