The world got its first glimpse of Machete Cortez when the trailer for the blood-splattered b-movie Machete was shown as part of the Grindhouse double bill, but the character’s origins go back a lot further than that. Star Danny Trejo and director Robert Rodriguez had discussed the possibility of a Mexican action hero for years prior to Grindhouse. The initial trailer was a joke, a tongue-in-cheek parody that ran alongside others for fake films like Werewolf Women Of The SS, but it proved so popular that it turned into an actual film, and then another.
Machete Kills arrives in cinemas this week. Trejo returns as the title character, who this time is facing off against brutal drug cartels, and a mad villain with a weapon pointed at Washington. Machete is the strong, silent type, letting his actions speak for him, and Trejo revels in the role.“Machete is a really old school kind of guy,” he says. “He’s like a Clint Eastwood or a Charles Bronson, and I love that about him. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, it’s to the point. The bottom line for him is that he’s a murderer. He doesn’t read the bad guys their rights, he just kills them.”
Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez have a relationship that goes all the way back to 1995’s Desperado – they’ve made numerous films together, including four films in the Spy Kids series. As Trejo tells it, they revel in each other’s sense of mischief. “I love his style,” he says of Rodriguez. “I love the fact that he is a fan of action movies, just like I am.” Life on one of his film sets is about as anarchic as you would expect, with lots of toys to play with and bad guys to beat up. “Making movies with Robert is a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s action all the time. It’s a real down home kind of atmosphere on set, because we’re all really good friends.”
Alongside an all-star cast, which also includes the likes of Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, Mel Gibson and even Lady Gaga, Machete Kills features Alexa Vega, recognisable from her roles in the Spy Kids films. Suffice to say, Vega is now grown up, and in Machete Kills, she plays the role of a scantily-clad assassin. For Trejo and Rodriguez, who have known her since the age of 11, it was odd to see this transition. “When she initially approached him, Robert said there was no way, because she was too young,” Trejo laughs. “He finally gave her the part of KillJoy, and she took it and kicked the role in the ass … literally.”
Working with Amber Heard, who played the role of a deranged beauty queen, was one of the main highlights for Trejo. “I got to kiss her!” he says of their scenes together, which clearly made a big impression. “It’s funny, because when Robert yelled ‘action’, Amber was laughing. He asked her why, and she said ‘it’s because Danny won’t stop whispering ‘thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus!’”
Machete Kills opens with the trailer for a third instalment in the franchise, a rollicking adventure entitled Machete Kills Again: In Space. It seems a little far-fetched, but in Machete’s world, anything is possible. I ask Trejo if it’s likely Machete will make another appearance, and he says we’ll have to be patient. “The first two films came out of audience response,” he says, “so we’re going to wait and see how this one goes before we make any decisions, but we’ve definitely already hinted at another one.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN
Machete Kills opens in cinemas on Thursday October 24.