(CBS Local)– Danny Trejo has had a wild life and career in Hollywood and he shared his fascinating story with the world in his new memoir from Atria Books called “Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood.” The 77-year-old wrote the book with fellow actor Donal Logue and in the memoir he discusses his battle with addiction, going to prison and becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith recently caught up with Trejo to discuss what it was like to write the book, how starring in “Machete” changed his career and the biggest challenges he’s overcome along the way.
“I don’t think I would’ve done it if I hadn’t found Donal Logue,” said Trejo. “We met 30 years ago and became best friends. I could never find anyone who was an English Literature major and also knew the streets. Every time I would start doing this they would want to put it in their words. I met Donal and Donal is from the streets. I did a documentary and that was kind of me now. We did a chapter and I let my kid’s mom Maeve read it and she said it sounds like you.”
While Trejo wanted to address a lot in this book, one of the most important things to hit on was how he overcame drug addiction and spending time in prison. The actor was in and out of prison in his early years and spent time at San Quentin State Prison in California.
“The biggest challenge I had was trying to be a nice guy. If you were on fire, I wouldn’t piss on you unless you owed me money,” said Trejo. “I wasn’t a nice person, but I wasn’t a bully. My uncle always taught me to not be a bully or fight down. I would say that 10% of the people in prison belong in prison. If you could get some psychologists and psychiatrists to go through the prison population, they would find autism, bipolar disorder and a lot of things that could be handled differently than just going to prison. My cousin just got out and he’s 55 years old.”
“I think alcoholism and drug addiction should be taught in school,” said Trejo. “I remember when I got to juvenile hall, I thought Mexicans were supposed to go because there were so many of us there. Mexicans, African-Americans and poor white kids. A lot of prison is more economics than crime. I know people who went to jail for shoplifting bread and bologna.”
Despite the challenges he had early in his life, Trejo has gone on to have an extremely successful career in Hollywood. He worked with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in “Heat,” became an icon when he starred in “Machete” and stole scenes in shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Sons of Anarchy.” While he has done many great projects, “Machete” will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Robert Rodriguez is a visionary and the greatest man I’ve ever met,” said Trejo. “He’s unbelievable and I did a movie with him called Desperado. I walked into his office and he said I looked like the bad guys from his high school. I said, I am the bad guys from your high school. People didn’t know Antonio Banderas when we were in Acuña, Mexico. I’m walking around with no shirt on and everyone is taking pictures with me.”
“Robert liked the way I presented myself and how the people came to me,” said Trejo. “He said he had this movie he wanted to do about a federale who fights with machetes. I said let’s do it. In Spy Kids, we called the guy Uncle Machete. Doing Machete was awesome. I almost broke into the tears the first Halloween after Machete. We had a knock on the door and there are these Mexican kids dressed as Machete. I’m so used to seeing Batman or Superman. It was such a blessing to see a Mexican hero. I am so proud of Machete.”
Trejo’s book is available now wherever books are sold.