How did you come up with the Machete Cortez character?
I actually came up with the character when I made Desperado, and I told Danny Trejo about it on set. 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.
What was your initial inspiration for Machete?
When we were looking to do fake trailers, Quentin [Tarantino] 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.
I’ve read interviews where you seemed a little unsatisfied with the ending in Machete – was that the case?
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.
Danny Trejo called me all the time saying, ‘When are we going to make another one? 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.
Are there any dream villains you’d like to cast?
Mel Gibson. 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.
Many of your films have very strong female characters – is this deliberate?
It’s always been that way, and it’s never anything planned. 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.
Was it difficult having such limited time with many members of the cast?
You really have to 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.
I mean The whole series is completely wacky. There are no rules. There’s something really exciting about that. 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.
Machete Kills is available to own on DVD now