Fantastic Fest 2013: Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo & Alexa Vega on Machete Kills
Fantastic Fest begins with a hometown production. Robert Rodriguez and his Austin based Troublemaker Studios have the opening night film, Machete Kills. Danny Trejo returns as the former Federale turned migrant worker turned undercover agent in a new adventure filled with wild characters played by Sofia Vergara, Demian Bichir, Mel Gibson, Alexa Vega and Charlie Sheen (as Carlos Estevez). Rodriguez, Trejo and Vega were in Austin the day of their premiere for an interview. You know Rodriguez and Trejo, but Vega, the former Spy Kid, plays a prostitute assassin working for Vergara’s madam character. She also still remembers our very first interviews for the Spy Kids movies when she was just a kid, so it was quite a reunion, a Fantastic reunion I would even say.
Some further mild spoilers for Machete Kills follow, but since the title of the next sequel has already been released, you can probably follow along.
CraveOnline: How did Machete go from The Weinstein Company to Fox to Open Road?
Robert Rodriguez: I owned it. Part of the deal with the Weinsteins was any of the fake trailers [in Grindhous ], I had the rights to, any of the other filmmakers too. It was not part of the movie because we did them for free. That was a smart thing. I gave them an opportunity to release the first Machete but we took it to Fox and then the sequel, I really liked what Open Road had been doing, especially with a lot of hispanic themed stuff like End of Watch and how they were tied in with AMC which has the biggest fan following. AMC would promote their movies in their theaters heavily that they were a part of distributing. You go to the AMC theater, you’ll see these huge velvet billboards of him and all the posters up. They advertise it really heavily and I think that’s what will make it a more renegade way of releasing which I thought would be a cool way to go.
Now it’s one thing to make a fake trailer for another movie, is this the first time there’s ever been a trailer for the sequel before a movie before?
Robert Rodriguez: I don’t think so. I was hoping I would be the first. Everybody was like, “Wait, why are you going to do that?” I was like, because we had to. It would be so cool if we could pull it off. I think it would be fun to tease a movie that doesn’t exist and have the audience think, “Okay, that’s just obviously a joke” and then they start watching the real movie and then they’re like, “Oh my God, we’re going to end up there, aren’t we?” I thought that would be fun. Anything goes in this movie series and I really wanted to do part three, so I thought in case part three doesn’t happen, I want to feel like I got a little bit out of my system. And she looked awesome, didn’t she?
That was my question, Alexa. How did you like the space bra in the trailer?
Alexa Vega: I’ve known Fred forever. [Laughs]
I was practically still a kid when we met. I was 23 when Spy Kids came out.
Danny Trejo: She was 11.
Alexa Vega: I don’t know if you heard but I had to fight for this role. I literally had to fight for it. I called him up and I was like, “Look, I keep getting these young roles.” Believe me, I want to play them as long as I can but at some point you do have to make that transition. I was having a hard time getting people to see me as a young woman. They just kept seeing me as this little girl. I asked him, “Hey, do you have anything maybe in Sin City? Will you think about me for Sin City?” And he goes, “That will never happen!” He was so against it.
I kept persuading him and calling him and talking to him, but he goes, “Okay, there’s this small role in Machete. Let’s see how you do. It’s really, really small.” Literally, it was on half a page and that was it. I showed up and I had to prove myself and I had to just go out there and own it. What was a small role turned out to be throughout the entire film.
Danny Trejo: She owned it so good the role just increased.
You didn’t want to see her that way, Robert?
Robert Rodriguez: Not that I didn’t want to see her. I never really thought of it. She literally said, “I’m not getting the kind of roles that I want to get for my age now. Could you just keep me in mind when you’re doing a Sin City?” I just went oh my God, that’ll never happen. Nobody will ever cast you in a Sin City role. It’s just too prominent. You’re just too well known for Spy Kids. Then I realized I was part of the problem.
So well, it’s not going to happen for a Sin City but maybe get your feet wet. I’m doing Machete right now. Come see if you even like that sort of thing before you take on a role like that. You might not even feel comfortable. You might just go, “This isn’t me” and you’ll want to ditch and then you’ll be stuck. If you come be in Machete, Sofia’s the main girl. She has some girls right behind her. You can come as forward as you want and you can go as back as you want if you don’t feel comfortable. She comes in and takes over, becomes the lead girl. I was like, “Oh, I better start giving her dialogue now.” Any dialogue the other girls had all went to Killjoy.
So did you like that sort of thing?
Alexa Vega: Yeah, oh my gosh.
Robert Rodriguez: When you’ve got Sofia Vergara as you’re boss, you’re like oh my God, she was right up there with her.
Alexa Vega: No kidding. There’s no wrong. It was awesome. You write such strong females and I feel like girls always want to secretly be the girls in a Rodriguez film just because they’re strong. They’re very empowering and Killjoy is just edgy and kick-ass and everything I’ve always wanted to play. And we were able to do it in a fun way. We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously and I thought it was a perfect transition into a more grown-up role because we just had fun with it and I was with people that I really trusted and felt comfortable with.
Danny, you’ve been in hundreds of movies. Was Machete the first one you actually got to be the lead star in?
Danny Trejo: Yeah. Robert told me he wanted to do that 20 years ago when we were doing Desperado. He said, “Man, I’ve got a character for you. It’s perfect.” And we just talked about it. We talked about it for like 15 years. He first put me in as Machete in Spy Kids. I was Uncle Machete.
Robert Rodriguez: Kind of to pay homage to this idea we never got off the ground. You know what, so we don’t feel like we didn’t achieve a dream, let’s just name this character Uncle Machete. He’ll be a cool guy and he’ll have a Machete in his logo and we’ll just leave it at that. When Grindhouse came around, I needed to do a fake trailer for a movie. I thought oh my God, I’ll do Machete like I always wanted, at least in a short form and get that out of our system.
Then the audience just responded so strongly to it, they just thought wow, I’ve never seen a Mexican action hero. It’s never been done before, a Mexploitation movie. There’s so many Blaxploitation [films], there’s no Mexploitation. So people were really curious about it and wanted to see it. They kept saying, “When is that movie going to come out? I’ve been waiting for that movie. Oh, it was a fake trailer.” They didn’t realize it was a fake trailer. So we decided, let’s go make it because this is special.