Dan "Danny" Trejo is a Mexican-American actor who has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, most notably in roles as an antagonist, or anti-hero. Trejo was born Dan Trejo in Echo Park, California, a community in Los Angeles. He is the son of Alice Rivera and Dan Trejo, a construction worker. He is of Mexican descent. He is a second cousin of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, though the two were unaware that they were related until the filming of Desperado. Trejo was raised in the Pacoima neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. As a youth, he roamed the streets around his home area, committing various petty crimes with his uncle and eventually became addicted to heroin. He was arrested numerous times as an adolescent.
While on the streets Trejo developed talent as a boxer and considered taking it up as a profession. That ambition was dashed by a lengthy prison sentence. While serving time in San Quentin State Prison he became the California state prison champion in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. During this time Trejo became a member of a twelve-step program which he credits with his success in overcoming drug addiction.
While speaking at a recovery meeting in 1985 Trejo met a young man in the movie business. His newfound friend invited him to the set of Runaway Train where Trejo was offered a job as an extra. Edward Bunker, himself a former convict and well-respected crime author who was writing the screenplay for the film, recognized Trejo, with whom he had done time at San Quentin. It was widely misreported that Trejo was actually serving time in the prison while filming took place. Bunker remembered Trejo's boxing skills, and offered him $320 per day to train Eric Roberts, one of the movie's stars, for a boxing scene. Director Andrei Konchalovsky liked Trejo's work and decided to offer him a prominent role in the film.
Since then, Trejo has become a prolific actor in both films and television, acting alongside some of Hollywood's most famous actors, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Nicolas Cage, Charles Bronson, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Val Kilmer, and Antonio Banderas. Trejo has often appeared in five or more movies per year in various genres. Major releases in which he has acted include Machete (film), Blood in Blood Out, Animal Factory, Bubble Boy, Anaconda, Marked for Death, xXx, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, Con Air, Six Days Seven Nights, Spy Kids, The Replacement Killers, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Predators, Urban Justice, The Devil's Rejects, Valley of Angels, Delta Farce, Grindhouse, Rob Zombie's Halloween and Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror.
Trejo is known for his very distinctive appearance. In addition to his heavily lined face (usually sporting a long mustache), he has displayed the large tattoo on his chest for many roles (the tattoo depicts a woman wearing a sombrero). He often plays thugs or lowlife characters, although he has also played protagonists in films such as Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids trilogy, Bubble Boy and a guest appearance on the USA Network series Monk with art imitating life as a convict roommate to Tony Shalhoub's undercover detective. He also appeared in an episode of Desperate Housewives in Season 2, sent by Carlos to help Gabrielle deal with her grief of losing her unborn baby (another good-guy character). He voices the character Enrique, and Octavio's character is based on his appearance on King of the Hill. His role on King of the Hill was referenced in the HBO series Unscripted in which he appears in a quick cameo. He also is featured in an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and an episode of Do IT LIVE alongside actors Anna Bennett and Claudia Pickering, shot in Downtown Los Angeles, by the name of Sebring feat. Danny Trejo. Trejo also made guest appearances in the award-winning series Breaking Bad in 2009 and 2010.
The award-winning independent film, CHAMPION was released in 2005, documenting Trejo's life. It features Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Steve Buscemi and Robert Rodriguez. Trejo appears as a playable character in Def Jam: Fight for NY, a fighting game to which the actor lent his voice and likeness. He had previously lent his voice to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the character Umberto Robina, who also resembles Trejo. Trejo voiced the character of Rico in Rob Zombie's animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto as well as starring alongside Steven Seagal in Urban Justice. He is now portraying the Mexican bartender in the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. He also voices Raul the Ghoul in Fallout: New Vegas.
Regarding his continued growth as a professional actor, Trejo has stated that he still cannot believe how fortunate he has been. "I'm so blessed. I'm still scared that somebody's going to wake me up and say, 'Hey, we're still in prison. Let's go to chow'".
Many of Trejo's characters in Robert Rodriguez movies have been named after knives or sharp instruments: Machete in Spy Kids, Razor Eddie in the From Dusk till Dawn series, Navajas (Spanish for blades) in Desperado, and Cuchillo (Spanish for knife) in Predators. He also plays Machete in a trailer made for Rodriguez's film collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse. In 2010, he starred in a full theatrical version of Machete, based on the character.
He has also made cameo appearances in music videos such as, in rapper Tech N9ne's video for the single, "Like Yeah," from his 2008 release Killer, Rehab's 2007 song "Bartender", Jay Chou's short movie-music video "Double Blade" from his 2003 album Ye Hui Mei, and the Jonas Brothers' "Burnin' Up" from their album A Little Bit Longer and in Sepultura video "Attitude" in 1996.
He also appeared in the PlayStation Move game The Fight: Lights Out as an instructor for the player's character, and as himself in the second map pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops; Escalation map pack, on the zombie map: Call of the Dead.
Trejo is married to Debbie Shreve. He has three children: Danny Boy (b. 1981), Gilbert (b. 1988), Danielle (b. 1990), who are all from previous relationships.
Trejo has said that he is amazed when he walks the streets where he used to commit crimes and children ask him for autographs. He also pointed out that he often chooses to play bad guys to teach younger audiences that bad guys often die or go to prison, and that one should try to live a decent life.
Trejo often speaks in front of youth groups and at colleges and encourages young people to avoid making the same mistakes he did while growing up.