The making of ‘Machete’

It might be one of the first films conceived as a trailer and later expanded into a feature.

“Machete,” Robert Rodriguez’s story of an ex-Federale betrayed by his bosses and out for revenge, began as a tongue-in-cheek teaser for “Grindhouse,” the director’s 2007 homage to 1970s exploitation fare. But, it soon evolved into something more.

“Once we made the trailer, I thought that was as far as it was going to go,” says Rodriguez, 42, who cast cousin and longtime friend Danny Trejo as the titular tough guy at the center of his cheerfully gruesome thriller. “But it got such a huge reaction — people kept asking for it. The cast came together, the story kept getting better, and the whole thing took on a life of its own.”
That, and Trejo kept on him.

“I wanted him to write the script,” says the 66-year-old actor, who has played supporting roles in six prior Rodriguez productions — including “Spy Kids” (2001), in which his “Machete” character first appeared, and two sequels. “I’d call him all the time. I was ready.”

Trejo, a veteran of more than 50 movies who spent his formative years in and out of jail — becoming a prison boxing champion during 18 months in San Quentin — had never enjoyed top billing.
For Rodriguez, “Machete” — the distant offspring of an idea the two hatched as far back as 1995’s “Desperado” — was the perfect vehicle to change that.

“Everybody’s had Danny in their movie before,” Rodriguez says. “Steven Seagal has killed him a few times. Robert De Niro put a bullet in his head in ‘Heat.’ Now, it’s time for Danny to return the favor.”

Seagal and De Niro, along with Michelle Rodriguez (no relation) and Jessica Alba, are just a few of the marquee talents who form what the director calls a “dream cast,” made possible, he says, by “De Niro, back in ‘Goodfellas’ mode.” That they joined him for “Machete,” one of his most personal projects to date, is icing on the cake.

“When I first started in the business, something like this didn’t seem possible,” the Mexican-American director says. “But look at the response the ‘Machete’ trailer got from everyone, not just Latins.

“Nobody wants to go see just a Latin movie, not even Latins. They don’t want to feel like a side group, they want to be part of world culture. But with ‘Machete,’ you can go out and see Latin superheroes on the screen.

“And if you’re not Latin, you get great entertainment with a different flavor than you’re used to.”

artsDanny TrejoentertainmentOther ArtsRobert Rodriguez

Just Posted

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. PHOTO COURTESY SALESFORCE
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

The numbers show nearly 14 percent of San Francisco voters who participated in the Sept. 14 recall election wanted to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from elected office. (Shutterstock photo)
(Shutterstock photo)
How San Francisco neighborhoods voted in the Newsom recall

Sunset tops the list as the area with the most ‘yes’ votes

Alison Collins, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, listens during a board meeting. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Alison Collins speaks: Embattled SF school board member confronts the recall effort

‘It’s important for folks to know what this recall is about. It’s bigger than any one of us.’

Passengers board a BART train at Powell Street station on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Powell Station death serves as a grim reminder. BART doors don’t stop for anyone

What you need to know about safety sensors on the trains

A group of Asian American protesters demonstrate outside the Hall of Justice in May 2021 following a series of violent attacks. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Asian American groups activated by violence and prejudice

‘There is a newfound sense of fighting back … push come to shove’

Most Read