In person, Dave Bautista is a far cry from Drax the Destroyer, the character he plays in Guardians of the Galaxy, a towering brute fuelled by rage and a thirst for revenge.
At six-foot-six, the heavily tattooed former WWE champion wrestler and mixed martial artist turned actor displays an almost child-like wonder and vulnerability when talking about the summer blockbuster that’s certain to give his acting ambitions a major boost.
“I’ve seen the film three times now . . . and I’m still taking all my buddies to see it. All three times I’ve watched it, I’ve laughed at the jokes, I’ve cried at the emotional stuff and I’ve gotten completely sucked in. I get completely lost in the soundtrack. It’s a beautiful movie,” Bautista said in a recent interview.
Bautista, whose previous roles have mostly been direct-to-video films or minor parts in action films like Riddick, said he endured a rigorous series of auditions to land the role of Drax, a character he describes as “multi-layered.”
“Drax isn’t your average stereotypical soldier/warrior/musclehead. He actually has some depth. It was a character that I wanted to play not only because I love acting so much but also I needed to play to get people to actually take me seriously as an actor and get away from the pro wrestling label,” he said.
In the film, the character is desperate for vengeance after his wife and children are killed by the film’s chief villain, Ronan.
“He (Drax) is really just heartbroken over the loss of his family. He’s channelling the rage but, at the core of him, I think he’s just a father and a husband,” Bautista added.
Bautista also liked the comic side of Drax, who misunderstands the nuance of his fellow travellers, taking every word they say quite literally.
“I enjoyed the challenge of delivering those lines that were somewhat stiff and formal and turning them into a joke. It was a challenge. It was cool. I love that about the character. He’s so funny, but he’s the only one who doesn’t realize it,” Bautista said.
Training for the role — alongside the Guardians’ ostensible leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) — was standard for the long-time body builder. It was the elaborate makeup required for the role, applied by a team of five, that turned out to the biggest challenge.
“The makeup, it typically took about four-and-a-half hours to put on and then it was about an hour and a half to take off because a lot of it was glued on. So they (makeup artists) had to take it off slowly with chemicals or they’d rip my skin off,” Bautista recalled.
“It was fun. It was like five friends. We got really close so it was kind of like hanging out with my buddies, just talking and listening to music and laughing. It was weird because they were doing all the hard work; I was just standing there.”
After a shooting schedule that required being in makeup five or six days in a row, Bautista said his skin would get “tender, sometimes itchy and flaky.”
“But most of the time, I just felt dirty. I just wanted to feel clean.”
Bautista is gratified that Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios have already committed to a sequel, even before the film’s debut. While a sequel was hinted at in the film’s closing moments, an official announcement was made at a recent Comic-Con event, with a release date set for July 2017.
“It makes a very bold statement but also, to us, as the team of guardians, it feels good that they have so much faith in us because we really believe in this movie and we’re really proud of it. I think a lot of people are just going to fall in love with these characters.”