Danny Trejo To Receive Santa Fe Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Iconic actor Danny Trejo is set to receive one of the biggest honors of his career.

The star of Machete, From Dusk Til Dawn, Spy Kids, Con Air, Heat, and hundreds of other films and television series will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Santa Fe Film Festival on Thursday, the festival’s opening night. His new film, American Underdog, will hold its U.S. premiere at SFFF that night, kicking off the event that runs in New Mexico’s capital city from April 25-28.

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“Danny Trejo has developed a prolific career in the entertainment industry with a hard earned and atypical road to success,” the festival notes. “From years of imprisonment to helping troubled youth battle drug addictions, from acting to producing, and now on to restaurant ventures, Trejo’s name, face, and achievements are well recognized in Hollywood and beyond, but it is his continuous role as a devoted father of three and an intervention counselor that bring him the most satisfaction.”

Veronica Falcon in Los Angeles, February 29, 2024.
Veronica Falcon in Los Angeles, February 29, 2024.

Trejo’s co-star in American Underdog, Veronica Falcón, will receive the festival’s Trailblazer Visionary Award, recognizing her work on screen on shows including Ozark, Queen of the South, and Perry Mason, and for her work offscreen as an activist. SFFF calls Falcón “an artist who has demonstrated excellence in the craft and served large in inspiring positive change in the world.”

Trejo, 79, got his start in acting in 1985, years after his release from San Quentin state prison in California. He had become a boxing champion behind bars and got a first start in movies by training Eric Roberts as a boxer for Runaway Train, which led to Trejo being cast in a small role in the film. That background in the ring served him well in American Underdog, “a redemption story set in the world of MMA by first-time Peruvian-American director, Gustavo Martin-Benites,” according to a release. “Trejo essays the role of ‘Dennis,’ a trainer and former MMA fighter who reluctantly comes out of retirement to coach his ex-student – disgraced amateur MMA fighter, ‘Jai’, played by Indian-American actor Vishy Ayyar.”

Danny Trejo
Danny Trejo

Trejo says of the role, “My character ‘Dennis’ has come through the other side of the fire, and now he’s at a place in life where he’s got the experience, he’s lived it, and can give the wisdom and the guidance.”

Along with Trejo, Falcón and Ayyar, the film stars Taylor Treadwell (Father Figures), Suleka Mathew (Mayfair Witches), Andrew Gray (Power Rangers), and Omi Vaidya (3 Idiots). Naveen A. Chathapuram, Cristy Coors Beasley and Rashaana Shah produce the film. Ayyer co-wrote the American Underdog, which is based partly on his own experiences.

'American Underdog' poster
'American Underdog' poster

“After losing 50 million dollars in my real estate business, I was in shock as my life crumbled in front of me which led to filing for bankruptcy,” Ayyar said. “American Underdog is a testament that everyone comes to America as an underdog and can fall over and over again, but can find that redemption from the most unlikely of paths.”

Trejo’s own redemption story saw him overcome a childhood of abuse and addiction, to a career in Hollywood and now major success as an entrepreneur. As the festival notes, “Trejo’s expanding restaurant empire includes Trejo’s Tacos & Cantina, and Trejo’s Coffee & donuts, with a fifth restaurant opening in downtown Los Angeles.” Two days ago, he was in London for the opening of a Trejo’s Tacos location in the English capital. He has authored two books, including Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from LA.

Trejo has 29 upcoming cinematic projects in various stages of completion, including Hollywood Heist, a caper movie starring Alec Baldwin, Nick Cannon, Mickey Rourke, and Tara Reid.

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