Danny Trejo has died on-screen. A lot. With over 350 movies and TV show appearances to his name, the legendary character actor was bound to bite the bullet at some point. But he’s now officially the performer who has died the most times in screen history, with 65 deaths to his name.
Recently, GamesRadar+ had the chance to speak with Trejo following the release of the documentary Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo, which tells the story of his dramatic and eventful life.
From his dismembered head being mounted on a turtle to an exploding wine bottle killing him – here’s Trejo breaking down some of the stories and behind-the-scenes moments from his most iconic on-screen deaths, starting with his very first in 1987’s Death Wish 4.
Death Wish 4 – Death by exploding wine bottle
“First of all, I love Charles Bronson. Charles Bronson was like a man’s man. He was rugged-looking and tough in all of his movies and that was one of my favourite actors at that time. I was hoping he wasn’t all that in person. And he wasn’t!
“He was the nicest guy in the world and that really impressed me. He was so considerate. When he was going to throw the water in my face, he was like, ‘Hey, hold it, hold it!’ Let’s change this glass. I thought, ‘What is wrong with that?’ [He said:] ‘There’s ice in that glass’ and I thought ‘Wow, how considerate!’
“Most actors I’ve dealt with wouldn’t give a shit as I was a glorified extra. But he stopped the scene and took the ice out of the glass so I would just throw water. Then he says, ‘When they say action, I’m gonna count to three.’ In my mind, I got to two and then bam! He throws the water. On purpose, he threw it on two so my reaction would be… it came out perfect. One take. I got to keep that suit!”
Breaking Bad – Tortuga’s tortoise-themed death
“I remember my agent, Gloria, she said, ‘Danny, you’re going to do one of Hollywood’s first.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ She said, ‘You’re going to cross the desert on a turtle.’ I said, ‘Wow, must be a big turtle!’ She said, ‘It’s just your head!’ I said, ‘Has any other actor ever done this?’ She said, ‘no,’ so I said, ‘Ok, I’ll do it’”
On creating the dismembered head prosthetic: “It’s a whole process. You cover your head with the plaster and leave two breathing holes and all of a sudden you’ve got a mask.
On returning for a flashback: “That [season 2] episode was one of their best. Everybody loved that. So they actually called me back and I got paid again to do the prequel to that.”
Heat – Shot by Robert De Niro
“Robert De Niro said ‘I believe you’re almost dead, Dan. You’re almost dead. You have enough left to beg me to kill you.’ For a split second – he asked me ‘What do you think?’ – I wanted to go ‘Nah, Bob, I don’t see it that way.’ Then I remembered – it’s Robert De Niro! That’s the way we’ll do it. Very little dialogue on my part… that was one of the best death scenes of that century.
On his favourite on-screen death: “I think the one with Robert DeNiro [in Heat]. My kids and my mom can watch all of them but they can’t watch that one. That one’s just too real. And then dying with Robert DeNiro, what more could you want?
Con Air – Dismembered
GamesRadar+: That prosthetic arm, were they your tattoos?
“Yes, they drew them all. That was, again, they do that cast and they stencil – I actually got them the stencils from the tattoo shop.”
On the role he gets most recognised for: “Spy Kids, believe it or not. That’s one of the ways I can always tell parents are watching what their kids are watching. The kids are always going, ‘Spy Kids! Uncle Machete!’
“I did a movie called Dora the Explorer and I was Boots, the little monkey. I was in the airport and talking to this girl and kinda flirting with each other: ‘Yeah, I’ve been in Con Air, Heat, and Desperado’. ‘You were in Machete?’ ‘Yeah’.
“And all of a sudden this six-year-old girl goes ‘Boots! You’re Boots!’ Everybody turned around and I’m like, yeah, I’m Boots the Monkey!”
Predators – Killed off-screen by Predators
“That was a good movie. When they were doing Predators, I was doing Machete. In the trades they said [they wanted]: ‘Someone mean and intimidating, like Danny Trejo.’
“Robert [Rodriguez] was producing… I took it to Robert and [said], ‘I’m here, what do you mean? I’m here!’ He said, ‘You’ve only got a week.’ Well, okay, I can do that! I got to do Predators while we’re doing Machete."
On off-screen deaths vs. on-screen deaths: “The more camera time you can get, the better!”
The Ridiculous 6 – Stabbed in the head
“I love Westerns. Westerns are my passion. We have a channel here – Westerns all day long, all night long. That’s why I can never sleep! There’s some great, great Westerns. I’m trying to get a movie made called Valdez is Coming and I want to play Valdez.”
On the secret to a good on-screen death: It’s to feel it! Feel like you’re dying. If death ever hits me, I’ll know how to do it!
Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo is out now in the US and UK on digital platforms.