When Trejo and the other Good Samaritan were able to unbuckle the child and free him, the 75-year-old actor says he realized the boy with special needs was panicking. Known for playing villains in films including “Heat,” “Desperado” and “Con Air,” Trejo, who could smell gasoline in the SUV, took a page out of the hero’s playbook to distract the child as firefighters successfully freed the boy’s grandmother.
“I said, ‘We have to use our superpowers.’ So he screamed, ‘superpowers,’ and we started yelling ‘superpowers’ back and forth to each other,” Trejo told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “I told him to flex with his muscles, and he said, ‘muscles.’ I just kept the ‘superpowers’ game going and he flexed until we got away from there. I kept facing him away from what was going on.”
Trejo, who went from being a California prison inmate in the 1960s to one of Hollywood’s most recognizable villains, said that while he was surprised his assist was resonating with so many, he was grateful he was there to help.
“Things are so complicated right now that people have to understand that God put us on this Earth to help each other,” Trejo said. “If you look at Earth today, we’re on the Titanic, looking for a good seat. We are here to serve, we are here to welcome, we are here to love. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. I’m just thankful to God because He let me do that today.”
He added, “Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of helping someone else.”
Wearing a white cutoff shirt, baggy shorts and a gray hat from one of his restaurants, Trejo’s Tacos, the actor was only about a mile away from Chubby’s Automotive when he witnessed the accident. He said the sedan’s driver seemed distracted, and Trejo honked at her to get her attention right before the wreck. The next thing he knew, he found himself crawling inside an overturned SUV.
“The scariest thing in the world is to crawl into a car in that situation and you smell gas,” Trejo said, laughing after the fact.
Assessing the damage to the flipped car, Trejo said there’s a good chance the child’s car seat saved his life.
“If he wasn’t wearing his car seat, I think he would have died,” he said. “The seat was completely ripped off and he was laying on the floor, but was still wearing his car seat.”
Authorities received a call at about 3:08 p.m. local time Wednesday of people trapped in a vehicle, Margaret Stewart, a public information officer with the Los Angeles Fire Department, told The Post. Stewart said all three occupants were taken to a hospital with no significant injuries. Tony Im, a spokesman with the Los Angeles Police Department, said that no arrests were made and the incident is being classified as a two-car traffic collision. The crash remains under investigation, Im said.
At some point, the boy, who was holding on to Trejo amid the chaotic scene, used the actor’s cutoff shirt to wipe off his nose, Trejo said. Naturally, the actor decided to go shirtless. An eight-second clip posted to Twitter of Trejo speaking with ABC 7, reflecting on his life while not wearing a shirt, had been viewed more than 2 million times as of early Thursday.
It wasn’t until later that the family realized who was helping them, Trejo said.
The actor’s career started when, as a youth drug counselor, he was asked by a teen he was working with to come to the set of the 1985 film “Runaway Train.” Knowing cocaine was on the set, Trejo went to support the young person, and ended up as an extra in prison scenes. He would go on to work with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie. He’s best known for his role as Machete, a former Mexican Federale who first appeared in the “Spy Kids” franchise before getting a series of films of his own. This year, Trejo is featured not only in an upcoming horror film from Zombie but also as the voice of Boots the Monkey in the latest “Dora the Explorer” movie.
“The mom kept saying, ‘I know you, I know you,’ but she was kind of shook up,” he said. “I said, ‘superpowers’ again to her son, and she kind of giggled and said, ‘I know you.’ The fireman there said something like, ‘You’ll want a picture when you know who he is.’”
When most of the authorities had left, the actor said he stuck around to take pictures with about 30 bystanders. Amazingly, the memorable day didn’t end there. Again, something good happened to Trejo after helping someone else.
“I even won $700 playing the lotto,” he said. “But hey, don’t tell the IRS.”
More from Morning Mix: