Interview: Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo, 'Machete Kills' (Part One)

Machete Kills Fantastic Fest

If you haven't seen Machete Kills yet (Don's review), the best way to see it is with a large and enthusiastic audience -- or even a small group of lively friends. It's such silly fun that audience reactions are a must. Robert Rodriguez shot the sequel to Machete in the Austin area, whether you recognize it or not, with a cast that includes Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga. It even includes a fake trailer for a third Machete film ... set in outer space.

And of course, Danny Trejo returns in the title role, which he's been playing since Uncle Machete appeared on the scene in Rodriguez's 2001 movie Spy Kids.

I sat down with Rodriguez and Trejo shortly before the movie opened Fantastic Fest this year -- the photo of Rodriguez, Alexa Vega and Trejo above is from its premiere that evening. Here's what they have to say about James Bond, film franchises, Texas film incentives and shooting in Austin, among other things. There may be minor spoilers if you consider Machete Kills spoilable, which it isn't, really.

Slackerwood: So about 15, 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was watching a James Bond film -- definitely when I saw the speedboat.

Robert Rodriguez:  Yeah, the speedboat! You're like "Wow, he's a secret agent. He's a Mexican secret agent."

And as soon as I saw Mel Gibson, I thought, "Bond villain."

Rodriguez: You realize, "Oh, okay, now it's starting to make sense. He's trying to dominate the world." That was a blast. He was the ultimate Bond villain, I think. He's so great, so charismatic. You think about the old Bond villains, they're not all really good actors -- they're horrible, actually. I grew up in the Roger Moore era -- they're awful. If they'd had Mel Gibson -- they'd have had something.

Machete Kills still

So other than Mel Gibson's character, were you actually thinking about James Bond?

Rodriguez: Definitely. All my movies are pretty James Bond-heavy. The Spy Kids movies, even the Desperado series: the guitar cases fire, one shoots missiles, gadgets and things -- I just love that kind of stuff. As a cartoonist, that always fell into my way of thinking. Even From Dusk Till Dawn had the crotch gun that I stole and put in this movie.

Is there a gadget you've devised that you haven't been able to use yet?

Rodriguez: I don't think so. I'm constantly having to come up with new ones. The machine-gun leg [Planet Terror] was a pretty novel one --

Danny Trejo: The three-pronged machete.

Rodriguez: The three-pronged machete -- it got seriously difficult when we got to that scene. That's why there's only a machine gun, a three-pronged machete and a little grapple thing, because we'd already had everything else. I didn't know what else to do.

[to Trejo] Did you ever want to play James Bond, or a similar character?

Trejo: Always. [laughs]

You had the dinner jacket in one scene --

Rodriguez: "Oh my god, look at him all James Bonded out." Classic. I wanted the trailer to show him in different outfits, so you'd think, "Oh, this is a bigger movie." We got him in the dinner jacket, we got him on a boat. We got him in the spacesuit.

Machete Kills still

What other influences do you think people would notice?

Rodriguez: The Star Wars references are pretty heavy, because of the way I got inspired by a character. The real-life guy that I based the good parts of the Voz character [Gibson] on was Elon Musk, and he's a big Star Wars fan. He named a lot of his gadgets and things that he's created after Star Wars characters or vehicles. and I thought -- that's so funny, but that makes sense. He would have grown up in that era and now he's achieving his dream and that was his dream, to go Star Wars, so … I should do that with Mel. And it would give us a real visual identity -- be kind of real funny to see Machete in a Landspeeder golf cart, speeding across the desert.

Did you have the Machete in Space third-movie idea before the Star Wars angle on Mel's character? They tie in together really well in the movie.

Rodriguez: I had an idea, years ago -- at Comic-Con -- "Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again … In Space." And they all laughed and said, my God, I want to see that. Imagining him in space, they thought it was funny and I said, "I want to see that movie too." I almost wanted to skip Two and go right to Three. But I thought, maybe there's a way to do Two with a little bit of Three in there so I can get that out of my system.

Will there really be a third movie?

Rodriguez: I don't know, but I've shot enough of it to make myself feel satisfied. If it doesn't happen, then I did get to see the best parts of the movie.

Now check out Part Two of my interview.

[Photo credit: "Machete Kills Fantastic Fest" by Jack Plunkett, used with permission from Fantastic Fest.]