This evening, myself and a number of other journalists had the opportunity to particpate in a round table interview for Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s widely anticipated new movie based on a fake trailer from the 2006 film Grindhouse. The round table occurred during a special Comic-Con event in which the cast of the film greeted and fed fans from a Machete-themed taco truck.
The round table included Robert Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, and Mr. Machete himself, Danny Trejo. Read on for some of the highlights of the interview, including Robert Rodriguez’s thoughts on the Deadpool spin-off movie. We also have our first impressions from a seven minute sneak peek of Machete footage.
Early in the round table, someone asked Michelle Rodriguez about her tough girl image and why she decided to reveal so much skin in Machete. Rodriguez responded that she “waited a really long time on purpose to reveal my body” because she didn’t want “that to be the reason why [she] made it to the place she is today.” She went on to explain that because she made her way in Hollywood respectably, she now has the power to do pretty much whatever she wants.
Later in the round table, someone asked Danny Trejo how he felt now that Machete was a reality. Trejo, practically smiling ear to ear, said it felt “awesome” and recalled how he begged Robert Rodriguez for a line in Desperado. Rodriguez chimed in that he didn’t want to give Trejo a line because he was “too nice of a guy” and if the audience heard him talk it would “blow the whole illusion.”
Robert Rodriguez was asked whether he thought that Machete would ever actually get made. Rodriguez said that he thought once they made the trailer – that would be as far as the movie would go. However, when he saw how strongly audiences reacted to the trailer, he decided to go for the feature-length film. Once the amazing ensemble cast fell into place, Rodriguez said the movie “took on a life of its own.”
Speaking of the Machete cast, Robert Rodriguez told us that not only was every actor in the film his first choice (for each respective role), they were his dream choice. Rodriguez explained that he was able to get such a great cast partly because of his reputation, among actors he had worked with, and the fact that he gives peope the chance “to do things that they don’t normally get to do.”
Rodriguez also admitted that once Robert De Niro signed on for the film, everybody else wanted to be in it because “everyone wants to be in a De Niro movie.” He also speculated that a lot of people wanted to be in the cast to support Danny Trejo. Rodriguez mentioned that Robert De Niro and Steven Seagal have both killed Trejo in one of their movies – and that, by appearing in Machete, they were partly repaying the favor.
The next question brought the subject back to the long development of Machete. Robert Rodriguez touched on the fact that Machete had been an idea of his for 16 years – and the reason Danny Trejo’s character in Spy Kids was named “Machete” was because Rodriguez wanted, at the time, to acknowledge that Machete would probably never get made.
Trejo also observed that he was named after some kind of knife in every one of Robert Rodriguez’s movies from Razor Charlie (in From Dusk til Dawn) to Cuchillo (in Predators) to Machete. Rodriguez joked that in the next movie he makes, Trejo’s character will be named “Butter Knife.”
Someone asked how all three of them enjoyed throwing a Comic-Con party that celebrated certain aspects of Latin American culture (a number of Latino car clubs came down from Los Angeles to show off their awesome rides) and Robert Rodriguez said it was a “dream come true.” He was quick to also say, however, that the positive response to the Machete trailer wasn’t a Latin-only thing.
Rodriguez explained that “nobody wants to go see just a Latin movie, not even Latins.” He went on to say that he wants to make movies that are entertaining and “have a different flavor than what they normally see.” Michelle Rodriguez echoed his statements, saying “you really start closing yourself off when you pigeonhole things” into specific markets based on race.
Since the interview was already focused on the subject of race, someone asked Robert Rodriguez if he did a rewrite of the script or filmed any additional scenes in light of Arizona’s recently passed and extremely controversial immigration law. Rodriguez said that besides the specially cut trailer, he didn’t add or change anything to directly address the new law.
The subject of politics came up again a couple of times during the interview with one individual asking whether they planned to use film as a means to protest Arizona’s immigration reform. While making it clear that he disagreed with the law, Robert Rodriguez offered a thoughtful answer saying “it’s a very complicated issue” and that “people have a very visceral reaction to it.” He said if someone had a viable solution, people would get behind it.
As to using film to combat perceived social injustice, Michelle Rodriguez said that she doesn’t think it’s the “entertainment industry’s role to play in politics. It’s the entertainment industry’s role to imitate life…When you start getting too political with things, you’re Oliver Stone.”
Moving away from the political debates, Robert Rodriguez answered a question about the role that affordable digital video cameras and websites like YouTube have in providing independent filmmakers an outlet for their work.
Rodriguez said that “it really comes down to what it’s always been about, it’s the idea and the story. Hollywood is always looking for people who can tell a good story – so that opens up the playground and the viewing beyond even film festivals.”
Toward the end of the panel, Robert Rodriguez touched on some of the many films he’s been associated with lately, including Red Sonja and The Jetsons. Rodriguez said that the reason Red Sonja stalled is because the production company wanted to film Conan first. He also said that he developed The Jetsons for a while but had to drop out of the project to film Machete.
Earlier in the panel, Robert Rodriguez briefly talked on the subject of Deadpool during the round table interview, saying that he read an early copy of the script while he was working on Predators but he hasn’t decided whether or not he wants to direct the film yet. It was somewhat of a non-answer, but it definitely confirms that Fox made him the offer to direct.
Later in the night, during the Machete street party, Robert Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, and Danny Trejo took the stage to show off some new footage from the movie. By this point, the crowd was several glasses in to free cervezas and margaritas, so everyone was excited to see the footage.
Luckily for all of us in attendance, it didn’t disappoint. Here’s a rundown of the footage. Obviously, since the footage comes directly from the movie, there will be SPOILERS.
The first scene features Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez. He’s laying in bed looking at news clippings of a woman named Shé, who appears to be some kind of Mexican resistance hero. Rodriguez says that Shé is just a symbol for the people to identify with. Trejo puts his hand on her thigh, but she slaps it away telling him “don’t start what you can’t finish.” (That line got an amusing reaction from the audience.)
She acknowledges that she’s heard the legend of Machete and he tells her that “maybe the legend is better.” Suddenly, Rodriguez jumps on the bed and straddles Trejo (to much hooting from the audience) before the scene cut to black.
Next up was a scene with Machete in bed with Jessica Alba. Alba’s character wakes up and, in one of the biggest laughs of the night, checks her body to make sure she and Trejo didn’t have sex. She calls him a gentleman when she sees they didn’t and tries to fall back asleep.
Machete suddenly opens his eyes and begins to push her away as he notices several men entering from the patio door. Machete pushes Alba out of the way and grabs two guns to begin blasting the intruders. Meanwhile, Alba takes on an assailant in the hallway, putting a high-heeled shoe through his eye. Machete also makes short work of one of the guys by slashing his throat with a shard of glass.
The next scene gives us a first look at Robert DeNiro, who plays a sleazy Texas senator He’s watching a news report about Machete when he ushers his two female assistants out of the room. Suddenly dropping his fake Southern twang, De Niro begins talking in a voice reminiscent of his Goodfellas character. He says he’s worried about Machete, the “cucaracha” with AK-47s.
The last scene was definitely the best. It showed a group of men entering the hospital where Machete is recovering from a wound. A nurse warns Machete of the incoming gunmen and he quickly springs into action. Grabbing an array of hospital instruments, including a skull scraper – Machete devises a plan to jump the guys.
Slowly, a hospital cart rolls down a hall toward the men. They open fire on it, hitting an oxygen tank. It was just a distraction. Machete was actually hidden underneath the cart. He sneaks up behind the men and brutally slices them apart. In a moment of divine inspiration, Machete cuts open one guy’s stomach and pulls out the man’s small intestine. Using the guts as a rope, Machete leaps out of a window and crashes into the floor below.
It was a truly hilarious and delightfully gory scene and, as my colleague Mike Eisenberg said, it “redefined the meaning of the phrase intestinal fortitude.”
Machete opens on September 3rd, 2010.