From director Robert Rodriguez, Machete Kills is full of action-packed insanity, as the legendary secret agent Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) is being hunted by more deadly assassins than ever. Recruited by the U.S. President (Charlie Sheen) to stop a crazed global terrorist (Mel Gibson) from starting a nuclear war, Machete must use means necessary to accomplish his mission and save the world. The film also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Demian Bichir, Jessica Alba, Alexa Vega and Lady Gaga.
At the film’s press day, actress Alexa Vega (“Killjoy”) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about her transition as one of the kids in Spy Kids to a sexy bad-ass assassin in Machete Kills, what she remembers about the first time she met Robert Rodriguez, the effect her long-standing friendship with the director has had on her life, how she landed this role, getting the confidence to put on her character’s outfit, working with Sofia Vergara, and possibly returning for future Machete films. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
ALEXA VEGA: Well, thank you! I’m such a tomboy in real life that to be able to take on somebody as fierce as Killjoy is so awesome. And to do it in a sexy way was super empowering and different. I had to have this confidence, going on set, that I’ve never had to have before for a role. I would just go in there and play whatever sweet character I was playing. But, I had to dive into this role, full force, in a completely different way, and I loved that. It’s so much fun. You’re taking yourself to a place that you’ve never had to go. To play with the guns and work with the people I was working with, it was such a fun thing to dive into. But, I had to fight for it. They didn’t want me to do this role, at all. They all still picture me as a little kid, so I had to prove myself. There was a lot of proving.
What do you remember about Robert Rodriguez, from the first time you ever worked with him?
VEGA: I remember the first time I met him was in the audition room. I walked in and they said, “This is the director, Robert Rodriguez.” I looked at him and I was like, “You can’t be the director.” And he was like, “I’m the director!” And I was like, “But, you’re cool!” He had a bandana and a really cool watch on, and there was just no way that this guy was a director. I’d always pictured directors as old. So, being able to grow up with that guy, who I just thought was so cool and who inspired me to want to be a filmmaker as well, it’s the coolest way to grow up. He’s a good guy.
As long as you’ve known him and as many times as you’ve collaborated together, what would you say is the biggest effect he’s had on you, as an actress and as a person?
VEGA: I think it’s always believing in each other. That was the biggest thing. Robert has always been there for me, during very, very pivotal moments in my life. I grew up on his set, and I grew up with him. Through my very essential years, he was the person that was there for me. Like a father figure, he’s just always been supportive. He was somebody that I could always go to, no matter what. And it’s vice versa, as well. Any time he’s been frustrated, I’ve been in that daughter role going, “All right, tell me what’s going on. Come on, pops!” He’s just been super influential and supportive, and that’s exactly what you need when you’re growing up in this business. He’s the kind of person that isn’t afraid to tell you no. This is such a yes business that you have to have people that keep you grounded, and Robert is definitely one of those people. I mean, how many people can go, “Yeah, Robert Rodriguez gives me advice?!” And I trust him so much. I trust that he’s gonna shoot me well, and he’s always looking out for my best interests. No matter how many times I mess up on a line or do something bad, he’s always gonna make it look good, thank god.
When this character was first presented to you, how much were you told about her?
VEGA: Nothing! Hardly anything! This character was written for a local actor in Texas. I called Robert up and was like, “I know you’re about to start Sin City 2 and Machete Kills, and I just want you to think of a cool role for me in Sin City. I’m ready to do a more grown-up role.” He was like, “Absolutely not! I would never cast you in that!” I was like, “Why?! I’m not a kid!” And he was like, “Yes, you are!” I said, “Robert, I’m 24!,” because at that point, I was 24. He was like, “What?!” He knew I was 24, but he just never looked at me that way. I said, “People aren’t taking me seriously. I think it’s time that we show them that I’m capable of doing other roles. It’s going to take me forever to prove that to these other Joe Schmoes in this business, whereas I know I can do that with you in two seconds. You’ve just gotta give me a shot!”
So, he said, “Okay, there’s this role that’s really meant for an extra. You can come and do it. It will take an hour to shoot, and you can make the role what you want.” And I was like, “Awesome!” So, I flew out there and saw some of the outfit options. When I saw the chaps and metal bra, I was like, “If we’re gonna go for it, we need to go for it,” and we just went for it. With that kind of role, if you show any hesitation, you’re gonna miss her, and I was gonna miss that opportunity. So, there were no water wings. You’ve just gotta dive into the deep end and see what happens.
Did you need to get into a specific headspace to be confident in this outfit?
VEGA: Heck, yeah! To say I wasn’t nervous would be a complete lie because I was definitely nervous. But, being able to have an awesome hair and make-up team get me ready, and an awesome wardrobe team that tailored everything just right to my body so that every curve looks good and it hits you just at the right spot, so your butt keeps that bubble, was incredible. They got me to that spot and helped give me that confidence. By the time I walked on set, I was like, “I’m ready! Let’s do this!” Whereas if I had to go on set and wear any old bathing suit, it’s not the same. And if I had to do my own hair and make-up, it wouldn’t be the same.
They instilled that confidence in me, which is really important. That’s why it takes a team to make a movie. I’m such a dork in real life, and you can ask my fiancé. The first month of us dating, I think he must have had the hardest time with me because I’m so shy. I’m an outgoing person when it comes to friends, but when it comes to being confident and sexy, the sexy word scares me. I used to have such a hard time just owning who I am and the skin that I’m in, and just owning my body a little bit more. I was so dorky, and I don’t know why. This role brought out a nice bit of confidence in me that I definitely didn’t have before.
What was it like to work with someone who has as big of a personality as Sofia Vergara?
VEGA: You have to own it. Everybody already looks so little standing next to her that you have to beat on your chest to keep up with her. I actually thought her accent was made up. I didn’t realize her accent was that thick. She handled herself so well, coming onto the set and really only having two or three days to film. The character she had was big and over the top. While she’s fun and playful, she really keeps herself together until they say, “Action!,” and then she really just lets loose and you’re blown away by what comes out. The best speech is when she’s talking about picking pieces of her father out of her teeth the next day. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, how did she say these lines?!” But, she owns it.
When you read this script, what was your reaction to all of the crazy things that happen in it?
VEGA: What’s funny is that there wasn’t really a script. I think Kyle Ward did a great job with the final piece, but a lot of that was just to get it all greenlit. From that point on, so much of it gets changed because Robert really tailors each character to the person that he hires. Killjoy was a sentence in the script, and it ended up being throughout the film and possibly in the next film. For each person that he hires, the character is very well tailored, and he can only do that after the person is hired. So, a lot of times, the scripts are just outlines of an idea of what he wants. On set is where the magic happens.
Was it fun to see the little bits and the beginning and the end, that hint at where things could go next, especially for Machete Kills Again . . . In Space?
VEGA: Completely! And that’s something that Robert has always done with his films. He always sets up spin-offs or sequels or prequels to each thing that he does, so it always leaves it like an open book. You don’t know which way it’s gonna go, and you don’t know what’s next with him.
Machete Kills opens in theaters on October 11th.