Danny Trejo has accomplished many things during his 77 years. He is a legend when it comes to his acting career, he's made appearances in videogames, music videos and he has opened a series of successful restaurants, including Trejo's Tacos and Trejo's Cantina.
With Trejo’s Tacos: A Cookbook already under his belt, the actor is back to dive deep into his life with his memoir Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption and Hollywood.
Trejo shares his highest highs and lowest lows in the new book and he told Etalk’s Traci Melchor all about reflecting on and re-exploring his life journey.
The Desperado actor also revealed how he reconnected with his friend and co-writer Donal Logue to help bring his memories to paper. Specifically: how Trejo telling Vin Diesel he had too many muscles for a movie in 1999 made his memoir happen and also gave Vin Diesel the push he needed to star in the Fast and Furious franchise.
“It was kind of like an emotional rollercoaster. I thank God I had Donal Logue. I made a friend in Donal Logue in 1990 at a place called Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Center. We had a late meeting at 12 o’clock at night and I went to this meeting and he was there."
"He was probably the most angriest person I’ve ever met in my life. I had met crazy angry, I have met angry that they’re locked up in prison because they were so angry. And yet, I said hello to this kid behind the counter at the Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Center. I said, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ and he said, ‘What do you mean how am I doing?’"
The pair reconnected eight years later when they worked together on the movie Reindeer Games — starring Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron and Gary Sinise — but first, Trejo had to convince Vin Diesel that the part he was playing wasn't right for him.
"[Donal and I] have become just absolute, unbelievable friends. He was going through a lot of stuff and I told him, ‘I got your back. Don’t worry.’ It was amazing the way God set this up," Trejo said.
"Vin Diesel had a part and Vin Diesel had a part that wasn’t for him. He was doing a favour for a producer so he took this part. It was like the dumbest part in the world for Vin Diesel and I said, ‘What the hell are you doing here man?’ And he said, ‘I’m doing a favour. I don’t think this is right,'" he revealed.
He continued, "He was really kind of torn. He said, ‘Man I don’t want to do this but I don’t want to piss anybody off.’ I said, ‘Look, let me tell you something. I love you, homes, but you’re not right for this part. This guy is kind of goofy and you’re not. It’s kind of dumb and it’s even dumber if you show all them muscles on screen.’"
Trejo said that he told Diesel as long as he doesn’t go on camera, he won’t piss anybody off.
“He said, ‘Man I got this other movie I’m supposed to be doing' and I said, ‘Get out of here.’ So the next morning, we called to pick him up and he said, ‘You know what, Danny? I’m gone. I already told them I’m gone.’ So who do they send up as his replacement? Donal Logue. Perfect for the role, nobody could have done it better than Donal," the Sons of Anarchy actor said.
FYI: the "other movie" Diesel had was 2001's The Fast and the Furious. And meanwhile, Trejo and Logue bonded so well that Logue was the only one he could trust to help with his book. So it's really a win-win.
“I wasn’t afraid to cry in front of him and I wasn’t afraid to feel emotions in front of him. I remember talking about my mom and talking about my dad. That was painful and I never viewed it as painful. I never thought I was abused. I thought my dad choked me when I was 7-years-old because I screwed up,” Trejo shared.
“I said, ‘I’ve never been abused,' and he said, ‘You don’t think giving marijuana to an 8-year-old is abuse?’ I said, ‘No, I thought it was sharing,” the actor added.
Trejo hopes that people who are struggling can understand that there is no such thing as hopelessness after reading his book.
“Some of us think that, ‘No, I’ve committed crimes in the eyes of God and man and the reality is if that happens we're dead.’ It’s like, it’s not. There’s always hope. It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you end,” he added.
If we were to see the book turned into something for the big screen, Trejo hopes that his son would play the younger version of him.
“I could play the old Danny but my son — there’s a picture of me when I was boxing and I was 20-years-old before I got my tattoo on my chest. I was just a kid and I won the lightweight championship and people walk in and they go, 'Hey, is that Gilbert?’ That’s me! Gilbert’s my son and he looks just like me when I was little. He never went to prison. I tell him, ‘Look, you’re a good-looking kid, homes. If you go to prison you’re going to look like this.’”
Trejo said that he kept trying to get Gilbert in front of the camera but instead he prefers to direct.
“He just directed me and David Hasselhoff in a music video for Starcrawler and then he directed me in a film called From a Son. It’s like the best work I’ve ever done. It’s amazing.”
Trejo said that his son had him crying during the movie by showing him baby pictures and asking if he remembered some special memories.
“I cried with boogers… the ugly cry. Nothing masculine about this cry,” Trejo added.
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