Actor Danny Trejo and Director Mark Christensen Dish on New Film, ‘North by El Norte’
Perhaps no other character actor in Hollywood is more beloved or recognized than Danny Trejo. Boasting more than 300 film and TV credits including “Machete,” “Heat,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Breaking Bad,” “Bullet,” “Muppets Most Wanted,” “Sons of Anarchy” and the “Spy Kids” franchise, Trejo is often cast as a bad guy or avenger, but anyone familiar with Trejo’s real life persona knows he’s a gifted actor with a heart of gold who loves his family. City Brand Media recently caught up with Trejo and director, Mark Christensen in connection with new film, “North by El Norte,” which debuts November 26.
Christensen has worked with Trejo and “North by El Norte” co-star Douglas Spain before, directing them both in “American Flyer.” “You write a script and then you have a reading, and then you start casting,” Christensen explains. “Doug (Spain) was the first guy that I interviewed and he was excellent for the part. Danny came on a week before the shoot, so we were surprised that he was able to make it. It was awesome!”
‘North by El Norte’-The Synopsis
“North by El Norte” is the story of a Mexican man, Uncle John, played by Trejo, seeking to avenge his brother's murder when he attempts to cross the US/Mexican border. Bondo, Uncle John's nephew (played by Spain) attempts at completing his father’s journey north. A bad Tijuana cop harasses Bondo and his many attempts at crossing. Bondo's cousin, Maria, as portrayed by Patricia Rea is forced into a relationship with the cop and wants out. Bondo builds a homemade flying machine. He gets caught in California and is brought back to the bad Tijuana cop where he forces him to be a drug mule. Uncle John then gets word and seek his final avenge.
All in the ‘Family’
Trejo was excited about the prospect of the film, “North by El Norte.” “It wasn’t just the role, it was also the film. It’s a film about hope and about family, and I’ve got three kids and that’s really important to me. I liked the perseverance of this kid, more than anything,” says Trejo of Spain’s character, Bondo. Christensen adds, “With Danny’s character, he plays the uncle and he basically supports the entire family in their endeavor throughout the film, so he’s there to support the family.”
Often, a film set’s cast and crew becomes its own little “family.” “North by El Norte” was no exception. Trejo explains, “A lot of times you don’t work with the whole entire cast, but with Mark, the director, he’s a guy you become friends with right away. It makes it really simple. You kind of adopt that family and you see how many people you can stay friends with after the movie.”
When Christensen was asked about logistical or other challenges in making “North by El Norte,” Trejo quickly chimed in with a laugh, “Yeah, to get me on time!” “Danny’s a pro. He’s been awesome the whole time,” adds Christensen. “He’s one of them that has been awesome. No complaints there. Danny’s been able to do this shoot with very few days. It’s been quite a crafted piece of work to get it to work with those few days, but it’s awesome and he’s done a great job as Uncle John.”
‘I Just Really Let Danny be Danny.’
Trejo is such an iconic presence on the screen and he is often quoted from his many films. On occasion, he gets to add in a bit of improv dialogue. “It kind of depends on the director,” explains Trejo. “Sometimes directors will give you a heads up that, ‘This has to be like this.’ Other times, they’ll say, ‘Just run with it.’ Mark kind of let’s you run with it, especially if he knows you know what you’re doing.”
Christensen says, “My experience with Danny… I didn’t know how much training he had. I didn’t know what kind of an actor I was going to get. I just let him do the first few lines of dialogue and what I experienced was this voice and demeanor of a man who has been through a lot of life. Rather than to tweak this guy into the character that I imaged during the writing process, I just really let Danny be Danny and speak through the canvas to the viewer.”
Between his films, his bespoke LA eatery, Trejo’s Tacos, and his own line of Trejo’s Coffee, Trejo is incredibly busy. He says, “It was told to me very early in his career that ‘A busy man has time to do everything...’ it just kind of works out. We filmed a movie last night, ‘Tales from the Crib,’ and I just got back from Canada doing ‘Dead Again in Tombstone.’ I’m so glad that ‘North by El Norte’ is coming to pass right now. I’m very, very proud.”
Christensen is also keen to get going on some new projects. He states, “I’m talking to Johnny Depp’s manager about a film called, ‘Edward Mordake.’ It’s about a man who lived and died in the 1800s that had a birth defect. He had a face born on the rear side of his face.” It is purported that eventually the man was driven mad by the extra face on the back of his skull. Certainly sounds like something that would interest Depp, who often takes on complex and quirky characters.
‘North by El Norte’ debuts on November 26 in selective theatrical release in the U.S. and on video on demand. For additional information on the film, visit here. To learn more about Danny Trejo and his many endeavors, visit www.dannytrejo.net or www.trejostacos.com.