Nicest Bad Guy Around Hits the Big Time with “Machete”

Danny Trejo might have the most intimidating look and resume of anyone on the big screen today, but by all accounts he is a prince among men who is getting his big break when "Machete" opens on Friday. He gives big props to longtime collaborator and friend Robert Rodriguez.

"Robert is the kind of guy who says, 'You've been around long enough, let's put you on the first team,'" a beaming Trejo said at the film's press day.

He makes the best of it in this rowdy exploitation film opening Friday.

It wasn't an easy road after 25 years of character acting to unlikely leading man status. Trejo walks the walk, having survived a tough childhood and a misspent youth where he spent time in six California prisons -- including San Quentin, where he was the lightweight and welterweight boxing champion.

Trejo straightened his life out, went clean and sober, and has been one of the hardest working guys in the game, appearing in more than 200 films -- including in a handful of Rodriguez films where he is invariably named after a knife or some sort of lethal weapon.

But after Trejo's fake movie trailer for "Machete" was all the talk of 2007's  "Grindhouse" movie, it was clear the movie had to be made with the menacing Trejo out-front.

Both the "Grindhouse" fans (and Trejo) pestered Rodriguez until he finally got around to making the movie.

After the green light, a lot of the Hollywood stars were eager to work with Trejo to pay their respects.

"Everyone felt like, 'Oh, Danny is gettin’ a shot. We should be there for Danny,' " said Rodriguez.

That included Robert De Niro, who "has put a bullet in his head" (back in the movie"Heat") and Steven Seagal "who has killed him a few times."

As for playing the lead, Trejo tried to play nonchalant at the press day. "The only difference in being the lead is I got to kiss Jessica Alba," he said.

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