You know Danny Trejo even if you don’t know him. “Machete” has been the bad guy—or anti-hero—in more movies and TV shows than even he can remember. But even though his deep voice and harsh, craggy face might ideally suit him to the role of a villain, they belie his good nature in real life. After a troubled youth spent in and out of prison, Trejo cleaned his life up while training hard and boxing. When he tried his hand at acting, a new world opened up to him and he went on to become one of Hollywood’s most memorable badasses. Now 67, Trejo shows no signs of slowing down. His recurring role on Sons of Anarchy is continuing for the fifth season and his new movie, Recoil, which co-stars our very own Men’s Fitness columnist Steve Austin, is available now on Blu Ray and DVD.
Your character in Recoil is described as a “ruthless crime lord.” Could you estimate how many times you played a ruthless crime lord throughout your career? [Laughs] Most of ’em are ruthless crime lords! I never started playing good guys. Do you ever get frustrated with being typecast? It’s so funny, because I remember being interviewed one time and this lady asked me, “Aren’t you afraid of being typecast?” I said, “As what?” And she said, “Well, as a mean Chicano dude with tattoos.” And I said, “I am a mean Chicano dude with tattoos!” So they’re really hitting the nail on the head. They aren’t actually typecasting. I don’t look like the kid next door that’s going to come over and want to play baseball. I kind of look like the bad guy. Sounds like it doesn’t bother you, then. No. God, no. My kids are going to college because I play the bad guy. NEXT: Staying fit at 67 >> How much different do you think your life would be without boxing and weightlifting? I’d be 320 pounds. I’d be on a couch somewhere. I mean, exercise is just so vitally important. I love walking. Anybody over the age of 50 who doesn’t walk is insane because you’ve got to keep that heart pumping. A lot of people are afraid to get started exercising because it’s, “Oh, I gotta get the clothes, I gotta get this, I gotta get that. I gotta get the right shoes.” Shit, I’ll wake up in the morning and walk around the block in my thongs. Not my thong underwear. [Laughs] Flip-flops. I just walk and that’s all you basically have to do to stay healthy. To be really fit, my routine has a lot more to it. I walk to the gym and work out for about an hour and come back.
What is your training like now? I’ve got three movies coming up so I work out twice a day. This is for a purpose. This isn’t just to stay in shape. I gotta be pretty cut up. I do about four hundred sit-ups. I don’t go heavy. You don’t have to. You just have to get your repetitions. How do you fit it in with your filming schedule? What I’ll usually do is have some weights on set so I can work out when there’s downtime. What you don’t want to do is lay off too long, then you get really sore when you come back, and it’s so hard to get started again. The biggest problem is that everybody tries to do too much when they start out. They’ll be doing nothing and then say, “I’m going to walk five miles every day.” No, no, no, no. Walk half a block. Then the next day, walk another half a block. You increase a little at a time. When I ran the L.A. marathon, I started out running a mile, then I ran two miles. When did you do that? Right before I turned 60, seven years ago. I want to do it again before I turn 70. Old-school action flicks like Recoil that don’t see a wide release—it’s almost like that market exists as a backlash to all the CGI you see now. Do you feel like that’s the case? Yeah, I do, but there’s more. I think first of all if you’ve got a family of four and you’re going to take them to the movies, you’re going spend 120 bucks. [Laughs] Now, if you’ve got a wide screen TV, you can go home and watch and spend eight dollars on snacks. So when you’ve got somebody like Stone Cold Steve Austin, who everybody knows, it’s like, “Whoa! It’s going to be a fun night.” And Recoil—movies like this are fun movies because they’re action. If you’re looking for artistic value, well, you know… But if you want to have a great night, it’s a great little movie. And then that Serinda Swan—daaaaaaamn! [Laughs] Hey, it was fun showing up on set. NEXT: Danny loses his head >>
Who’s the toughest guy you’ve ever been put up against in the movies? Steve Austin, no question. He could break your back. He’s a for real tough guy, but he’s like such a gentle giant. He’s not mean, but the reality is that he could break your back. A good friend of mine, Diamond Dallas Page, introduced me to Steve Austin a long time ago. I did a film with Diamond Dallas called Vengeance, where he had to kick me in the face and these guys are so good at that. I would rather work with an ex-wrestler in a fight scene than anybody because they’ve been doing that forever. They know how not to get other people hurt. And you’ll be back for Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy? Yes I am. That’s why they had to make me a CIA agent, because otherwise the cartel would’ve killed me. Well, you’re a good guy in that show. Yeah, I am! That’s kind of cool. How’d you like having your head on an exploding turtle in Breaking Bad? Write this down: Tell the producers, “You owe Danny Trejo for that,” because they made two heads and they were supposed to give me one. They never did! [Laughs] So they needed to make a mold of your whole head to put on the turtle? Yeah. It was amazing. When I look at the bust, that’s probably the best copy of my face I’ve ever seen. It was kind of creepy. Then watching it walk across the desert in the dark [Laughs]. It was a quick appearance, but obviously they found a way to make it very memorable. They had such great luck with that episode, they called me back and did the prequel episode where we showed how it got there. That was a lot of fun.