(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Alexa Vega, now 25, obviously looks much different as a scantily clad badass in “Machete Kills” than she did 13 years ago when the film’s director Robert Rodriguez first started working with her on “Spy Kids.” Yet the filmmaker says he never treated his frequent collaborator like a little girl.
“We went to see ‘Mission: Impossible II’ together just before we started ‘Spy Kids.’ I leaned over to her halfway through the movie and go, ‘You’re going to be so much cooler than Tom Cruise,’” says the director (“Sin City”), 45. “[I was] always thinking of not having her compete with other kids but compete with the adults.”
Vega certainly does that in “Machete Kills,” opening Friday, in which she plays Killjoy, the bodyguard to a brothel where several women (led by Sofia Vergara) join the hunt for Machete (Danny Trejo) as he works to diffuse a bomb connected to a maniac’s heart. In addition to returning cast members including Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez, the film, a sequel to 2010’s “Machete,” also co-stars—seriously—Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen (credited by his birth name, Carlos Estevez).
At the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Vega and Rodriguez talked about Machete’s future, the off-screen kindness of onscreen badasses and Vega’s transition to Hollywood adulthood.
No job lasts forever. What do you see Machete doing down the line once he has to hang up his machete?
Alexa Vega: Oh, gosh. He’s so nice. One thing that Danny always says that I really liked is that [Machete’s] the kind of guy that if somebody goes out of town he would water their flowers, but if somebody breaks into their house he’d kill ‘em. [Laughs] He has that really sweet side but then that deadly side.
If you did “Machete Knits,” would people still call him Machete?
Robert Rodriguez: They’d still call him Machete. He’ll always be Machete. Even in a nursing home, he’d be Machete.
AV: Oh my gosh!
RR: He’d be one to be feared.
AV: “Machete Nursing Home.” I didn’t even think of that. That’d be great.
Does that storyline interest you?
RR: I know where he would be because I came up with some idea to have Machete even way into retirement. He would be overseeing a group of other mini-Machete guys, different specialists, and his machete would be in a glass case over his desk. ‘Cause he doesn’t do that anymore. He has such a knowledge base, he would just be a guide and a teacher. Until they all screw up, which they always do, they’d have to break the glass and get his machete out, crawl out there and take care of business. That’s what I was going to do with it.
AV: [Laughs] That’s awesome.
You don’t see that every day.
RR: And everyone in the office can’t wait for him to go back in action because he’s the legend.
You’ve talked about Danny being so different from the character. Mel Gibson called him a “pussycat.” In your experience, how much does that seem to be the case that onscreen badasses can be the opposite in real life?
RR: Always. I worked with a guy named Bill Sadler who played one of the bad guys in “Die Hard 2,” and he made a movie with a bunch of other bad guys. They all became friends. I went over to his house once. And all the bad guys were in his living room that you recognize from all these other movies, and they’re all playing banjos and guitars and crooning Johnny Cash. It was the funniest thing. Seeing the bad guy gang, and they’re all super-sweet.
Do you recall who else was there?
RR: I could name the movies. One of them was the bad guy in a Chuck Norris movie. I should know his name. It’s like a who’s-who of bad guys. It was just amazing to see all those faces in that circumstance. And they’re the sweetest people in the world. And they all hang out together; that’s the only other friend they can find are other bad guys. [Laughs]
AV: Oh my gosh. That’s so sad.
RR: And Danny’s like that. He’s a really sweet guy.
What do you think, Alexa?
AV: Oh, Danny is the absolute sweetest. But he calls me and he always sings to me. When I don’t answer my phone I’ll get a voicemail of him singing Frank Sinatra or something. [Laughs]