Why Danny Trejo Doesn't Want to Be Called a 'Movie Star'

Danny Trejo got some big props on social media last month when he explained why he doesn't think of himself as "a movie star." The actor gave a long-form interview on G4's Xplay, but one soundbite made the rounds on TikTok and Twitter. In it, Trejo told the story of when he learned the distinction between a "movie star" and a "working actor."

Trejo's interviewer, Jirard "The Completionist" Khalil, asked him if there was a piece of advice he got early in his acting career that stuck with him. Trejo did not have to think about it long before he came up with a fitting story. He said that he met actor Edward Bunker while they were both inmates in San Quentin State Prison, and he worked with Bunker later when they were both actors. He recalled shooting the movie Runaway Train, during which Trejo felt like his career was really beginning to go somewhere. He was grateful to Bunker for helping him stay humble.

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"He said 'Danny, you've got to remember this: everybody can think you're a movie star, but you can't,'" Trejo remembered. He said that he and Bunker observed the way that other people interacted with the biggest stars on film sets for better or for worse, and said that Bunker told him: "I won't let people call me a movie star, No no, I'm an actor. I'm a working actor."

"Movie stars' get this thing in their head that they're, like, entitled," Trejo went on, "and they can be late without calling. There's no 'I' in team, but if you say that to somebody and they say, 'Yeah but there's a "me,"' they're a movie star. Get away from them."

Trejo finished the anecdote with a big laugh about humility and a friendly handshake. The actor certainly has a reputation for being easy to work with, and this story may finally explain why. Sadly, Bunker passed away in 2005, so he is not around to see how far his advice has gotten Trejo, or to see this story take over social media.

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Trejo was first incarcerated at the age of 12 and spent much of his youth in and out of different kinds of prisons. He has said that he turned his life around after a stint in solitary confinement where he found his faith and experienced extreme withdrawal from drugs. He was released from prison for the final time in 1969 at the age of 25.

Trejo's interview with G4 was in promotion of the new video game OlliOlli World! in which he does some voice acting. He has a huge slate of movies and TV shows coming soon, according to his IMDb page. For Trejo's own account of his criminal past and his rise to stardom, check out the 2019 documentary Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo on most major SVOD stores for rental or purchase.