Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids,” “Grindhouse,” “Desperado,” From Dawn Till Dusk”) again reunited with his “Spy Kids” star Alexa Vega in his “Machete” sequel, “Machete Kills” — a comedic action adventure, chock-filled with Rodriguez’s usual big use of blood and gore and seemingly impossible stunts. Danny Trejo reprises his Machete role, sent to Mexico by the U.S. President (played by Charlie Sheen, credited in the film using his given name, Carlos Estevez) — to find and kill a violent arms dealer out to destroy the planet.
Rodriguez and Vega were in Chicago this week to promote the film, in which Vega plays a role far different than her iconic Carmen Cortez from the “Spy Kids” films.
“Playing this woman — a really tough, bodyguard enforcer — actually gave me a lot of confidence,” said Vega. I never before had to own my body in a role — and given the hardly-there costume for this movie, I really had to own it! They gave me several options with costumes and said, ‘Let’s go for it. Either go big or go home!’”
Rodriguez talked about how he can snare major stars to be in his films, how he approaches the use of violence and what “Machete Kills” star Danny Trejo is like in real life.
Q: You’ve worked with Alexa Vega since she was a kid. How is that? Watching her grow up?
A: It’s been great. She was great practice for having my own kids. Like when she got her own car. She had her first kiss on one of my sets. Okay, watching her made me think, ‘Okay, so this is how you handle this!’
She’s like an another daughter. I’ve known since she was 11.
Q: How was it to have Charlie Sheen cast as the president?
A: It was great. I’ve wanted to work with Charlie for a long time. So this time I went to him and he said, ‘All right. I don’t want to miss working with you for a third time! Whatever you’ve got, I will do.’
I told him, ‘It’s the president.’ And he laughed and said, ‘That’s perfect. I’ll do it. I got lots of practice watching my dad [Martin Sheen on “The West Wing”] playing the president.
Of course, since Charlie knows what I do, he knew this was going to be nothing like ‘The West Wing’!
Q: Do think many of the big actors you get — like in this film Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Lady Gaga — is because they get to do stuff they normally never do?
A: Absolutely. I think they are drawn to my films because they know they will have a blast. It’s a place where they can come and play, relax and be cool.
Come on. Demian Bichir for God’s sake! He’s got an Oscar nomination and I know he thinks that’s great and all that, but he came to me and said, ‘I want to play a badass in a movie. Can you do that for me?’
I told him, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll be by the time we’re done with this. Before you’re dead, you’ll be running around doing some fun, crazy stuff.’
Q: What would surprise people about Danny Trejo, Machete himself?
A: That he’s actually the sweetest guy in the world. A real goof-off. Look, he’s a guy who puts French vanilla creamer in his coffee — and then adds tons of sugar!
Q: How do respond to people who talk about all the violence in your films?
A: I used to be a cartoonist. I come from the Chuck Jones directing school. It’s like when Bugs Bunny hits Daffy Duck and his head spins around. It makes you laugh. I just do it with live people — a lot of whom get their heads chopped off, but it’s obviously cartoonish.
I also like to make the violence look creative. For example we could have had Machete just punch a guy or shoot him with a spear-gun in that boat scene with the helicopter hovering menacingly overhead. Instead he shoots the bad guy with the speargun then hooks it to the helicopter’s blades — the guy flies up is diced up by the blades and the helicopter blows up.
Very efficient. Two jobs done with one action!