Dave Bautista (perhaps better known as just “Batista”) is not the first wrestler to make it to the big screen. He seems determined, however, to be the first one to be taken seriously. He plays Drax in the latest Marvel Studios movie Guardians of the Galaxy, a role that catapults the former WWE superstar into the cinematic mainstream. Bautista, in a recent press conference with the Asian press, revealed that he broke down when he first heard that he got the part. Bautista talks further about how important the role is to him in this recorded roundtable.
On how he got into acting:
Dave Bautista: "I tend to fall in love with things that are really challenging. I think it refreshes my life. It gives me something to shoot for and aim for. I realized that I was really horrible at acting. I think what most people think: I’ve been in front of a camera for years already. I thought that it would be easy for some reason. And I was just really bad at it. I was nervous and awkward, which is how I felt for most of my life. I came into my own through wrestling, and so I don’t feel like that much anymore. But here it was again when I started acting. Or starting to try to act…I was doing a bad impersonation of an actor.
I left there not feeling good about it, and I wanted to be better at it. I think that’s where the passion was initially triggered."
On moving into the mainstream:
It’s so much bigger on a different level. Not to dismiss wrestling at all: the WWE universe is huge. But when you start stepping into the mainstream, it’s much bigger. That was a struggle for me moving into Hollywood, because I was still walking into offices where nobody knew who I was. They had this perception of me based on hearing that I was a professional wrestler. I think a lot of people were expecting me to come through the door screaming and yelling and being all big and macho and full of myself, but that’s really not who I am. It’s still hard getting people to look beyond what they’ve seen me do in wrestling.
On the audition process:
It was really hard, and it was really lengthy. It was audition after audition. I think between auditions, screen tests, and makeup tests, it was about seven or eight visits, and it lasted for three months. Maybe more.
On improv in the movie:
I think James had a lot of fun writing for Drax. But there was a lot of improv. I think you can’t not have improv when Chris Pratt is the lead. He’s so good at it. He’s so witty. Things just fly out of his mouth and they just work. And that leads into something else that leads into something else. And with James it’s the same thing. He sees something and then something just pops into his head. He was literally yelling into a loudspeaker, “Say this! Say that!” The script was constantly changing because James was coming up with stuff. There were a couple of times where I didn’t recognize a line and I’d just look at James and he’d be laughing.
On co-star Zoe Saldana:
Zoe is a very hard person to describe. Zoe is kind of a diva princess, but in a good way. She’s a little high maintenance, a little girly, but never in a negative way. She likes to be pampered a little bit, but she never puts people down, and she never expects people to pamper her. She’s very playful. At times when we’d be on set for a long time, and lunch is three hours overdue, instead of Zoe complaining, like other actresses would do, she would just sit there and eat imaginary food. She would never say she’s hungry. She’d just eat her imaginary food, until somebody got the point.
On the career he wants to have:
I’ve been asked this a lot: “Do you want to be the next Rock?” And I always tell people that I’d rather be the next Mickey Rourke. I’ve worked hard: I’ve even dieted down to lose some weight so I won’t get typecast as that guy. I really don’t want to be that guy. I could have been that guy coming out of the WWE. I could have done all the bad straight-to-DVD films where I’m just kicking the door, shooting somebody and saying something really stupid, getting into a cool car and driving away. But I didn’t want to be that guy, because I wanted to be a serious actor. I realize that because of the way I look, the way I'm built, I’m always going to kept to certain roles. But at the same time, I want to challenge myself.
On his character, Drax:
When I first got the sides of Drax, I didn’t get him at all. But we all knew this was important and it was going to be my big shot, so my agent just put a lot of pressure on me. So I called my acting coach and I told him that I didn’t get it, and that I didn’t think I could it. And he is a huge, legit comic book geek…and he started explaining to me the emotional range that Drax would have. And that’s what I’ve been dying to show people as an actor. People are going to realize as soon as they see him that it’s a stretch for me as an actor. Drax is very formal, very Shakespearean at times. And he’s very literal and very serious. And that’s not me. I fell in love with Drax because he’s an emotional rollercoaster. He’s all over the place emotionally, and that requires some acting range.
On what playing Drax means to him:
I think the reason this meant so much to me was because of what I had to give up. what I had to sacrifice because I wanted to do this so bad. Landing the role of Drax was a huge justification. I’m on good terms with the WWE: I gave plenty of notice and I left the right way, but at the same time, I left because they didn’t believe in me. So when I left…I don’t want to say they turned their backs on me, but they definitely stopped supporting me. For me, at my age, to leave behind my bread and butter was not an easy thing to do.
I think they could have gotten just any musclebound guy if they wanted Drax to be just that big tough guy that said tough things and cut people’s heads off. But he also needed another side to him: the heartbroken side.
On his anxiety about the film:
I haven’t seen the film. I still have a lot of anxiety about it, because I still don’t know. I don’t watch my playbacks, because when I watch my playbacks, I get very self-conscious. After I got the role of Drax, a lot of comic geeks were not happy. They wanted a real serious established actor. And so I want them to be happy. I want them to say, “I was wrong. Dave was the right guy for this.” I want that justification. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” opens in cinemas on Thursday, July 31 in The Philippines.