For all of Marvel's out-there and enthusiastic actors, there are always a couple that lean towards the calm and quiet side of things. But you probably wouldn't expect Guardians of the Galaxy's David Bautista, a wrestler, to be that kind of guy. His character, Drax the Destroyer, might be an angry man who solely seeks vengeance against Thanos -- the villain who killed his family -- but the actor is a self-described "quietest guy in the room."
That's a unique characteristic for a guy known for performances both in the WWE and on the big screen, and especially for a performer so committed to the show that he persevered through rejection. When Bautista returned to wrestling earlier this year, after quitting the WWE in 2010, he says the negative reception was surprising. People would chant randomly and make jokes, rather than focusing on the action in the ring.
"I just don't get it, man. I'm a fan first and foremost, and if I went to watch a show, I'm there to watch a show. You have to really pay attention to what's going on, and I feel like people were depriving themselves there. There's a lot of good entertainment going on and they're missing out."
And entertainment is exactly what he's delivering in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a film (and a role) more steeped in comedy than the other action flicks he's done, like Riddick and The Man with the Iron Fists. In the role of the always-literal Drax, one with which he was unfamiliar before the film, he's got a lot of golden comedic lines.
"Drax never intends for anything to be funny, which makes it even more so, but it was great to have an opportunity to show a different side of me," he explains. "It was hard for me to break that perception that people had of me from WWE. It's the opportunity to show that I'm not just a guy who beats people up in a ring."
Behind the scenes, the mood was even more ridiculous, with director James Gunn sometimes coaxing the entire set into dancing together to music while shooting.
"I think a lot of it was James having so much fun, like a little kid whose dream came true. You could hear him laughing over the loudspeaker, and that's the kind of thing that would go on day after day," he recalls.
Even in the make-up room, where Bautista spent hours and hours each day, he says that the fun never stopped. When he wasn't meditating while they attached the prosthetics, there was music playing and a lot of joking. But most importantly, they were always sensitive to the needs of both the actor and the film.
"It never seemed like it was that long. When I did four, five, six days in a row, that's when it got frustrating, but they were always aware of that. They knew what I was going through and never looked at me as a mannequin."
A mannequin Bautista is not; he dives into fight scenes in Guardians like they're nothing to be feared at all, and the way the make-up was molded to him helped that. "It actually always felt like I had a shirt on, y'know? Almost like an armor."
Shirt or not, Dave Bautista is more interested in exploring the realm of acting than he is fighting anybody or becoming an action star. To an extent, Drax provided some of that for him, even though it was one of his first major roles. He admits to feeling a bit intimidated among his co-stars like Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana.
"It was kind of challenging with me being new to it, and standing on set with them made me feel like a rookie." He stops and then adds," But it's cool because they never made me feel like that and always treated me as one of their peers."
Drax is a role that provides plenty of comedy, physical work, and a surprising amount of emotional range, and Bautista handles it well. Putting his emotions on film was a challenge, he admits. "It's weird to put your emotions out there for everyone to see. I feel like I'm in a vulnerable state, which I'm not used to. I internalize everything, and putting those emotions on film to make a point, that's tough."
In fact, he makes it a point to mention that he's a film buff, and cites the kind of movie you'd never think a wrestler would be into as an example of great acting: Tom Hooper's Les Miserables. "When I see people like Anne Hathaway [in Les Mis] pouring her guts out, it makes me really appreciate acting," he says.
And dramatic roles like this are what Bautista wants from his acting career, as he says he "never set out to be an action star." As the perfect contrast to the aforementioned film, he brings up his love for dialogue-driven films and directors like Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, and Martin Scorsese. With any luck, those are the guys who will take notice of Bautista after his contribution to the delightful film that Guardians of the Galaxy is. Dude's way more than a mass of muscle.
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