Before They Were Stars: Danny Trejo in “Runaway Train”

Today is Danny Trejo’s 67th birthday and we shall celebrate his remarkable journey from former drug addict and convicted felon to pop culture icon. I’m proud to say that one of my “Robin’s Underrated Gems” selections, Runaway Train, got him his start in the movie business. After being offered a job as an extra on the film, Trejo was recognized by the one of the actors/screenwriters, Edward Bunker (best known for playing Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs), who had served time with him at San Quentin. Because Trejo had become a successful boxer during his time in prison, Bunker offered him the chance to train Eric Roberts for his boxing scenes in the film. Trejo impressed the filmmakers so much that he wound up earning the role of Roberts’ opponent, and one of the most unlikely success stories in Hollywood history was born. As a bonus, here’s an hilarious early bit part Trejo had in Death Wish IV: The Crackdown where Charles Bronson blows him up with an explosive wine bottle! You just knew the combined presence of Danny Trejo and Charles Bronson in the same scene together would cause spontaneous combustion.

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