It all began as a spoof trailer...
Despite the wealth of problems surrounding Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse project (the fact that us Brits never got to see the film in all it’s double-feature glory being chief among them), a two-minute sliver of balls-out action stood out amid a swathe of iffy reviews. It was the fake trailer for an old-school exploitation movie named Machete , and it was pretty damn awesome.
Not that director Robert Rodriguez ever expected it to be quite so popular, as rabid fans everywhere began clamouring for the full-length movie “promised” by the trailer.
“I didn’t realise it would become a feature film,” said Rodriguez to About.Com , “or I would have shot more footage while we were there at the locations! It was great to make the trailer, (but) it wasn't until there was such a big fan response(that) people would then see the trailer online, and they would come up to me (about it).”
According to Rodriguez, “Bob Weinstein even said that ‘I want to see that movie’,” and soon enough, the director was being asked more questions about Machete than anything else on his slate, with even former fan-bait Sin City 2 being elbowed off the agenda.
“Usually fans would come up and say, 'When are you going to make Sin City 2 ?'”, he continues, “but more than that they would say, 'When are you going to make Machete ?' Because they had seen the trailer and they just felt like it had already been made. 'When is that movie coming out?' 'Did you make that movie or are you going to make that movie?' And they would ask so consistently that I finally had to make it.”
But whilst it might have taken some persistent badgering from the fans to get the project up and running, Rodriguez has been toying with the idea since way back in 1994…
It's a Mexploitation film...
According to Robert Rodriguez, the idea for Machete came about after the director approached star Danny Trejo to join the cast of Desperado .
"It's an idea I came up with back during Desperado ," Rodriguez told IGN . "When I met Danny, I said, 'This guy should be like the Mexican Jean-Claude Van Damme or Charles Bronson, putting out a movie every year, and his name should be Machete.’ So I decided to do that way back when, never got around to it until finally now.”
Trejo backs the story up, claiming that the pair had discussed the film long before the trailer found itself a shop window in Grindhouse .
“Well,” he told MovieWeb , “Robert had been training me ... God, that sounds really silly ... for Machete since we did Desperado . Everybody thinks that Machete came out of a trailer, but it didn't. Robert told me that he wanted to do this movie called Machete when we were doing Desperado ."
And as for that “Mexploitation” tag? Well we’ve got Quentin Tarantino to thank for that…
“There is Blaxploitation,” QT told SlashFilm , “but in America there wasn’t a Mexploitation. Machete is definitely a Mexploitation film.” Rodriguez agrees, claiming that, “the whole notion of a Mexican superhero has never been done in American cinema. It’s something new, a Mexploitation film.”
New it might be, but the film’s Mexican element has not been without its controversy….
It's not a Mexican call to arms...
Much has been made of the film’s supposed “race war” plot, with Rodriguez helpfully fanning the flames with a special rehashed trailer for Cinco de Mayo. Beginning with a proverbial “Fuck You” to the new hard-line immigration laws introduced by the State of Arizona, the trailer had various Republican mouthpieces getting themselves in a lather over a potential Mexican uprising on-screen and off.
However, according to Rodriguez, the whole thing was a bit of a prank that backfired.
“I guess I’ve gotten too adept at these fake trailers,” Rodriguez told AICN . “I simply wanted to make a special trailer that was as absurd as what was happening in Arizona. So I took some coincidentally timely lines of dialogue from the old original fake trailer from three years ago and from the new movie, reconfigured action beats, and cut it all out of context to make it look like the entire film was about Machete leading a revolt against anti-immigration politicians and border vigilantes. What can I say, it was Cinco de Mayo and I had too much tequila.”
So the film won’t be a call to arms for Mexicans to rise up against the Red States then? Er, no, apparently not.
“I would not put out a movie like that,” Rodriguez continued. Not only would that be irresponsible, it’d be dull and un-entertaining. That’s not what the movie is. In fact the main villain and Machete’s nemesis is a drug lord from a powerful cartel that kills Machete’s family and runs him out of Mexico for being an honest cop, which is why Machete’s forced to work as a day labourer in the US.”
That said, the race issue certainly has a part to play, with a key element of the plot being Machete’s assassination attempt on Robert De Niro’s anti-immigration Senator (more on him later). But that’s about as far as it goes. Meanwhile, Rodriguez is more than ready to mess with his audience again before the film is finally released.
“I have another fake trailer I cut that makes Machete look like a wholesome family film in 3D,” he says. “It’s hilarious!”
Danny Trejo is Machete...
Yep, after a career of supporting roles and walk-on cameos, Machete will see Danny Trejo finally becoming the main man. And it sounds like everyone is fairly pleased for him, too!
“When I first saw Robert De Niro on the set,” said Trejo to Collider , “he came up and his first words to me were, ‘Don’t leave me like this, homes.’ You know, that was my line in Heat . And I kind of laughed and he said, ‘Man, Danny, I’m really proud of you. You’re the lead. This is it, this is you.’ And I looked him right in the eyes and I said, ‘Can I get you some coffee, Mr. De Niro?’”
Joking aside however, Trejo is pretty pumped about Machete , and says that it will play like a mixtape of the best bits from the Rodriguez canon.
“ Machete kicks ass,” he says. “It is a culmination of Desperado , Once Upon a Time in Mexico …there’s even a little bit of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn in there. I think it’s gonna be one of his best. And I’m not just saying that because I’m the lead, it’s just a great movie. I think everybody’s gonna walk away from that movie with some opinion.”
And Trejo is convinced that if you liked the trailer, you won’t be disappointed by the finished article.
“It is going to be awesome," promised Trejo to IGN . "What this movie has is what I like to call the three B's. And what that is, is babes, bullets and blood. And then it's got machetes, too. The film takes off from the trailer and then it just gets so over the top. I think the movie really lives up to the trailer. I'm really, really proud of it.”
The supporting cast is a bit special...
You might have noticed we’ve mentioned De Niro’s name a couple of times, but he’s far from the only piece of casting to get excited about, as Rodriguez has rounded up an ensemble so bizarre it makes The Expendables roll-call look restrained.
So in no particular order, Trejo and De Niro will be joined by Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson and Jeff Fahey. Leftfield doesn’t even begin to cover it…
So how did Rodriguez manage to get so many star names on board? Well apparently, he and Trejo represent a movie star’s dream ticket!
“I just shoot very fast,” the director told About.com . “The enticing thing is (that I say), 'Look, I'm also an editor so I'll make sure you're not there for very long. You're not going to shoot for five months when we could have gotten it in one week.' So they're like, 'Okay.'”
And on top of that, the omnipresent Trejo has built up a career’s worth of goodwill from turning up in other people’s movies, leaving De Niro et al only too happy to repay the favour.
“They've all worked with Danny,” explains Rodriguez. “A lot of people that are in this movie with Danny, they've worked with him in other movies. Seagal killed him twice in other movies. De Niro put a bullet in his head in Heat . I Figured they'd return the favour. They really genuinely enjoyed seeing Danny in his own movie and wanted to support him.”
Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal and Don Johnson are the bad guys...
As we mentioned earlier, Bobby D will be playing the resolutely anti-Mexican Senator McLaughlin, the sort of Stetson-wearing charmer who comes out with comments like, “every time an illegal dances across our border…it is an overt act of terrorism.” Tolerant chap, isn’t he?
But if as Rodriguez claims, the main villain is a rival drug lord, who will be the film’s chief boo-hiss merchant? Brilliantly, it will be none other than Steven Seagal, who apparently had a blast on set!
“It’s another one of those pulp movies that Robert has created,” Seagal told AskMen.com . “I play a bad guy in the movie and Danny Trejo plays a good guy. And even though it’s larger than life and kind of crazy and wacky, in a way it also addresses sensitive issues such as racial profiling and prejudice and how people can and do work together in different situations. It was a fun movie for me to work on and I thought Robert Rodriguez was once again an amazing, talented professional.”
We can’t wait to see Seagal and Trejo facing off, but perhaps even more exciting is secondary villain Lt. Stillman, who will be played by Don Johnson! And in typically tongue-in-cheek style, the credits will boldly claim to be “introducing” the Miami Vice legend.
“Yeah, that was a fun one,” Johnson chuckled to MTV . “(I was) sort of a late addition to the cast and by the time I got there, all the specialized credits like ‘with’ and ‘and’ and ‘featuring’ and all that other stuff were taken. I think De Niro got ‘and’ and Lindsay Lohan got ‘with’, so we were kicking it around and (someone) said, ‘How about “introducing”?’ and we laughed. So they ran it by Robert and Robert cracked up. He said, ‘Absolutely, let's go with that.’”
Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are set to kick ass...
Now, we were sure Danny Trejo said something about babes…ah yes, that’s right, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez will be bringing their slinky brand of girl power to proceedings.
If you’ve already read our exclusive interview with Jessica Alba , you’ll know that she plays a pair of identical twins, one of whom works for the Immigration and Customs Agency, whilst the other is a rabble-rousing badass. Needless to say there’s plenty of arse-kicking action for her to get stuck into, not to mention a bathtub scene that’s set to send temperatures soaring.
Michelle Rodriguez meanwhile will play taco-vending revolutionary Shé (sound like anyone you know?), and is only too happy to wax lyrical about how much fun the film was to shoot.
“Robert’s so talented,” she told MovieWeb , “and has established himself in the industry in such a way that anyone will work with him because they know they’ll have fun in his playhouse, and they’ll make something that’s definitely a shocker for the eyes. I mean, a Gatling gun on a Harley? How freakin’ hot is that?”
Pretty hot, it has to be said. And Rodriguez has got little time for complaints that the movie goes too far in its depiction of Mexican rebellion.
“It’s a very sensitive topic just because we have an African-American president,” she says. “It’s like, ‘oh, race is everything now,’ you know what I mean? I find that intriguing, but at the end of the day (the criticism) is completely meaningless..”
So that’s the girls done then. Oh no, wait, there’s one more…
Lindsay Lohan is a gun-toting nun...
And finally on the casting front, there’s the small matter of the return of Lindsay Lohan to deal with. Naturally, given her recent tribulations, Lindsay will be wanting to keep a fairly low profile, so what better way to do it than by playing a bloodthirsty, gun-wielding nun? She’s bound to win the tabloids round with that one…
A lack of screen-time in the official trailer had caused some to suggest that Lohan had been dropped from the film, but Rodriguez insists the troubled star will still have a significant part to play.
“She's great in the movie,” he told The Wrap , “and I think we are going to include her more in the next trailer. It seemed too exploitive to use her with everything that was going on. But also, as a filmmaker, part of me doesn't want to give too much of her in the movie away. I'll say this: she starts as one character and ends as someone else.”
What we do know is that her character April Benz will be anything but a shrinking violet, with a topless scene alongside her on-screen mother set to draw a certain element to multiplexes everywhere. Not us though, obviously. Ahem.
Rumour has it the film will open with another fake trailer...
Now we must stress that at present, this remains only a rumour. And yet it’s so mouth-wateringly plausible we thought we ought to flag it up. The word on the street is that Machete will begin with a fake trailer of its own, and the man directing said trailer will be none other than Quentin Tarantino.
Screenjabber reports that QT will knock up a teaser for a film called Agent Orange , in which Tim Roth will play a British soldier named Ringo Orange (a nice little Pulp Fiction / Reservoir Dogs one-two there) who wants to restart the Vietnam war.
Die Another Day ’s Rick Yune is said to be playing Roth’s South Vietnamese sidekick Li Chan, whilst Sacha Baron Cohen will supposedly appear as as Colonel Weathers. American History X baddie Stacy Keach will play the villain of the piece, as the nefarious Doc. Franklin.
It all sounds too specific to be total bullshit, but no official confirmation has been forthcoming from either Rodriguez or Tarantino. Then again, if it is going to happen, it would almost certainly be included as a surprise extra, so we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for some more trailer-based fakery…
The movie is done, dusted and ready for release...
With filming having begun just over a year ago, Rodriguez updated his Twitter feed on August 11th with the following message: “Just finished MACHETE!!!! Can't wait for you to see it. Get ready...”
In actual fact, it’s taken the notoriously fast-working Rodriguez longer than anticipated to get the film in the can, although the making of Predators can be partially blamed for the holdup.
In any case the film is set to arrive on US screens on September 3rd, with a UK release pencilled in for November 26th. You can see the official trailer here , and as you can see, it’s a far cry from the political right-baiting Cinco de Mayo version.
Personally we’re a little disappointed to see the grindhouse murk cleaned off Fox’s official trailer, but it still looks suitably badass, especially when Reverend Cheech tools up…But where’s the immortal line, “they just fucked with the wrong Mexican”? For shame Fox, for shame…
Machete may well kill again...
That’s right, if Trejo and Rodriguez get their way, we could be in store for not one but two Machete sequels.
“It definitely could (become a franchise),” Rodriguez told The Wrap . “He could just ride off town to town as a legend, but I've always said we need to make at least two more. Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again ”.
Trejo definitely sounds keen on the idea, suggesting it’s a regular topic of conversation between he and his director.
“We want Machete , Machete Kills , and Machete Kills Again ,” he told Collider . “That’s mine and Robert’s standards, you know? Every time I text him, he’ll text me back, Machete 2 , coming up!”
In fact, Rodriguez jokes that his star’s persistence is what got the whole thing turned into a full-length movie in the first place.
“Imagine that,” he told MovieWeb . “He's been bugging me since '94. 'When are we making Machete ?' Danny would ask. So I made him a trailer and I was thinking, now he'll be satisfied, but he wanted a whole movie. 'When are we going to make the real movie?' Danny would now ask. We've now made the movie and we're finishing editing it and Danny's like, 'Now we got to write the sequel!'"