AT A TIME when society's masculine ideal looks like a cross between Justin Bieber and a wet dog, I can't imagine future-dwellers will ever believe such a creature as Danny Trejo ever existed. He'll be spoken of in hushed tones, as a legend; he'll be the subject of tall tales, this chopper-riding Aztec barbarian, his time on Earth containing more glory than the images on the side of any van could ever contain. Luckily for us, Danny Trejo is the manliest man alive, and nobody that manly can ever die. (Don't talk to me about Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris can eat a dick. Go ahead, put him up against Machete. It's pretty hard to roundhouse kick anyone when you have a knife in your face.)
And while other manly men of cinema have fallen off and gotten fat, or injected so much HGH in their aged, half-plastic bodies that they piss ground beef, Trejo is the definition of authenticity. Hollywood isn't exactly known for its tendency to keep it real, which perhaps explains why it's taken until 2010 for the baddest ass in cinema since Lee Marvin to land a leading role (in this week's Machete—see our review in this week's issue). But even in the roughly 50,000 supporting turns he's taken over his 20-plus-year career, Trejo has left an indelible impression on us, and on film itself.
The list of actors he made look like pansy bitches by simply standing near them includes Robert De Niro (first in 1995's Heat, and again in Machete), Steven Seagal (first in 1990's Marked for Death, and yes, again in Machete), Nicolas Cage (1997's Con Air), and a fuckin' predator (2010's Predators). He inspired Gary Busey to create the legendary insult "butt-horn" in 1988's Bulletproof, and then played the first vampire/Cardassian bartender in 1996's From Dusk Till Dawn. True, his characters usually die, but the Trejo doesn't care if he gets pretend-killed by a preening simp like Vin Diesel. Trejo survived a childhood drug addiction, multiple robberies, and San Quentin. That kind of confidence translates no matter how little screen time he has. And if he ever goes, we'll wish, too late, he'd had more of it.