How acting helped Danny Trejo survive solitary confinement

Before he gained fame playing antiheroes in Robert Rodriguez’s graphic Westerns, Danny Trejo spent years in and out of prison.

Appearing on Conversations with Maria Menounos on Monday, he recalled having an epiphany on May 5, 1968, four years into his sentence: “I realized my life had been a failure right then.”

“There had to be a change,” Trejo, 71, said of how he turned things around. “The change basically was drugs and alcohol gotta go, and education is the key to anything you want to do.”

The actor got sober and found himself teaching boxing on the set of the 1985 thriller Runaway Train — and the rest is Hollywood history.

But acting helped Trejo even earlier, when he passed time in solitary confinement by reciting the Wizard of Oz and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

“I loved those movies. And I did them all, I acted them out by myself. And it keeps you from going crazy. It’s like you make yourself crazy,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I guess it worked, I don’t know. I came out of there nuttier than a fruit cake.”

Conversations with Maria Menounos airs weekdays at 1 pm ET on SiriusXM Stars (Ch. 109).


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