Machete: Interview with Robert Rodriguez

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Fox will release Robert Rodrigue's new actioner Machete in September

He looked like just another day laborer from the streets, and the perfect fall guy for a crooked political assassination. But he turned out to be Machete, a legendary ex-Federale with a deadly attitude and the skills to match.

Left for dead after clashing with notorious Mexican drug kingpin Torrez, Machete has escaped to Texas, looking to disappear and forget his tragic past. But what he finds is a web of corruption and deceit that leaves a bullet in a senator and Machete a wanted man.
Machete sets out to clear his name and expose a deep conspiracy. But standing in his way are Booth, a ruthless businessman with an endless payroll of killers; Von, a twisted border vigilante leading a small army; and Sartana, a beautiful immigrations officer torn between enforcing the law and doing what is right.
Helping Machete even the odds are Luz, a sexy taco-truck lady with a rebellious spirit and revolutionary heart, and Padre, a priest who’s good with blessings, but better with guns.
Carving a path of bullets, blood, and broken hearts, Machete’s quest ultimately leads him back to Torrez for an epic battle of revenge and redemption.
Or as Machete puts it: “They just f****d with the wrong Mexican.”
While most movie fans believe "Machete" was born in a now-legendary “fake” trailer conceived by Robert Rodriguez as part of his and Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to B-movies, “Grindhouse,” Machette’s inception dates back years before that film’s 2007 release. In the early-1990s, when Rodriguez was prepping his second motion picture “Desperado,” he thought the time was right for a Latin movie hero, which he codenamed “Machete.” “There weren’t any action movies that with a Latin flavor that could play to a broad audience,” Rodriguez explains. “When I watched director John Woo’s movies, they made me want to be Asian. Woo and actor Chow Yun-Fat’s ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘The Killer’ really inspired me to make films that would create that feeling in the Latin arena.”
The nascent idea for MACHETE began to crystallize when actor Danny Trejo reported to the set of “Desperado,” which was shooting in a small Mexican town. “Nobody really knew about ‘Desperado,’ yet the local townspeople would flock to see Danny, thinking he was the star of the movie, even though his part was very small,” Rodriguez remembers. “He has incredible presence, and I knew I had found MACHETE. So, I handed him a knife, and told him to start practicing.”
Since that fateful meeting, Trejo has acted in several of Rodriguez’s movies, including “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Spy Kids.” “I continue to work with Danny because he pops and has one of the most amazing faces in cinema history.”
When the fake MACHETE trailer was unveiled in “Grindhouse,” the response was impressive. “People [who had seen the trailer on “Grindhouse” or, later, online] would come up to me and ask, ‘Are you going to make that movie?’” Rodriguez notes. “And I would respond, ‘Yeah, of course we’re going to make it’ – although I really had no firm plans to do so, because I didn’t want to let them down. They were genuinely excited to see the entire film be made.”
Trejo’s ongoing passion for a MACHETE feature film also had a significant impact on the filmmaker. “Danny would talk about doing a MACHETE movie for years,” says Rodriguez. “So when we made the trailer for ‘Grindhouse,’ I figured that would maybe be enough to satisfy our need to make the full film.” But the trailer triggered even more enthusiasm for a feature. “Danny continued to call me, saying, ‘Well, now we really have to make the movie because everyone wants it.’ So my phone would not stop ringing for two years until I finally broke down and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to give the fans what they want, and Danny what he wants. And I knew of course that I more than anyone wanted to see this movie finally get made. MACHETE’s time had finally come.”
Like Rodriguez, Trejo was inspired by people’s enthusiasm for a MACHETE movie. “The fans were everywhere,” Trejo says. “When I was in England a few years ago, I was stopped by two guys who had tattoos of the character Machete on their backs. When I signed my name [above their tattoos], they had my signature tattooed, as well.”
Machete is driven by vengeance, and that says Trejo, “makes him one bad m*****r.” Indeed, Trejo’s sharp-edged instincts and passion for the film and character – his first starring role in a career that spans a quarter of a century – has him sometimes even sounding like his onscreen persona: “Machete is a man of very few words but when he does say something, someone’s gonna die!”  
As a youngster, Machete lived a hard life on the mean streets of Mexico. He was accepted at the police academy, where he excelled, and as a Federale, Machete was, as one character in the film describes, “CIA, FBI, and DEA all rolled into one mean burrito.” And what about that foreboding street name? Well, when a man spends his life fighting, he tends to be nicknamed after his weapon of choice. (Machete carries no fewer than 44 blades in his custom-made leather vest.)
Machete’s affinity for knives comes in handy when he makes an incredible escape from a hospital – and his looming execution. In what promises to become one of the film’s most talked-about sequences, Machete slices open an opponent’s belly and rappels down a wall with the goon’s intestine. Is the sequence over-the-top? Sure. But as Rodriguez reminds us, “The intestine is ten times longer than the human body. True fact.” 
Portraying an inventive, knife-wielding character in a Robert Rodriguez film is nothing new for Trejo. “Every character I play has some kind of knife or sharp object,” says the actor. Adds Rodriguez: “In ‘Desperado,’ Danny was called ‘Navajas,’ which means knives; in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ he was ‘Razor Charlie’ and in ‘Predators’ he was ‘Cuchillo’ [another Spanish word for “knife”]. So, Danny’s like a whole set of cutlery in and of himself.”
Finally committing to MACHETE feature film, Rodriguez honed the screenplay with co-writer Alvaro Rodriguez, brought in Ethan Maniquis as co-director, and began casting. In short order, Robert came up with one of the most eclectic line-ups in recent motion picture history. Joining Trejo is action icon Steven Seagal, “Avatar” and “Fast and Furious” heroine Michelle Rodriguez, “Lost’s” Jeff Fahey (who also had a role in “Grindhouse” – and in the original MACHETE trailer), comedy legend and Rodriguez film stalwart Cheech Marin (“From Dusk Till Dawn”), actor/singer/tabloid headliner Lindsay Lohan, “Miami Vice” topliner Don Johnson (the veteran film and television actor gets an “introducing” credit), popular leading lady Jessica Alba (“Sin City”) – and the renowned Robert De Niro.