The Legend of Danny Trejo
You may not know his name but you definitely recognize his face. Danny Trejo has been in everything from Sons of Anarchy to Spy Kids. After recently watching an old episode of Breaking Bad, I saw him again and had an epiphany. This guy was awesome. Whether he was wielding a machete, machine gun or just his fists, this guy evoked a raw fear in his audience that other action stars fail to do. Using Google, I investigated this man and the information I uncovered revealed a vibrant criminal past.
Born in LA, Danny Trejo lived a hard knock life from the start. While other kids were shootin’ some b-ball outside of school, Trejo was up to no good and started making trouble in his neighborhood. As a child drug addict, he acquired street wisdom at an early age. I’m not going to condone child drug abuse, but only a born badass would start using heroin in elementary school.
As Danny grew up things just got worse, he began robbing convenience store clerks and had acquired a pretty serious drug habit. He served eleven years in prison where he learned to box and got a sweet tattoo of a senorita in a sombrero on his torso. He even spent three months in solitary confinement! Upon his release he cleaned up his act, helped his friends kick the habit and entered the film industry through his skills as a boxer.
In an interview with Time Magazine he tells how his savage past has enabled him to be typecast as the token bad guy. He says: “Well, when a director asked me if I could act like a convict, I was like, “I’ll give it a shot.” I’ve been in every penitentiary in the state of California. And so when they say, “Can you do a robbery?” I go, “Hell, done a few of those.”
According to his IMDB page the man has been in over 200 film and television productions since the start of his career in 1983. He was even approached to be in The Expendables but passed, saying ‘I make them guys look too soft’. Even though Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham and Steve Austin are capable of playing really tough characters they lack street cred in real life.
Trejo is a part of an elite group of actors that practice method acting. Method acting is like regular acting but actors draw on personal experiences to enhance their performance, often resulting with the honor of a Academy Award or an Emmy. For example, Heath Ledger actually went a bit nuts in preparation for his role as the Joker in Batman. He confined himself to his apartment and wrote the most disturbing things he could think of in his notebook, leaving him mentally scarred and physically exhausted. Luckily for Trejo, he has already been a drug addict so he doesn’t have to become a drug addict to know what it feels like to be a drug addict.
He finally started getting the respect he deserved when he played the lead in Robert Rodriguez’s film Machete in 2010. Alongside Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal, Trejo plays an illegal Mexican immigrant, former Federale seeking vigilante justice with his machete. Along with about twenty other projects, a sequel (which he is currently filming) is to be released in 2013.
If his acting career isn’t impressive enough his humanitarian work is sure to please. Trejo is open about his past and hopes to use his stories to deter others from criminal activity. Speaking in schools and prisons, he uses his rags to riches story to inspire and set drifters back on the right path. He even persuaded his Machete co-star Robert Deniro to partake in one of his prison talks.
Even though he usually plays the bad guy, Danny Trejo is a cinematic gem. He challenges mainstream cinema by giving an effortless, crude performance that is hard to come by. With his dangerous past, rugged appearance and flawless skill there will be no surprise if his name is one day mentioned with the other great actors of our time.