TREJO: My Life of Crime, Redemption and Hollywood is the memoir of actor Danny Trejo.
Danny Trejo has been killed on screen over one hundred times and according to his IMDB, he has over four hundred acting credits to his name. This guy just does not stop working. But what about his time before films and movies? I mean, the man didn’t become an actor until he hit forty! Well, it turns out it’s pretty dark.
Raised in a broken home, Danny took to the streets from an early age. Surrounded by friends and family hopelessly addicted to drugs, the die had been cast for how Danny had been expected to turn out. Shooting heroin at twelve years old and robbing shops shortly thereafter, Danny quickly found himself in and out of juvie. This was a path that would lead directly to San Quentin.
Danny’s formative years are the true star of this book. It’s absolutely mind-blowing that he made it out alive given all he did as a criminal and all he experienced behind bars. There were more than a few quotes I highlighted in the book from his time in prison that will stick with me for years to come:
San Quentin is the most Right Now place on earth that isn’t a war zone. If you want to survive, you have no choice but to be in one place, this very moment, and only this moment. Will you live or will you die – today? The first thing you have to do when you get locked up is make peace with the Right Now. It will never be your friend, but you can’t let it be your enemy or you’ll go insane.
When Danny finally got out and put his past behind him, he committed himself to a life of clean and sober living. His work within the community to help those in need should be commended, along with anyone else who selflessly lives a life devoted to helping others. It was through this work that he found himself on a movie set and being offered a role in Runaway Train, a role that would kick-start his career in Hollywood.
From there we get lots of stories about the various films he’s worked on, his reluctance to take a role in a film that would have likely upset the Mexican mafia and story after story of being type cast as a tough dude who looks like he would kill you for flinching. Some of these were interesting while others weren’t, but hearing it through Danny’s voice helped keep me engaged from cover to cover.
I loved the story of how Machete films came to be and the character first being introduced through the Spy Kids movies (something I often forget). When the first stand-alone Machete film was made, it resurrected his career at a time when he was nearly broke and homeless in his sixties.
Danny Trejo lives by his belief that every good thing that has happened to him has happened as a direct result of helping someone else. It’s far from a bad way to live. The man pulled himself out of what could have been a destiny of an early death and lived a rich, full life.