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He’s a scarred-up, take-no-prisoners ex Mexican Federale with an ax to grind and a vengeful bloodlust, so why wouldn’t Danny Trejo’s “Machete” become a kid’s favorite action hero? Trejo’s tongue-in-cheek badass alter-ego is a parent’s worst nightmare, yet, thanks to last year’s gleefully violent feature film Machete, he’s become something of a cultural institution. The character’s influence has now earned veteran actor Trejo some corporate advertising dollars, in the form of a new kid-friendly spot for Lipton Brisk Iced Tea (watch it below) in which Trejo voices a clay-mated Machete. The concept is basically Machete recounting his movie’s entire plot in just over 60 seconds while slicing and dicing all in his path. With the commercial, Trejo has joined the likes of past Lipton claymation honorees Babe Ruth, Ozzy Osbourne, and Sylvester Stallone. And, really, could it have happened to a cooler guy? The Los Angeles native has been ubiquitous in B-movies and genre favorites for nearly 30 years, three decade’s worth of dues-paying that’s led to the infamy of Machete, and, yes, a claymation advertisement. Complex sat down with Trejo to chat about the funny commercial, how much rugrats love Machete, and how sobriety can cramp one’s business style.
Complex: What was your first reaction when you heard that Lipton wanted to turn Machete into a claymation character?
Danny Trejo: Well, at first, I didn’t really know what they were talking about. And then they reminded me that, what’s his name, Stallone did one a long time ago. You know [in an exaggerated Sylvester Stallone voice], “Arrrahhh!” [Laughs.] Like, at least let him speak English. But then they kind of explained to me that the technology has really improved, so I did it. When I saw what it was about, it was amazing. It’s gotten as popular as the movie Machete. It’s blowing me away.
In what ways?
Danny Trejo: I’ve seen six- and seven-year-old kids coming up to me, saying, from the commercial, “And then I wash my hands!” I was drinking a can of Pepsi outside a 7/11, and this little girl about seven years old comes up to me and yells, “Hey, that’s not a Brisk, baby!” [Laughs.] So, it’s kind of like given me this whole different audience. I mean, I was real popular with the kids because of the Spy Kids movies, and now they’re just yelling at me [in a high-pitched voice], “Hey, that’s not Brisk, baby!” They’re really pushing into this claymation, and, like I said, it really helped Machete. I think I’m just gonna become this little iconic cartoon character.
Were you able to have any creative input?
Danny Trejo: Well, we changed a couple of the lines, though I don’t remember what they were doing. The whole process just turned out to be unbelievable. I think it’s probably the best one ever done, and not just because I’m in it. It’s because of the subject matter: Machete.
Was it strange to act as Machete while standing in a voice-over booth?
Danny Trejo: You know what? It’s a cartoon, so it’s not gonna be as serious. I say everything so fast for this claymation bit. It was almost like I was running through the lines super-fast, but I was having so much fun. I love doing voice-overs; a lot of actors have a lot of trouble with it, but I just seem to have a knack for it. the people that I was working with at the Lipton company were just amazing.
So it’s a matter of exaggerating the lines a bit?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, exactly: [in a sped-up voice] “And then this rich guy wanted me to kill the senator!” [Laughs.] “And then I washed my hands!”
So you think it’s definitely opened Machete up to a much younger audience? What happens when those little kids rent the movie and see you dangling from a building on intestines?
Danny Trejo: Well, most of them have already. [Laughs.] I’ve got eight, nine-year-old kids coming up to me and saying, “I loved you in Machete! It was so cool!” They’re watching it somewhere. I really liked it because the violence was funny; it was done in a funny way. In the claymation, the whole thing was done kind of comically, so it made it palatable for eight-year-olds. Like I said, I got seven-year-old kids coming up to me all the time. I think what we should do is make another one, and have Machete say, “And then I do my homework!” [Laughs.] Or, “I listen to my mom and dad!”
Do you think you’ll do a second one?
Danny Trejo: Well, it’s up to them; it’s not up to me. But it’s a great tool. The audience loves the name “Machete.” I was Uncle Machete in Spy Kids, so all that audience loves the character. We did three Spy Kids movies, and we actually just finished up another one. And then I was Machete in the movie, and then I was Machete in the claymation, so the character has this unbelievable following. So, shit, let’s sell Pepsi! [Laughs.] I’m ready to sell anything.
Well, from the movie we know that “Machete don’t text,” so cell phone commercials seem out of the question.
Danny Trejo: That’s right: “Machete don’t text.” [Laughs.]
What other products can you see Machete promoting?
Danny Trejo: Sky’s the limit. Anybody who’s got a checkbook. [Laughs.] I’m not supposed to say that, am I? It’s funny, I’ve been approached by a couple of the liquor companies, and I don’t drink. So, it’s kind of hard for me to sell booze. They’d have to have some kind of disclaimer, saying, “Drink responsibly.” I don’t know, I’m kind of torn because I drank in movies, when you drink tea and it’s supposed to be whisky or whatever, but it’d be weird for me to tell people, “Buy this booze,” you know? There’s nothing wrong with drinking; people know how to drink responsibly. I just don’t do it myself.
Totally understandable. So what’s next for the character? You’re going to do a sequel, Machete Kills, at some point, right?
Danny Trejo: Yeah, Machete Kills, that’s what Robert [Rodriguez] is writing right now, and I’m finishing up my Machete bike. It’s a motorcycle that’s all Machete: Machete down-tubes, and the tank is painted with a picture of me, Machete, and Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez on my leg, and it’s got Robert De Niro on the back as the senator, and Lindsay Lohan as the nun with a gun. It’s got the two twins on the oil tank. It really came out beautifully. I think we’re gonna premiere it at this big car show in L.A. that’s coming up really soon. It’s a lowrider car show. But I’ll steal the show.