DANNY Trejo is by far the busiest actor in the business. He's already locked into 26 films this year alone - that's one a fortnight. And another six in development. And there are very few TV shows he hasn't done - he was in Modern Family, Breaking Bad (of course), Desperate Housewives, Bones, Burn Notice, Alias, The X Files and on and on. From his break as a boxer on Runaway Train, his craggy looks and threatening presence have ensured him an eternal career as a heavy. He's 70 in May.
I was chatting to him about Machete Kills, his latest exploitation film on DVD, by phone from the film location of Bad Ass 3 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He's gentle, respectful and accommodating. Nothing like his screen presence, which stems from a troubled childhood - he was a child criminal and drug addict and, while still a teenager, an inmate at San Quentin.
On Machete Kills you're working with some wonderful people. Clearly, Sofia Vergara is having the time of her life! Sofia is a little kiss from God's lips! She's absolutely beautiful and fun to work with. Her comedic timing is unbelievable.
How did Lady Gaga get the role? I met her in a tattoo shop. I came into Shamrock Tattoo on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and I told the owner I was doing Machete Kills. Lady Gaga was there getting a tattoo and she says "Oh, God, I'd love to be in that!" I said: "Well, hang on." I called Robert Rodriguez and told him "Robert, Gaga wants in on Machete Kills" and he says "I'm on it! He kept saying "I got Gaga! I got Gaga!" It was awesome.
What tattoo was she getting? And where? She was getting a scene on her arm, I think that's what it was. I was getting a portrait of my children and Jesus Christ on my back.
Mel Gibson is in the film - he hasn't done much for ages. Yeah, I had a swordfight with Mel. When Robert yells "Action!" I threw my sword down and he says "What's wrong?" "I'm fighting William Wallace from Braveheart?! Are you crazy?!" Everybody just laughed, even Mel.
Your schedule is horrendous. Why do you put yourself through it? Yeah, I keep pretty busy [laughs]. I love the work. I know people who go to work hating their job. I love getting up in the morning and going to work. Here I am in Baton Rouge, being treated very well by everybody. I get to travel and work with great people. Right now I'm working with Danny Glover and John Amos [on Bad Ass 3] and we're having a blast.
Which movie of your hundreds stands out the most? I would have loved the original Machete even if I wasn't in it. I just love a movie that starts out killin' 12 people [laughs]. In Machete I chop off four people's heads in the first two minutes. In Machete Kills me and Jessica Alba kill about 25 people in the first four minutes.
You like a film where there are no boundaries? Exactly! But it has to be fun. I hate violence for its own sake. And in Machete all the violence is kind of funny, not just blood and guts. My Mom, who's 85, saw the first Machete. She laughed. I cut off four people's heads and then they bounce on the floor!
How does humour change the message of violence? It says this is fun, we're not being mean.