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Danny Trejo will sleep when he's dead, and given the energy coursing through his veins and out through the phone, that may never happen, either.
When he called up SYFY WIRE earlier this week, 75-year-old actor/author/restaurateur was hyped up to talk about his new movie, 3 From Hell, the finale in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses trilogy, his many other movies (he's got nearly 20 projects in various stages of development), his taco business, and pretty much anything else we could throw at him. (At one point, the conversation veered into a brief discussion about his buddy Russ Brown, L.A. motorcycle attorney, because his commercial was playing on the TV that Trejo had on in the background; we've left that part out, for brevity.)
Looking at your IMDb page, you have like 20 movies in development or in post-production.
Yeah, man, you stop working, you melt.
Clearly you aren't going to melt, then. With so many credits, what is your movie decision-making process like? How do you decide whether or not to do a movie?
Well, look, what happens is that my agency gets a script, and they'll look at it, they'll deal with 20 scripts a week, so they'll look at three and kind of give me a synopsis of them and tell me, you know, "What do you want to do?" And so they at least kind of break it down. They'll always give me one, two, and three. Sometimes I don't even look at the other ones, I'll just pick the one, because I really trust them.
And they know what I do, they know what I like to do. One of the things to be successful, that you got to have smart and successful people around you. My mom used to say, "Show me your friends and I'll tell you what you're doing."
You're known for certain types of characters, but you like to change it up, so what's appealing to you right now?
I just finished doing Dora the Explorer, I was Boots. And that was amazing. I was in the airport, swear to God, I'm in the airport and I'm talking, I'd be like, "Let me have a beef burrito with cheese." And this little girl, about 5, yells out, "Hey, you're Boots!" I look at her and "You're Boots! You're Boots! I know you're Boots!" And I was like, "You're right, I'm Boots."
My niece is 16 now, but she loved Dora as a kid.
Let me tell you, my daughter's 29 and when I told her, "Danielle, I'm going to be in Dora the Explorer." "You are? Who they got you as?" And she was sure, she thought I was going to be Whistler. What's the guy's name? The stealer guy.
Right, Swiper. And I go, "No, no, no, I'm Boots. Boots." She says, "Boots! Oh God, Dad!" Benicio del Toro was Swiper and he said, "Hey, Boots upstaged me."
That must have been a fun one to work on. Is that part of it for you, how fun the movie is to work on?
For me, you know, I've done manual labor. You know what I mean? So when people start complaining, I mean, what the hell's wrong with you, guy? You better go and mix some cement for a while.
I read you once say there are no bad movies because they at least create jobs, kids of people working on them can have Christmas.
Yeah. Exactly. I mean, that's the honest-to-God way I feel. And my son was the first one to hit me the other day, and I said, "Wait a minute, you're right." Every movie is a labor of love. Somebody loves doing it. And then a lot of people, you know, the whole world didn't dislike it. You know what I mean? Somebody liked it.
What's your favorite part about doing it? What keeps you going still?
My favorite part is being on set. And especially, you have directors, like on a Robert Rodriguez movie. I mean, here's a director that just loves what he's doing. And he's so mellow about it, you know? I mean, Robert has given me scenes on the set. He'd be "Let's do this!" And, "Huh?" It's like, "Where is that in the script, Robert?" "Well, it'd be a great idea."
Speaking of Robert Rodriguez, you're still listed as starring in an "in development" third Machete movie, Machete Kills in Space.
Yeah, you know what, everybody in the world wants that. I keep telling Robert, and you know, it's all bogged down in bulls**t, so I might do it.
You'll direct it?
Yeah. I might just produce it and do it, if he don't get off his buns! Everybody wants this, I mean, everybody in the world. I've been asked that all over the world. "Hey, are you going to do Machete in Space?"
So what's stopping Robert? Is he just too busy?
Who knows. It was the biggest thing in the world for a while. I mean, you got endless movies doing number six, number seven, number eight. And Machete had a great story to it, you know what I mean? I might try to figure out how to do that myself.
If you could direct a movie, what would it be? What would you direct a movie about?
I would direct that, Machete Kills in Space. If I could do a movie, I would direct Machete. I mean, it would just be so much fun I would add a director, but I'd be in it, you know what I mean? I've just got some great ideas for it.
What are your ideas for it?
Oh my God, man, you're going to give it out and then somebody else is going to do it. No, I'm putting it together. I'm writing the script.
Oh, you're writing the Machete Kills in Space script?
Yeah, part of it. I'm doing my book, I'm writing my book, me and an actor named Donal Logue, I don't know if you know him.
Sure, he's a great actor.
Unbelievable actor. Donal Logue, yeah. So he's helping me write my book. And, wow, it's really coming out pretty good. And I have my documentary, Inmate #1. And my son just directed me in a movie.
And you have your restaurant chain, too. What's the key for you, to keeping it all going, to being happy?
First of all, people have called me an entrepreneur, what that means is I got great people around me. I don't know any entrepreneurs that tried to do it by themselves. I've got great people. And I mean, how much do I know about a restaurant? But my people do, and we've got eight restaurants now, in Los Angeles. New York wants one, San Antonio wants one, and Las Vegas wants one. And Hawaii wants one. So we've got eight already. The reality is I just show up, I go and do whatever I can, help and serve and do whatever I can, but they're the business guys. His name is Ash Shah and Jeff, they the business, they're the up-front guys, you know what I mean? And they're the smart guys. They know about restaurants.
Well, you know about food.
I know what tastes good. I've eaten everything there is in there.
What's your favorite dish that you serve?
I love it all. You know what, don't tell anybody, but we've got a cauliflower taco, it's absolutely delicious. We've got vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, the reason we put gluten-free is that I work with special-needs children and doctors have told me, they don't do good with gluten. So why don't you just do a gluten-free menu? And we started to get a lot of families, because Mom won't have to cook three meals.
Tickets for the September 16/17/18 nationwide release of 3 From Hell are available at Fathom Events' website.