Danny Trejo Usually Plays Villains In Movies Parents Would Not Take Their Kids To, But He Opens Up About Why Minions: The Rise Of Gru Was A Perfect Fit

The Vicious 6 dropping into Gru's living room in Minions: The Rise of Gru.
(Image credit: Illumination Entertainment & Universal Studios)

Minions: The Rise of Gru has already proven itself to be an early smash hit in July 2022’s first box office weekend. Apparently knowing the material the fanbase is showing up for, Illumination’s tiny terrors have made a killing for more than just Peacock Premium subscribers. Though one shouldn’t forget the rest of the Minions sequels’ expertly-picked cast, especially actor Danny Trejo, who for several reasons was absolutely a perfect match for this voice-acting gig. 

In the latest Despicable Me adventure, the actor known for movies like From Dusk 'til Dawn and Machete plays a pretty bad dude named Stronghold. A member of the Vicious 6 super group, Trejo's new role is akin to the role of Jaws in the James Bond franchise. Only instead of indestructible metal teeth, it's his hands that happen to be made of metallic menace.

During our interview for Minions 2, Trejo ran through the usual bag of tricks people might peg him as pulling from in his career. As someone who generally plays evil or anti-heroic characters in movies parents are more likely to be watching without their kids, even I was surprised at how perfect this casting was. This led to me asking just why Danny Trejo would be so sold on taking a voice acting gig where the audience is much younger than he's used to. 

The answer is something that runs contrary to the image most associate Danny Trejo with. While he’s a great villain, as well as a fantastic R-rated ass kicker, Trejo’s role of Stronghold does hew close to some of the stuff you’ve seen him do in the past. And, as it turns out,  voice acting is something Danny Trejo told CinemaBlend he’s a really huge fan of:  

In [Minions: The Rise of Gru] I’m bigger than Jean-Claude Van Damme. … It’s so much easier, because you work directly with the director. He doesn’t have 12 things to look at, he’s just looking at you. So its kind of like you’re working directly with the director. [Kyle Balda] was cool, he’s got this energy that’s awesome. Every time I’d change it, he’d say ‘No, no, no. Keep your voice.’ My voice is my voice, and every time it would change, he’d go, ‘Hold it, Trejo. You’re acting again.’ We just had a lot of fun doing it. … They love my laugh, I know that much.

Energy is key when talking to Danny Trejo, as the man will bring you in so many different directions, only to circle back to something you’d discussed previously. That’s far from a complaint though, as that sort of spirit stepped up our Minions: The RIse of Gru press day. In-between stories about how Trejo almost landed a key Sin City role, as well as tales of his many business ventures, the actor had nothing but love for Stronghold.

Riffing on his character’s appearance, Danny Trejo even remarked how, “the claws are good in a fight, but they’re tough for picking up toothpicks.” Even the fact that his character is physically bigger than Jean-Claude Van Damme’s heavy, aptly-named Jean Clawed, excited Trejo as we discussed the latest Minions movie. As we compared his Stronghold performance with his previous resume of armed figures of action, even Trejo couldn't help but get a laugh out of this next thought: 

That is funny. ‘I’m talking to Danny Trejo, and he’s going to be in the Minions. He’s been killed more times than anybody in film, and he’s played the bad guy in every movie he’s in.' Well I’m still a bad guy in [Minions: Rise of Gru], I’m part of the Vicious 6.

Sean Bean might have something to say about that claim of being killed in every movie he's been in, but the point still stands. You wouldn't expect the man to love voice acting so much, but Danny Trejo has such a blast doing it that he and his representatives keep accepting projects like Minions: The Rise of Gru. 

Digging into the process of recording his voice role, you can see why Trejo was such a good choice for Stronghold. Further voicing his enthusiasm, perhaps the most important ingredient to Danny Trejo’s energy toward any project is his healthy inner child. It’s definitely something his family credits, as he further explains and exhibits below: 

[I’m] still the same guy. They asked my daughter when she was interviewed, ‘Where did your father grow up?’ She said, ‘He hasn’t. He still cruises around.’ … I loved doing [Minions: Rise of Gru]. It was a lot of fun, and some of the characters that are in it are cool. Except Stronghold probably steals it from Steve [Carell,] but that’s OK.

Whether it’s the potential for a spinoff focused solely on his current animated baddie, or returning as Uncle Machete for the upcoming Netflix reboot of Spy Kids, Danny Trejo is ready to dive into whatever comes his way. While Steve Carell has strong thoughts on a Minionized Office, pairing this gang of helpers with the more action packed side of Machete’s character could go so many ways. 

Grounding ourselves back to reality, if you haven’t seen Minions: The Rise of Gru yet, you can head to a theater near you and change that! Plus, if you're a Peacock subscriber, don't forget that the rest of the Despicable Me saga is currently available to stream on that platform of choice. Bananas not included.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.