Danny Trejo doesn’t need to act when he plays a hardened criminal, said Amos Barshad in Grantland.com. Before he stumbled into his first acting job some three decades ago, the star of movies like Machete and From Dusk Till Dawn was a real-life gangbanger, armed robber, and drug addict. During his early years in California, he yo-yoed in and out of prison on various charges—including stabbing a sailor in the neck with a broken bottle and selling several bags of mostly fake heroin to an undercover federal agent. In jail, he acted like a dangerous lunatic. “People aren’t afraid of tough guys,” he says. “People are afraid of crazy guys. If you try to bite them in the jugular vein, it’s like, ‘My God, this guy is trying to eat me!’” He quit drugs and violence in 1968 following a three-month stint in solitary confinement, and was working as a drug counselor when he visited an actor client on a film set in 1984. The director noticed his prison tattoos and hired him to play a convict. Since then Trejo has played bad guys and anti-heroes in about 200 movies, and plans to keep acting until he dies. “This is all gravy. In 1968, I was on my way to the gas chamber. Now I got f---ing action figures.”
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