Before Danny Trejo became a recognizable Hollywood actor/local taco shop proprietor, he was in prison. “Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo” is a new documentary that explores how Trejo turned his life around and helps others do the same.
Trejo is an L.A. native who grew up in Pacoima. His early life was rough. He recalls doing drugs when he was just a child. In his early 20s, he committed armed robberies, sold drugs and did stints behind bars. Trejo said he made a pledge to change after spending three months in solitary confinement.
After his release in 1969, he enrolled in a program where he worked with teen drug addicts. And it just so happened that one of the teens he was counseling was working on the set of the film “Runaway Train.” One day, he asked Trejo if he could come to the set and help him avoid doing drugs. Screenwriter Edward Bunker, who also went from a life of crime to working on movies, recognized Trejo from prison. Bunker offered him a job teaching actor Eric Roberts to box and a small role as an extra.
Trejo went on to play several stereotypical “tough guy” roles. Many of those characters were only known by names like “Tatoo Artist” or “Tough Prisoner #1,” thus the name of the documentary. Eventually, he started appearing in larger projects and starred in Robert Rodriguez’s 2010 thriller “Machete.”
Trejo now owns several taco shops in Los Angeles, known as Trejo’s Tacos, plus Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts. He also sells his own beer, Trejo’s Cerveza. Lately, he’s been using his restaurants to donate food to health care workers.
“Inmate #1” is available on streaming services including iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon and YouTube. If you head over to IGN’s Instagram Stories today at 5:15 p.m., you can catch a virtual red carpet for the film’s digital premiere. You can then rent ($5.99) or buy ($14.99) the film to watch, and catch a Q&A with Trejo at 7:30 p.m., available on IGN’s Facebook, YouTube and their website.