Danny Trejo was born Dan Trejo in Echo Park, Los Angeles, to Alice (Rivera) and Dan Trejo, a construction worker. A child drug addict and criminal, Trejo was in and out of jail for 11 years. While serving time in San Quentin, he won the lightweight and welterweight boxing titles. Imprisoned for armed robbery and drug offenses, he successfully completed a 12-step rehabilitation program that changed his life. While speaking at a Cocaine Anonymous meeting in 1985, Trejo met a young man who later called him for support. Trejo went to meet him at what turned out to be the set of Runaway Train (1985). Trejo was immediately offered a role as a convict extra, probably because of his tough tattooed appearance. Also on the set was a screenwriter who did time with Trejo in San Quentin. Remembering Trejo's boxing skills, the screenwriter offered him $320 per day to train the actors for a boxing match. Director Andrey Konchalovskiy saw Trejo training Eric Roberts and immediately offered him a featured role as Roberts' opponent in the film. Trejo has subsequently appeared in many other films, usually as a tough criminal or villain.
Debbie Trejo (12 December 1997 - present) (filed for divorce) (2 children)
Trade Mark (9)
The tattoo on his chest of a woman wearing a sombrero (you see it in almost all of his movies).
Usually plays criminals in one form or another (assassins, prisoners, etc)
Usually cast in Robert Rodriguez's films
Often plays characters who are skilled with knives
Very muscular physique with many tattoos
Long hair often worn in a ponytail
Rough scarred face
Deep, gruff voice
A scarred face, a long, thin moustache, and a muscular body with large tattoos render Trejo one of the most distinctive character actors of our time.
Has two sons: Danny Boy (b. 1981) from an earlier marriage, Gilbert Trejo (b. 1988) and one daughter Danielle Trejo (b. 1990).
He is one of the most prolific of American actors, having usually done at least 4 films a year since the 1990s. In 2002 alone, he did 9 films.
His character's name in Heat (1995) was Trejo.
Is the only actor to appear in all three of the From Dusk Till Dawn movie series.
Trejo spent much of the 1960s in California prisons--Tracy (1963-1965), San Quentin (1965-1968), Soledad (1968-1969).
He and director Robert Rodriguez are second cousins.
His characters in the films of Robert Rodriguez are usually named after knives: Desperado (1995) (Navajas), the From Dusk Till Dawn trilogy (Razor Charlie), the Spy Kids movies (Machete), the Grindhouse (2007) trailer (Machete), Predators (2010) (Cuchillo), Machete (2010) (Machete again). Only in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) (Cucuy) is this not the case.
He named his five favorite films as The Searchers (1956), Death Wish (1974), Animal Factory (2000), Dirty Harry (1971) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
Was considered for the role of Det. Rey Curtis on Law & Order (1990).
Inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame on March 8, 2012, in Austin, Texas.
Attended The Scandinavian Sci-Fi, Game & Film Convention in Helsingborg, Sweden [October 2009]
Was released from Soledad CTF (Correctional Training Facility) in August 1969.
The character of Octavio in the "King Of The Hill" cartoon was based on his likeness.
Volunteers at the Villalobos Pitbull Shelter.
Despite being known for playing intimidating and violent characters, he is widely known as being one of the nicest and friendliest actors in Hollywood who has been described as a joy to work with by co-stars.
Personal Quotes (18)[of on-set competition between actors] I've watched so many of those kinds of things turn bad, and the last thing you want to do is compete with somebody, 'cause he might be a sore loser.
[on being promoted from a $50/day extra to a $350/day boxing coach] How bad do you want this kid beat up?
[after being told an actor he was supposed to hit might hit back] For $350 a day, give him a bat. I used to get beat up for free.
Juvenile hall, youth authority . . . I was in a lot of trouble. I grew up like the characters I've been playing. But would I do things differently? I honestly believe that circumstances create destiny, almost. There weren't too many ways I could have done things. The only things that were available to me were either be a laborer or be a drug dealer. So I became an armed robber. It was a lot simpler.
I'll be watching TV and all of a sudden I'll think, "Hey, I'm in this!" A lot of times I don't even know the names of [the movies]. I just show up. From 1985, when I first started, to 1990, I did a shitload of B-movies about prisons. They would always say, "Get that Mexican guy with the big tattoo". I'd show up and I'd have one line, like, "Kill 'em all!" or something.
I'd have to say my favorite film would be Heat (1995) and it's got me out of many tickets.
It was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. I'd been in Soledad, San Quentin, Folsom, Vacaville, Susanville, Sierra--and here's a guy asking, "Can you act like a convict?" I remember I said. "I'll give it a shot".
I'm an ex-con turned icon.
[in 2011] Predators (2010) is the movie starring Adrien Brody. He took over the Arnold Schwarzenegger part. Well, there's a big difference between Arnold and Adrien. Arnold's like steroid muscles, you know what I mean? Adrien uses his mind. Every time this camera's on him, you can almost hear him thinking about how we're going to kill this predator. There's a line where Alice Braga says, "We have to work like a team." And we're all assassins, right? So I look at her and say, "Does this look like a team-oriented group of individuals?" And Adrien says, "We might have to work another way." But he's always thinking. I actually like his character better. The first Predator (1987) was more about "How big's my bicep?" The second one was fighting aliens. This is one is about an actual plan and an actual war on how to beat these things...Adrien was great. Adrien's a hog, straight out. I'll put him on my team any time. [Topher Grace] . . . he's cute. But his role, he was very serious about. And me, I won't do it unless I can have some fun, and I had a lot of fun with it.
[in 2011, on Runaway Train (1985)] I walked on that movie set as a drug counselor. I was helping this kid I was counseling. He called me up and said, "Hey, there's a lot of blow down here." It was 1985, and cocaine was running rampant in the movie industry. It was crazy. You'd walk into production and there'd be lines on the table. He just asked me to come down and support him, because that's what I did. I still do it. I'm going over on an intervention right now to one of our Hollywood actors. I went onto this movie set, and he was a PA, and I thought it was cute. I had never been on a movie set in my life. All these guys were dressed up as inmates, and they were all trying to act tough. They all had these fake tattoos. I kept smearing these tattoos. I had to say, "Oh shit, I'm sorry. That stuff smears." This guy asked me if I wanted to be in a movie, and I said, "What do I gotta do?" And he said, "Do you want to be an extra?" And I said, "An extra what?" And he said, "Can you act like a convict?" I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard. I'd been in every penitentiary in the state. I looked at him and I said, "Well, I'll give it a shot." He gave me a blue shirt, and I took off my shirt, and I have that big tattoo on my chest. He said "Leave your shirt off." Then this other guy comes over and says, "Hey, you're Danny Trejo. I saw you win the lightweight and welterweight title up in San Quentin." And I go, "Yeah. You're Eddie Bunker." I had been in prison with him. And he was a writer. We started talking, and he asked, "Are you still boxing?" And I go, "Well, I still train." And he said, "Do you want a job? We need someone to train one of the actors how to box." And I said, "I got a job. They're going to give me 15 bucks for acting like a convict. What's this pay?" He said, "It pays $320 a day." So I said, "How bad do you want this guy beat up? Shit, for 320 bucks" And he goes, "No, you have to be really careful, this actor's really high-strung. He's already socked a couple of people." I said, "For $320, man, give him a stick. I'll fight Godzilla for 320 bucks." I started training Eric Roberts how to box. Eric wanted to learn how to box, and I think he was scared of me, so he'd do whatever I told him to do. Andrey Konchalovskiy, the director, saw that he would do whatever I told him to do. I guess Andrey had some problems with it. So Andrey comes over and hires me. He says, "You be in the movie. You fight Eric in the movie." And that's where it started. From that day until right now, I've got 183 movies.
[2011, on why he works so much] I love doing it. Let me tell you something. When I was young, I was an armed robber. I did robberies. And there's no adrenaline rush like that. When you're using drugs and doing robberies, it's hard to distinguish whether you're doing robberies to support your drug habit, or doing drugs to support your robbery habit. Those guys that flip on motorcycles--it's like the same kind of adrenaline. It's unreal. The only time I ever felt that was when I heard Andrey Konchalovskiy yell, "Action!" And then I was like, "Wow. Here we are again. This whole adrenaline--". But this time I didn't have a gun. I was like, "Wow. This is awesome." I just totally got hooked. I found my calling. And then when I got my check, I said, "Fuck. Wait a minute. For the first half of my life, I went to prison for being a bad guy. Now they're paying me to be a bad guy."
[2011, on Anaconda (1997)] We got to go to Brazil on that. We're in Brazil on the Amazon River. The funny thing is, I used to have a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Henley, who was anal about the Amazon River. She would always be crazy about it. She would say, "The Amazon this" and "The Amazon that," and I'm like, "Who gives a shit? I didn't care about the Amazon River. Forty years later, I'm doing "Anaconda" on the damn Amazon River. I'm sitting there, and Jon Voight, [Jennifer Lopez], Ice Cube are all asking questions, and I knew all the answers. They thought I was the smart guy. I know all about this! Thank you, Mrs. Henley.
[2011, on Heat (1995)] Yeah, that was the shit. That was unreal. Me and Eddie Bunker walked on that set as armed-robbery consultants. What a job. I ran into Michael Mann, and he knew me from a movie called Drug Wars: The Camarena Story (1990) that me and him did years ago. Then he also knew my uncle who's in Folsom, because he did a movie called The Jericho Mile (1979).. So Michael Mann says, "Come on, Danny, I want you to meet a couple of guys you're going to be working with." I walk into a room with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight. I just said, "Wow." I could not believe it. And then he says, "Here," and that's where I got that role.
[2011, on Baywatch (1989)] Wow. Red bathing suits. I couldn't believe that show. I'd be sitting in Venice, looking at all these girls running around and thinking, "They're paying me for this. Thank you, Jesus." You know what I mean? "I wish the guys in prison could see me right now." But what was amazing was about five years later, I went to Paris, and there's this big crowd at the airport. They're all waiting to see me. I'm thinking one of my movies, right? They know me from "Baywatch". "You were on 'Baywatch'!" I believe that thing was all over the world.
[2011, on Marked for Death (1990)] Steven Seagal, He was cool. He's all macho, "I got bigger nuts than you." But he was cool. He was all right. He kept trying to get me to do my own stunts. I went, "Ah, hell no. They got this guy who looks just like me." At times he would get overzealous, you know what I mean? You do your own stunts as an actor, and you end up getting hurt. It's not your job. You've got stunt guys. Stunt guys make a lot of money.
[2011, on Con Air (1997)] "Con Air!". You don't know how many people scream that to me at Target. "Hey! Johnny-23!" So a lot of people watched that movie. That was a lot of fun. The only problem: the biggest case of testosterone I've ever been in. It was 30 guys all trying to be bad-asses. It was so weird. If you would spit, somebody would spit a little farther. Pretty soon, you've got 40 people trying to see how far they can spit. If you did a push-up, somebody would do two, then three, then four. It was like a competition of who was the baddest ass. It was funny.
[on being raised by his parents and extended family of paternal aunts and uncles] It's kinda like Shirley Temple and John Wayne went to war. And what you see is a result of John Wayne winning.
[said in prayer, upon realizing that he was ready to turn his life around after being placed in solitary confinement following a riot at Soledad prison on May 5, 1968] God, if you're there, then it's gonna be alright. And if you're not, I'm screwed.