Danny Trejo is a man who went from a life of crime to a life of stardom and fame.
“Be a good example,” says Trejo, who spent years in California jails and prisons, including as boxing champion of San Quentin.
In his autobiographical book, “Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption and Hollywood,” he says of his childhood, “There was no tenderness. I never heard a love you. I used to watch dads hug their kids, but my dad was … the word machismo was invented for him!”
Trejo’s parents were two Mexican immigrants living in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. Trejo was born on May 16, 1944, to Alice Rivera and Dan Trejo.
At 9 years old he tried marijuana and ventured on to heroin at 12.
Trejo then advanced to drug dealing and armed robberies which eventually landed him in San Quentin State Prison. There, in the ‘60s, he became a champion boxer. Later he also served time in Soledad and Folsom Prisons.
A documentary about his life was released in 2019 called “Inmate #1: Redemption by Danny Trejo.” He wrote, “In prison, I was involved in a fight in prison in which some people were seriously injured. I remember that I only asked God: ‘Just let me die with dignity and I will say your name every day.’”
In the mid ‘80s he was invited to train actor Eric Roberts in a film called “Escape by Train” on some boxing techniques. He was noticed and offered a minor role in the movie. This started his future career in criminal roles in the cinema, according to Helen Hernandez of Oicanadian.com.
After several decades on movie roles, Trejo’s distant cousin, Robert Rodriguez, helped him get the starring role in “Machete” in 2010 and then “Machete Kills” in 2013.
In his career Trejo has worked with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi and George Clooney. He also appeared in the blockbuster TV series “Breaking Bad.”
According to a study by Buzz Bingo, Trejo is considered the actor who died the most in Hollywood cinema. He knows his story is a positive influence, especially to the younger crowd. He has reached them by giving talks and attending conferences warning about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs.
“I go out and dream that I am still in prison. That wakes you up fast and is a reminder not to get off the right track,” Trejo said. “It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you end!”