Danny Trejo

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Danny Trejo
Danny Trejo 2009.jpg
Danny Trejo in 2009
Born Dan Trejo
(1944-05-16) May 16, 1944 (age 70)
Echo Park, Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1977–present
Spouse(s) Debbie Shreve (1997-2009)

Dan "Danny" Trejo (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtɾexo]; born May 16, 1944) is an American actor who has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, often as hypermasculine characters, villains and anti-heroes. Some of his notable films include Heat, Con Air, and Desperado, the latter with frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez. He is perhaps most recognizable as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids series of movies, and later expanded into his own series of films aimed at a more adult audience.

Early life[edit]

Dan Trejo was born in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.[1][2] He is the son of Alice Rivera and Dan Trejo, a construction worker.[3][4] He is of Mexican descent.[5] He is a second cousin of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, though the two were unaware that they were related until the filming of Desperado.[6][7]

Throughout the 1960s, Trejo was in and out of jail and prison in California, with Trejo crediting his appearance as contributory to his constantly getting into trouble.[8] There are conflicting accounts of his prison chronology. By one account, his final stint in custody ended in 1972;[2] by another account, he did time in a juvenile offenders' camp and six California prisons between 1959 and 1969.[9][10] He recalled that his last prison term was five years. While serving in San Quentin Prison, he became a champion boxer in lightweight and welterweight divisions within that prison.[2] During this time, Trejo became a member of a twelve-step program, which he credits with his success in overcoming drug addiction. In 2011, he recalled that he had been sober for 42 years.[9]

Upon his final release, Trejo enrolled in Pitzer College located in Claremont, California but subsequently left after one semester of attendance.


While working as a youth drug counselor, a teenage patient asked for his assistance dealing with cocaine problems on the set of Runaway Train.[2][11] While there, Trejo was offered a job as an extra in the film's prison scenes. Edward Bunker, himself a former convict and well-respected crime author who was writing the screenplay for the film, recognized Trejo, with whom he had done time at San Quentin.[2][11] Bunker, remembering Trejo's boxing skills, offered him $320 per day to train Eric Roberts, one of the movie's stars, for a boxing scene. Director Andrei Konchalovsky liked Trejo's work and decided to offer him a small role in the film as a boxer. It has been widely misreported that Trejo was actually serving time in the prison during filming, when in fact he had been released over a decade earlier.

Since then, Trejo has become a prolific actor in both films and television, appearing alongside some of Hollywood's most famous actors, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Nicolas Cage, Charles Bronson, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Val Kilmer, and Antonio Banderas. Trejo has often appeared in five or more movies per year in various genres. He has appeared in such major releases as Machete, Blood In Blood Out, Animal Factory, Bubble Boy, Anaconda, Marked for Death, xXx, Desperado, Badass, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, Con Air, Six Days Seven Nights, Spy Kids, The Replacement Killers, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Predators, Urban Justice, The Devil's Rejects, Valley of Angels, Delta Farce, Grindhouse, Rob Zombie's Halloween and Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror.

Trejo at Muscle Beach

Trejo is known for his distinctive appearance. In addition to his heavily lined face, scarred from cystic acne and a brawl (usually sporting a long mustache), he has displayed the large tattoo on his chest for many roles (the tattoo depicts a woman wearing a sombrero).[12][13] He often plays thugs or lowlife characters, although he has also played sympathetic characters in films such as Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids trilogy, Bubble Boy and a guest appearance on the USA Network series Monk where art imitated life in his portrayal of a convict roommate to Tony Shalhoub's undercover detective. He also appeared in a Season 2 episode of Desperate Housewives, where, as another good-guy character, he was sent by Carlos to help Gabrielle deal with her grief of losing her unborn baby. He voiced the character Enrique on King of the Hill, and Octavio's character on that show is based on his appearance. His role on King of the Hill was referred to in the HBO series Unscripted where he had a cameo appearance. He also is featured in an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and an episode of Do IT LIVE with actors Anna Bennett and Claudia Pickering, shot in Downtown Los Angeles, by the name of Sebring feat. Danny Trejo. He also made guest appearances, as "Tortuga" [The Tortoise], in the award-winning series Breaking Bad in 2009 and 2010, most notably in the episode Negro y Azul on 19 April 2009.

The award-winning independent film Champion (2005), which documented Trejo's life, featured Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Steve Buscemi and Robert Rodriguez. Trejo appeared as a playable character in Def Jam: Fight for NY, a fighting game to which the actor lent his voice and likeness. He had previously lent his voice to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the character Umberto Robina, who also resembles Trejo. Trejo voiced the character of Rico in Rob Zombie's animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto as well as starring alongside Steven Seagal in Urban Justice. Trejo is now portraying the Mexican bartender in the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. He also voices Raul Tejada, a Ghoul, in Fallout: New Vegas.

Regarding his continued growth as a professional actor, Trejo has stated that he still cannot believe how fortunate he has been: "I'm so blessed. I'm still scared that somebody's going to wake me up and say, 'Hey, we're still in prison. Let's go to chow".[14] Many of Trejo's characters in Robert Rodriguez movies have been named after knives or sharp instruments: Machete in Spy Kids, Razor Charlie in the From Dusk till Dawn series, Navajas (Spanish for blades) in Desperado, and Cuchillo (Spanish for knife) in Predators.[15] He also plays Machete in a trailer made for Rodriguez's film collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse. In 2010, he starred in a full theatrical version of Machete, based on the character, followed by a second Machete Kills in 2013.

Trejo has also made cameo appearances in music videos, such as rapper Tech N9ne's video for the single Like Yeah from his 2008 release Killer; Rehab's 2007 song Bartender; Jay Chou's short movie-music video Double Blade from his 2003 album Ye Hui Mei; southern metalcore band Maylene and the Sons of Disaster's video for the single Open Your Eyes from their 2011 release IV; the Jonas Brothers' Burnin' Up from their album A Little Bit Longer; Sepultura's video Attitude in 1996; and Yelawolf's video "Whistle Dixie" in 2012. He appeared in famous adult entertainer Lupe Fuentes's 2012 music video "We are the Party" with her band The Ex-Girlfriends.[16]

Trejo appeared in the PlayStation Move game The Fight: Lights Out as an instructor for the player's character, and as himself in the second map pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops; Escalation map pack, on the zombie map Call of the Dead.

In 2012, Trejo starred alongside Ron Perlman and Charles S. Dutton in Craig Moss’s action film Bad Ass. He played the main character of Vietnam veteran Frank Vega, based on 67-year-old “Epic Beard Man” Thomas Bruso. That same year Trejo again appeared with Perlman in a supporting role in season 4 of the FX network drama Sons of Anarchy.

In 2013, Trejo shared his tumultuous journey from convict to movie star with KTTV in Los Angeles in a segment filmed in his own home.[17]

On July 15, 2014, Trejo featured as his Robert Rodriguez character Machete in the music video of "Angel In Blue Jeans", which additionally featured Canadian television hostess and actor Hannah Simone.

Personal life[edit]

Trejo owns a home in the San Fernando Valley.[18]


In popular culture[edit]

Plastilina Mosh, a Mexican alternative rock band, paid tribute to Trejo with their song "Danny Trejo", featured in their album All U Need Is Mosh. Trejo is also featured in the 2004 hip-hop fighting game Def Jam: Fight for NY as a soldier to Crow's side. Crow is voiced by and his looks are captured by Snoop Dogg. Danny Trejo can also be seen in the intro of Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max'd ("Play for Real", B-Real & DJ Lethal). He also is featured in the downloadable content pack called Escalation Map Pack in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops on the map "Call of the Dead" as himself. In the comic series DMZ a character named Danny with the same appearance as Danny Trejo appears, he also makes indications that he was formerly a convicted felon as well.


  1. ^ Beale, Lewis (May 9, 2007). "He ain't that bad". Daily News (New York). 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bowles, Scott (September 3, 2010). "'Machete' star Danny Trejo is an illustrated man, in many ways". USA Today. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ Danny Trejo Biography (1944–)
  4. ^ Danny Trejo Biography – Yahoo! Movies
  5. ^ Amy Nicholson. "Danny Trejo Talks 'Predators,' 'Machete' and The Jonas Brothers". 
  7. ^ Barlow, Helen (November 11, 2010). "Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo cutting a short story long". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  8. ^ Mackenzie, Steven (13 February 2014). "Danny Trejo interview: "My looks used to get me into trouble but now the're paying off"". The Big Issue. 
  9. ^ a b Wright, Paul (August 2011). "Prison Legal News Interviews Former Prisoner and Famous Actor Danny Trejo". Prison Legal News. 
  10. ^ "article listing for Danny Trejo". Prison Legal News. 
  11. ^ a b Marks, Lisa (6 December 2012). "Danny Trejo: 'I went to the hole looking at three gas-chamber offences'". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ Marks, Lisa (7 December 2012). "Danny Trejo: "I went to the hole looking at three gas-chamber offences"". The Guardian. 
  13. ^ Westhoff, Ben. "Danny Trejo - Hollywood Badass". Urban Ink. 
  14. ^ "Danny Trejo: The illustrated man". 
  15. ^ "Meet Danny Trejo as the Badass Cuchillo in New 'Predators' Character Profile". 
  16. ^ "About The Ex-Girlfriends". The Ex-Girlfriends. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  17. ^ "Casa de Machete". KTTV. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "'Machete' Star Drops $550K on Mission Hills Party Pad". TMZ (EHM Productions, Inc.). 2012-12-30. Retrieved 2014-10-13. 

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