About the Production
Director Robert Rodriguez and actor Danny Trejo willed Machete, the knife-wielding hero
of Machete and Machete Kills, into existence. Machete's origins predate his brief cinematic debut
in a fake trailer Rodriguez wrote and directed for Grindhouse, Rodriguez's 2007 double feature
collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. "I actually came up with the character when I made
Desperado, and I told Danny Trejo about it on set," Rodriguez remembers. "I said, 'Someday
you're going to play Machete.' For years, we kicked it around. In the movie Spy Kids, we paid
tribute to this movie that we thought we would never get off the ground."
Rodriguez had an opportunity to test Machete out when he and Tarantino discussed ideas
for manufactured film trailers for Grindhouse. At that point, Rodriguez had built an entire history
for the character that had taken residence in the back of his mind. "When we were looking to do
fake trailers, Quentin and I immediately thought, 'We've got to make Machete.' I had a story built
up over the years, and I jammed it into this trailer. It was the first 'Mex-ploitation' movie, like a
genre picture from the '70s or '80s, but done with a Latin character."
The eye-popping fake trailer begat a real movie in 2010 with Rodriguez's Machete. But
the impetus for Machete Kills began even before Machete hit theaters. When Rodriguez was
putting the finishing touches on Machete, he thought the film should go out with a bang.
Rodriguez explains: "Machete drove off with Jessica Alba, and it's a nice ending, but it needed
something else. It needed something visceral. So, while I was mixing, I decided to put some titles
up for two fake sequels, just to get the audience thinking we have two sequels coming. It said,
'Machete' will return in Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again."
Rodriguez left audiences wanting more, and the titles at the end of Machete went from
being a creative whim to an eagerly anticipated promise. When Rodriguez saw the reaction to Machete, he realized that he should give the fans what they wanted. "I was really happy with how
the first movie came out. It's probably the best reaction I had seen from an audience for one of
my movies. Not just in the States: we took it to the Venice Film Festival and it got a bonkers
Trejo also relished in the success of Machete, and hoped he could don his sword-lined
leather jacket again. "Danny Trejo called me all the time saying, 'When are we going to make
another one?'" Rodriguez says. "Anywhere he goes, people stop him and they don't call him
'Danny' anymore, they call him 'Machete.' Even his own mother called him Machete after that."
After much consideration, Rodriguez made the decision to direct Machete Kills. In fact,
Machete Kills can be seen as two sequels wrapped together. Rodriguez explains: "We had no
plans of making two more, but the first movie built up an audience, and built up anticipation for
another movie. We decided to go ahead and make Machete Kills to give people the second and a
taste of the third one all in one."
Nevertheless, Rodriguez was reticent to make a sequel to Machete unless it offered
something completely new to the series. He expanded upon the legend of Machete in an organic,
but bold manner. "I decided to go really big and adventurous with it," Rodriguez explains. "The
first movie was almost like our First Blood, and this needed to be Rambo: First Blood Part 2.
This needed to be Machete hired by the U.S. government to go on a mission that they couldn't
solve. I wanted it to feel like we went much bigger with the second one."
After working up a 40 page scriptment with his brother and long time collaborator, Marcel,
Rodriguez turned to writer Kyle Ward to flesh out a screenplay for Machete Kills. "I remember the
first time we sat down, he had all these ideas," Ward recalls "He's a creative juggernaut, so the fun
thing is that you can riff on that. It's fun to see it evolve."
Rodriguez threw one major challenge Ward's way: "Robert always had a vision of how he
was going to do Machete Kills. He announced in San Diego that he wanted to take it to outer
space. And when he first told me that, I was like, 'Aye, what am I going to do with that?'"
Indeed, Ward and Rodriguez found a way to send Machete into the stratosphere. Ward
notes that the irreverent, playful tone of the film lends itself to such flourishes. "I want people to
go to the theater and have a good time, and laugh, and say, 'Hey I've never seen anything like that
before.' I think that was the goal of Machete Kills, and hopefully we've accomplished that goal."
"What I think Machete has is this real sense of play, and adventure, and inventiveness, and
creativity, and expecting the unexpected, and going as far as you possibly can to push all the
boundaries. Start there, and then push further," Rodriguez says.
The impressive cast for Machete Kills includes returning cast members Danny Trejo,
Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Elise and Electra Avellan, and Tom Savini, as well as a diverse,
impressive new ensemble: Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Cuba
Gooding Jr., Walt Goggins, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen, William Sadler, Alexa Vega,
Vanessa Hudgens, and Lady Gaga.
Danny Trejo has over two hundred credits under his belt, but he is perhaps best known for
Machete. Despite the distinctive look and cold demeanor, Trejo believes that Machete's allure lies
in his relatability. "The one thing that I really loved about the character Machete was that he was
a regular guy. He was just a cop," Trejo says of his affinity for Machete. "He was a Federale -- a
federal agent in Mexico -- and he was nothing special, other than that he was a guy who had to
right wrongs. He's just a regular guy that can kick ass. He uses his head."
Mel Gibson, who portrays Machete Kills' ruthless bad guy, Voz, was a fan of the original
Machete. "I was laughing because it was just so gratuitous in every aspect," Gibson recalls. "At
the same time you kind of got into it on another level."
Rodriguez found a game participant in Gibson, who embraced the opportunity to play an
over-the-top enemy. "He's the ultimate Bond style villain. He's got a plan, but he also has some
quirks that we manage to find along the way."
Charlie Sheen, credited in Machete as Carlos Estevez, plays the President of the United
States. Sheen notes that his first collaboration with Rodriguez is long overdue: "Robert and I
have been trying to work together for a long time, ever since From Dusk 'Til Dawn," Sheen says.
Their long-conflicting schedules finally made room for Sheen to make a brief trip to the Austin,
Texas set. "Robert said, 'I want you to play the President. I'm like, 'Far out. Let's do this."
Sheen was fond of Machete from its earliest screen incarnation. "I'm a Grindhouse fan,"
Sheen says of the Tarantino-Rodriguez collaboration. "There's just something about it. From the
opening trailer, I thought it was a masterpiece."
Oscar-nominee Demian Bichir plays Mendez, a ticking time-bomb with a split personality.
"He's an avenger, and he's clever, and tough. Tragic things happen in his life that change
everything and turn him into this crazy character with many different personalities," Bichir says.
"As an actor, you are looking for characters that can go in so many different directions in
the same film," Bichir adds, noting that perhaps he should be careful what he wishes for. "I joke
with Robert about me going to therapy after this. I think I will spend a lot of money on that,
Sofia Vergara, who plays Madame Desdemona, was intrigued by the opportunity to take
on one of Rodriguez's female characters. "His characters for women are always so strong, and a
lot of fun. I wanted to be one of those characters. When he approached me, he told me that if I
wanted to do very crazy, I was able to do very crazy. I've been wanting to do a character like that
for a long time," Vergara comments.
Vergara is quick to note that this character bears no resemblance to her sunny role as
Gloria on the hit series "Modern Family." "The character is fantastic for me because it's
something very different from what I've been doing. She's very crazy, and not very stable. And
she's an assassin. It's all fun to be in a movie where you get to do action, and shoot guns, and
shoot people with your metal bra," Vergara says.
Vanessa Hudgens plays Vergara's daughter, Cereza, which means "Cherry" in Spanish.
Machete Kills is the latest in of an increasingly diverse body of work for the actress, who recently
segued from "High School Musical" to her very grown-up turn in Harmony Korine's Spring
Jessica Alba, who worked with Rodriguez on Sin City and Spy Kids: All the Time in the
World, reprises her role as Sartana in Machete Kills. "I haven't played a character this rebellious
since Sin City. Being in a hardcore Robert Rodriguez movie gives you a certain kind of street cred,
the same way being a part of Spy Kids comes with kid cred," Alba says.
There was an added impetus for Alba, too: "There's nothing better than seeing Danny
Trejo as a superhero."
Perhaps the most unusual role in Machete Kills is El Camaleon, played by Antonio
Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga and Walt Goggins. Banderas was happy to travel to
Austin to team up with Rodriguez again: "I've done six movies with him: two Desperados, three
Spy Kids and Four Rooms. We grew up together in Hollywood. We started with Desperado,
which took us on a path of almost eleven years working together," Banderas says.
Banderas jumped at the chance to share a role with three other actors. Banderas
comments: "I'm trying to think if I have seen anything like that before. No, we have seen
costumes and disguises, but never a character played by four different actors."
Cuba Gooding Jr. had one big reason to join Banderas, namely winning the admiration of
his sons. "I'll be cool with my sons for all of two days: the day before they see the movie, the day
after they see the movie. Then they'll move on," Gooding jokes.
Gooding also had an additional challenge when preparing for the role: "Am I fluent in
Spanish? No, but embarrassingly so, because my name is Cuba. Everybody says, 'Hey, Cuba,
como estas?' I'm like, 'Slow down, brother.'"
Lady Gaga took time out from a packed schedule to play El Camaleon's one female
incarnation -- La Camaleon. "I was a fan of Machete when it came out. It was the first time in a
while that I had gone to the movie theater," Gaga remembers. "I went out, and I bought some
tequila, and put on my leather jacket, and I watched the film, and I laughed the whole time. I am a
really big fan, and all of the stars aligned and I'm really happy to be here."
Gaga found that her screen debut wasn't too different from her experiences on the stage.
"In a way, the preparation was exactly the same as what I do for my stage shows, except I have
lines, and there's a character that's a little bit different from myself. But I applied what I do in my
own work to my work with Robert."
The fashion icon also had some thoughts about how her version of La Camaleon should
look. "When I first spoke to Robert about the part, La Camaleon, I told him that I had some very
specific ideas about her outfit. I told him about her wolf coat, and I spoke to him about having a
machete tattoo, and tangerine hair. He really liked my ideas, and I love his ideas, so together we
created this little moment in the film, and it's very nice," Gaga says.
Walt Goggins rounds out the impressive roster of actors who make up El Camaleon.
Goggins and Rodriguez had collaborated previously on Predators, which was produced by
Rodriguez. "I was in New Orleans, and Robert reached out to me," Goggins recalls. "We started
talking about it, and he told me how he wanted four people to play the same person. I thought he
was nuts. But then he explained to me what he wanted to do. I'd never seen it done quite like
that. I was kind of blown away by the concept."
Amber Heard read the first few pages of the script for Machete Kills while sitting in a
casting office in Los Angeles. The script's space-themed opening scene threw her for a loop. "I
remember I was on page two of the script, and I looked at it and went back to page one and
thought, 'Am I reading Machete Kills?' I guess, for me, that's what I needed to think. That sets
the tone for the rest of the script. It was a '70s space mission movie in the first two pages, but it's
a good set-up for the rest of the hundred pages that follow," Heard comments.
As she read further, Heard was introduced to her character, Miss San Antonio. "When I
find a good character, one that I feel like I haven't seen before, it's special to me. It's rare," Heard
says. "And Miss San Antonio is just that. She's certainly unlike most characters I see. She is
Miss San Antonio, but she's not your average pageant girl, that's for sure."
"She's smart, she's powerful, she's in control, she's a badass in heels, and I like that."
Heard continues. "She's the real match for Machete. You get the feeling that she's going to put
up the fight that Machete ultimately deserves."
Michelle Rodriguez has a similar affinity for Luz, who returns from Machete. Michelle
Rodriguez appreciates not only Luz, but all of the female characters in the film. "I think that it's
cool that you can have a girl who is incredible sexy, and meant to be eye candy for the guys, but
her attitude has changed. It's more about, 'This is what I want, and I'm going to get it no matter
what.' And you see that in Machete Kills. I think the women are going to have a good laugh with
this one," Michelle Rodriguez says.
In Machete Kills, Luz has graduated from her trademark taco truck to a more advanced
operation. "Luz basically evolved to a place where she's not running a more sophisticated
network because there are more people involved," Michelle Rodriguez says. "There's computer
data coming in, there's registry, there's a tracking system, there are guys with guns outside of a
warehouse protecting the place so she doesn't get her other eye shot out."
Alexa Vega, who Rodriguez fans might recognize from the Spy Kids series, makes a very
grown-up turn as Killjoy. "Killjoy's such a badass, out-there character. I've never played
anything like her. I was pretty quick to jump on when Robert mentioned it," Vega says.
Vega, who has known Rodriguez since she was eleven, has a theory about the female
characters in his films. Vega explains: "The women in Robert's life have all been strong women.
When his sisters come into a room, they command the room. I think because he grew up with
these women in his life, he's able to really put that on the screen, especially when you have
somebody like Salma Hayek."
"It's always been that way, and it's never anything planned," Rodriguez comments. "I
grew up with five sisters. When you understand a woman's strength, that comes across in a
movie. I go for that feeling of just seeing their true, strong selves coming through, and letting that
be a highlight of the movie. Michelle Rodriguez and Amber Heard were going at it, and they were
just so amazing, and so fun. You can make a whole movie just about them."
Tom Savini and William Sadler round out the cast. Rodriguez and William Sadler had
worked together on Rodriguez's 1994 film Roadracers. Sadler comments on his character, Sheriff
Doakes: "He's got a real bias against Latinos, which he doesn't hide. It just falls right out of his
face, and it's scary how it rolls off the tongue. Doakes is crooked to the core."
Despite the all-star talent, Machete Kills was shot on a limited budget, and at a breakneck
pace. "The choice was to shoot like we're twenty years old or don't make the movie," Rodriguez
says. "We shot fast and furious. What's great about that is that you fly so free at that moment.
You get out of the way because you have to just let it flow, and go with the moment, and go with
what's happening. Everybody just had a blast because of that. I think it was the most fun I've had
making a movie."
Part of Rodriguez's technique involved shooting the cast when they rehearsed: "We shoot
the rehearsal because you never want to feel like we're actually doing it. We don't want to make
it that official. I think that helps," Rodriguez says.
Michelle Rodriguez notes that there is something relaxed and playful about filming at
Troublemaker, Rodriguez's Austin studio. "It's free. I like to be free. I like to not have to worry
about what I say, or worry about how I'm acting, or worry how people are going to receive me as
a person, which is something that you encounter a lot in Hollywood. When you come down to
Austin, you're working at Troublemaker, you don't have to worry about that. No bleeps
The structure of the screenplay, coupled with actor availability, often made each twelve-hour workday feel like its own complete film shoot. Rodriguez explains: "Lady Gaga showed up
and we're picking her costumes, and I'm giving her new lines. She comes in and she nails them,
and goes from one part to the next, and I'm adding more stuff for her to do, and she leaves with a
finished poster of her character at the end of that day. And it feels very surreal."
Although unusual, the tight, staggered production schedule allowed for Rodriguez to focus
on each character's journey in Machete Kills. "You really concentrate on one actor at a time.
When Amber showed up the first week, it was 'Amber Heard Week.' And then Michelle
Rodriguez overlapped with her and that led into Sofia Vergara for two days of 'Sofia World.'
Cuba Gooding Jr. is there for a day, Antonio is there for a day, Lady Gaga is there for one day,
Charlie Sheen is there for one day. You get to concentrate on each person and make the arc of
their character work within those days," Rodriguez explains.
Part of Michelle Rodriguez and Amber Heard's overlapping schedules involved one of the
film's biggest fight sequences. "One of my favorite scenes is the fight with Michelle Rodriguez
because it is in many ways a dance. You have to learn a choreography, you have to learn your
steps," Heard says.
In addition to fight choreography, Heard had to learn how to handle a weapon. "They're
not your everyday shooting range, let's-go-shoot-skeet-with-your-dad type of weapons," Heard
notes. "It's not easy, especially with nails and the whole gig. But I didn't do this job so it would
be easy, that's for sure."
Rodriguez's familiarity with Trejo allowed him to focus on the rest of the ensemble
without worrying about slighting the production. "It's hard to remember a time I didn't work with
Danny Trejo," Rodriguez explains. "I had so many other actors to deal with that I just kept
thinking, 'We'll just save Danny. I'll shoot him at the end of the day.' Danny would get very
little time. And there was something magic about that because he didn't even need any time. I
could turn to him and I would get it in one take."
One of Trejo's most memorable moments involved facing off with the one and only Mel
Gibson: "I threw down my sword, and Robert said, 'Why are you throwing down your sword,
Danny?' I said, "I'm not fighting William Wallace. What, are you kidding? He saved Scotland.'
We have this unbelievable swordfight. I loved working with Mel. He was amazing."
The appreciation is mutual. Gibson was glad to learn that Trejo is nothing like Machete.
"He's just your ordinary guy, but on screen he comes across like this really mean, tough guy. But
he's a pussycat," Gibson says of Trejo.
Goggins agrees that to see Danny Trejo is very different than to know him. "I think he
really is Machete. He scared the shit out of me the first time I saw him. And then he started
talking, and I was like, 'You're a softie, man. You're just a sweetheart is what you are.'"
Sadler notes that Trejo's talent shines in Machete's silences. "Machete doesn't talk a lot,
but he stood there with this noose around his neck, and he gave it all back. I have a four-page monologue with him, and he has nothing to say in return. But he was there. He was feeding me
back plenty, as if there was another person in the conversation with me, even though he had
nothing to say," Sadler says.
Similarly, Vega loved watching Vergara take her take-no-prisoners character to the next
level: "Working with her on this set, she plays a mad woman. She has a twisted mind in this film,
and I think it's great to see her portrayed that way in such a different light is. It's outrageous, and
she's owning it," Vega comments.
Machete costume designer Nina Procter returns for Machete Kills -- and she brought a
machine gun bra with her. "When you put that outfit on, you really start feeling the essence of the
character. That happens to me personally," Vergara says. "It's amazing. This bra that my
character has to wear -- when I put it on, I feel like I can do anything, or kill anyone, and be crazy
Despite the production's playful, relaxed demeanor, Rodriguez always strived to bring the
most out of his actors: "Robert is still very soft spoken. Between takes he'll come up to you and
tell you what he wants. He doesn't yell it in front of everybody. And he really wants to get it
exactly the way he wants it," Tom Savini says.
"[Robert] really is an artist," Heard agrees. "I looked at him once when he was filming a
take, and he was just strumming a guitar, and I thought it kind of summed up Robert Rodriguez.
He's a creative person. He's just in it to create, and he does exactly what he wants to do, and
"What you get with Robert is this child-like enthusiasm for filmmaking, and it's infectious.
You know you're taken along on this ride with him, and he's bold, and he's not afraid to not have
all the answers," Goggins adds.
When the cast wasn't shooting at Troublemaker, they ventured out into the city of Austin.
Sadler shot The Hot Spot with Don Johnson and Virginia Madsen in Austin in 1990, but had not
worked there in the years since. "I remember my fondest memories of Austin back then were of
walking down the street. There was music coming out of every doorway," Sadler recalls.
"There's a band on the first floor, and there's a band on the second floor, and there's a band in the
alley playing, and it was just like the place was percolating music. It oozed music, and it still
For Rodriguez, Machete Kills offered a chance to be as creative and inventive as humanly
possible. "The whole series is completely wacky. There are no rules. There's something really
exciting about that," Rodriguez says. "I think that's why it attracts a lot of actors: anything goes.
There's nothing that an actor, or performer, or creator, or a filmmaker likes more than creative
freedom. If you have a project where the job is to be completely free creatively, well that's no job
at all. That's easy. That's fun. That's play."
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