Danny Trejo is undoubtedly one of the hardest working men in
CraveOnline chatted with Trejo on-set as a prison scene was being shot at an abandoned factory in the Gugulethu township outside
CraveOnline: Since Death Race 2 tells the story of how the demolition derbies started on
Danny Trejo: There’s more story, but I don’t think there’s less action. Instead of just violence for violence’s sake, there are reasons why say, I’m cutting somebody’s throat.
CraveOnline: Tell us about your character.
Danny Trejo: I play a Mexican Jew. Goldberg. I don’t have to wear a yarmulke or nothing. I’m just a killer, and I’m the chief mechanic here. It’s funny because both of my kids are Jews, their mom is Jewish. (Laughs)
CraveOnline: Do you have any personal experience fixing cars?
Danny Trejo: I love working on old cars. I’ve got a 1936 Dodge, a ’52 Chevy pickup, a ’76 Cadillac Seville, a ’70 Fleetwood, a Mercedes, a
CraveOnline: I took a tour of the cars used in the movie. There’s a lot of horsepower in some of those vehicles. They’ve really beefed them up.
Danny Trejo: Oh yeah. I’d love to cruise that Dodge Ram truck down Sunset Boulevard. (Laughs)
CraveOnline: I also read in the press materials something like “a prison movie wouldn’t be a prison movement without Danny Trejo.” Is that accurate?
Danny Trejo: Well, for the first five years of my career I was always like Inmate #1. And then a lot of times I’ve played technical advisors. The director would ask, “Would they do that?” On this movie, too. Roel Reiné is cool because he knows what he wants. I love working with people who aren’t shooting in the dark. I’ve worked with a lot of people. We get paid great. Some are in for the dough, some are in for the acclaim, some love [filmmaking]. Roel is one of the people who just loves it. He’d be a grip if he wasn’t a director. (Laughs)
CraveOnline: There are big fight scenes in the movie. How realistic did they seem to you?
Danny Trejo: I’ve seen that for real, and been a part of that for real. Sitting up in there in the bleachers, even though people were acting, it looked…some of this stuff is pretty close to the truth. I flashed back. When they brought the helicopters over I almost started crying. Usually they’ll drop teargas. It was amazing…and then even Roel asked me did that look real? I said yeah, yeah. It was real. Some of the extras they did so well. It was like 142 degrees. It was smoking. I give them all credit. Nobody sloughed off. On movie sets, when we have to do that, people start hiding.
CraveOnline: Do you feel like some movies may glamorize prison? Does that annoy you?
Danny Trejo: Nah, it’s done for entertainment. If you look at what’s going on [in Death Race 2], if you step out of line, you get killed. If you snitch, you get killed. Got to remember what they’re showing here is that we’re doomed forever, we’re not getting out, they’re giving us a chance to get out if we kill.
CraveOnline: The movie actually seems to comment on the potential of a corrupt American prison system. Did that resonate with you?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, I speak in juvenile halls all the time. When you look at
CraveOnline: Given the array of characters you’ve played, you’ve become one of the most recognizable faces in
Danny Trejo: I look at the price first. It’s called being a businessman. I look at the money, then where’s it at and what’s it about. I hate dramas. I did a drama called Sherry Baby, even though it got a lot of acclaim. Maggie [Gyllenhaal] did really well. I did really well. They just don’t move fast enough—too much talking, too much dialogue. Let’s shoot somebody, let’s blow up something. (Laughs)
CraveOnline: Are there other things that make the movie-making experience more enjoyable?
Danny Trejo: Babes, bullets and blood. (Laughs) I had a choice of about three different films. One was in
CraveOnline: Have you worked in or visited South
Danny Trejo: This is my third time. I did Dusk Til Dawn 2 and 3 here. I’ve been all over. I’ve seen every club there is. My life is cool. (Laughs)
CraveOnline: What did you shoot today?
Danny Trejo: I’ll be shooting in about an hour. Right now they’ll shoot the fight scene, then they’ll shoot the crowd scene and they’ve done it to where they’ve shot the fight here and the crowd up here. Roel has set rules to how he wants to cut this so it’s a lot simpler. The cast is awesome too. I’ve made really good friends with Fred Koehler (who plays Lists) who was in the last Death Race. And then Joe Vaz (who plays Rocco)—he’s from
CraveOnline: Despite this movie not getting a theatrical release, it seems to have all the bells and whistles of a big budget film.
Danny Trejo: I believe that when you go straight to DVD, then more people see it. I’ve got more people who’ve seen me in movies that went to DVD. Especially right now, you have a family of three and you take them to the theater, that’s almost 100 bucks. Right now a lot of people can’t do that. $12 each ticket, plus popcorn and sodas, unless you’re slick and [smuggle in] a Coke can and some popcorn. So you know it’s like let’s rent this movie, and you get to watch it on your TV and make your own popcorn.
DEATH RACE 2 arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on 1/18