Interview by Richard Massie
Age: Oh you’re gonna go there fucker!?
(Laughs) Okay never mind.
Ethnicity: Mexicano. Chicano. Paisa.
Where were you born? I was born in Maywood but we lived on Temple & Figueroa, that was in 1944.
You just gave away your age! (Laughs)
Where’s home? Mission Hills – Pacoima
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Say my prayers and just lay in bed.
What did you eat for breakfast today? Oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, breakfast of champions.
So how did you get into acting? By accident. I walked on the set of Runaway Train and ran into Eddie Bunker, my friend from prison. We were busted together when I was the San Quentin lightweight and welterweight champion. I was hired to train Eric Roberts for a boxing scene in the movie.
So you weren’t actually in the movie, you just trained the actor? No no no… I trained Eric Roberts and the director, Andrei Konchalovsky, saw that I could handle Eric. He was a Russian director, really famous in Russia, but Eric didn’t like him. He wouldn’t listen to Andrei or anyone basically, but he was so scared of me that he would do whatever I said. So when the director saw that Eric listened to me, he hired me. I’ll never forget because they were supposed to give me $320 a day, then Andrei says, “You work with Eric, you fight Eric in movie.” I said, “Okay” then he kissed me on both cheeks and walked away. I looked at Eddie Bunker and said, “Okay Eddie look, I’m gonna train this kid for $320 but if I’m gonna be kissing this guy, I want some more money!” (Laughs) Eddie was like, “He’s not gay Danny, he’s Russian.”
Eddie actually said, “Thanks to you we finished this movie because we couldn’t get Eric to do a motherfucking thing.” He was all spun on coke and wouldn’t listen to anyone. So what I did was I got my cousin “Sidewalk Sal” to be Eric’s connection so he would do whatever we told him. (Laughs) Sal had the San Fernando valley sewed up with coke so I would have him come to the movie set and him and Eric became buddies.
So that’s the guy who ruined his career? (Laughs) Nah his career was already ruined.
Talk about Eddie Bunker, how did you originally meet him? The first time I met Eddie was on the streets in 1962 when my uncle Gilbert bought a robbery from him. Then the next time I saw him was in 1966 in Quentin when he saw me win the title. After that was when I ran into him on Runaway Train.
You said your uncle bought a robbery, what do you mean? Eddie Bunker was a genius. He would plan out robberies and sell them. That actual robbery my uncle bought ended up being a scene in the movie Straight Time. Let me tell you something about Eddie, that guy actually bailed out of jail before and the cops put a bug on his car to follow him, and he pulled straight into the bank on Fairfax & 3rd and robbed it. Right out of jail, with cops following him, and got away.
Wow. I actually got to meet Eddie with you before he passed away! Gilbert (Danny’s son) and I went to meet you in Century City and I just remember taking a picture of him because he was this old ass white dude driving a corvette with a hat that said Compton on it. Fuck, I wish I still had that photo!
Oh yeah I remember that.
I didn’t know who he was but Gilbert told me all about him after. Then when he passed away I ended up buying a few of his books. “Education of a Felon” is my favorite book of all time. “Little Boy Blue” is a great one too.
Yeah we’re gonna make “Little Boy Blue” into a movie eventually.
Okay so Runaway Train was your first movie, but what’s crazy is I feel like everyone knows you from Blood In Blood Out. That’s the first movie people mention but you had the smallest role, like did you even say anything in that movie? Yeah I had a couple lines. But literally everyone knows me from Blood In Blood Out.
What’s your favorite line from Blood In Blood Out? “La Onda don’t shine shoes.”
(Danny’s cell phone rings and he walks out the room for a second)
Okay so I don’t appreciate you answering the phone, I didn’t answer mine when it rang. Oh shut up stupid! (Laughs) If Maeve (Danny’s ex-wife) calls you, you better answer. (Laughs)
Okay what else you got?
How much time did you spend in prison? In total about 10 years. The last jolt was 5 flat.
For what? I sold 4 ounces of pure sugar to a Federal agent, no drugs were involved. That motherfucker got mad. They beat the fuck out of me! They beat me all the way from North Hollywood to the Federal Building in Downtown L.A. and turned around and beat me all the way back. Richard, they beat me so much I liked it. I was like “I like that shit, hit me again motherfucker.” That was in 1965 when I got busted.
What’s the best advice someone’s given you? “I’d rather have a mangy dog for a friend than an enemy.” -Eddie Bunker
Who inspires you the most? My children.
What’s your favorite cereal? Oh man, Raisin Brand. With a little milk and hot water, that’s what we used to do in the joint.
What’s your favorite cartoon? Ninja Turtles. I’m actually working on that right now, I did voice overs for it today.
Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle? Donatello
Wow I was gonna guess that! I always ask people that question because I feel like it says a lot about the person they are. It’s like you like the one that you are more alike.
Okay so what’s your favorite movie of all time? The Searchers with John Wayne
Favorite director? Robert Rodriguez
Who’s your favorite actor? Robert De Niro
What’s your favorite role that you’ve played? I’d have to say Machete. I would’ve liked that movie even if I wasn’t in it. People always show me Machete pictures on the internet, they showed me one that said, “Chuck Norris, never heard of her.” They’re like what do you think about this one Danny? I’m like, “Shit, I hope Chuck Norris doesn’t see this.” (Laughs) Me and Chuck are friends though.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen a fan do? I was in New Mexico and my cousin goes, “Danny you gotta come down to this bar, I want you to meet this girl.” So I go to this bar and she had half of her head shaved with a Machete tattoo on the side of her head. Her husband came running in screaming for us to take a picture together. He was like, “That bitch wouldn’t let me get it tatted!” He wanted it. (Laughs)
That’s fuckin’ crazy. Yeah I was like you guys are tippin’ me out. A lot of people have Machete tattoos, it’s crazy.
Okay where’s your favorite place to eat? The Pantry Cafe in DTLA or Musso & Franks
Do you prefer more peanut butter or more jelly? More peanut butter. They call it peanut butter & jelly because if you put the jelly first you can’t put the peanut butter on.
What’s the last song you listened to? ”Ain’t No Big Deal” by The Radiants
How many cups of coffee do you have a day? Damn, about 8 or 9 – with a little cream. In the joint we used to drink coffee all day long.
What’s something that you have to do every single day? Pray. I don’t really have to do anything else, go to work I guess.
What was your first job? Working in a wrecking yard for 3-4 dollars an hour.
Did you graduate high school? I got my diploma in San Quentin.
Do you still have it? Yeah it’s somewhere.
I would have shit like that framed and up in my house if I was you – San Quentin diploma right next to a picture with De Niro.
What’s your favorite country that you’ve visited? Rome, Italy. It’s beautiful, just unbelievable. There is streets and streets of shopping, you gotta tear up your daughter’s or wife’s credit cards before you get there.
Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to work with? Any actors or directors? No. I mean I’ve done over 280 movies, I’ll work with anybody. Just let me know how much I’m getting paid. (Laughs) A lot of actors don’t like that I treat this industry like any other job. I’m the same as a painter, as a brick layer, this is my job. I just go to work and this is what I do. It’s special in everybody else’s eyes but it’s not special in my eyes.
What are you working on now? I just finished Bad Ass 3 and I’m leaving to New York tomorrow for the Howard Stern Show.
Any last words? “The whole world can think you’re a movie star but you can’t.” -Eddie Bunker