(NEW YORK) — “They make movies and stories about guys like Danny Trejo. Danny is that guy.”
That’s the word from one of the celebrities who contributed to a new documentary about the life of the cinematic tough guy.
Trejo’s life seems like a Hollywood script. A formerly drug-addicted gang-banger and prisoner who did hard time in his younger days, Trejo found redemption and a career on the big screen in films like Machete, Heat and hundreds of others.
It was a chance reunion with another former San Quentin inmate-turned writer and actor, Eddie Bunker, that launched Trejo’s career. Bunker knew Trejo was a gifted boxer, and had him hired to train Eric Roberts to box for the 1985 movie Runaway Train.
“I said, ‘What’s it pay?"” Trejo recalls asking Bunker, who would later star in Reservoir Dogs. “And he says, ‘320 a day.’ And I said, ‘How bad you want this guy beat up?’ I thought it was a hit!” Trejo laughs.
That misunderstanding aside, Trejo so impressed the director, he landed his first role on-screen, as Roberts’ opponent. Now 76, the actor and activist’s life story has become a documentary called Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo.
“Well, the reason I wanted to do it was to use it as a tool,” he tells ABC Audio. “When I go to juvenile halls and…I’ve been to penitentiaries all over the world…And what I want to do is just give people hope that are in a hopeless situation. And prison is a hopeless situation.”
He explains, “When I walk onto a campus, I got everybody’s attention automatic. You know…not Danny Trejo, but the guy from Spy Kids, the guy from Heat. The guy from Desperado. That guy. And they want to hear what I got to say….”
Trejo calls the film and the testimonials from actors and directors he’s worked with “humbling.”
By Stephen Iervolino
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.