There’s a lot of big names in the Guardians of the Galaxy cast, and although Dave Bautista is certainly one of them, he’s the only member who didn’t become famous for his acting. He’s a six-time World Heavweight Champion in the WWE, and he’s acted in films like Riddick and The Man with the Iron Fists, but in a cast of Oscar-nominees and TV stars he’s practically the new guy. Fortunately, his character Drax the Destroyer is a stand-out: an imposing physical presence filled with genuine pain, but who expresses himself with genuine humor. He kind of has to be genuine, since in the movie Drax has no idea what a metaphor is.
I sat down with Dave Bautista at Walt Disney Studios to discuss his new role, how hard it was to get cast in such a big blockbuster, the possibility of a Drax the Destroyer work out video and the song he will always associate with his first love.
Guardians of the Galaxy is in theaters now.
CraveOnline: Congratulations on this movie.
Dave Bautista: Thank you.
You’re really good in this movie!
It’s a fun movie, isn’t it?
It’s so much fun! You have a fun character trait to play with, which is that you take everything literally. You have no sense of metaphor.
I don’t remember that from the comics.
No? I think that’s all James Gunn’s stuff. It’s so funny, like at the end when I say just, “Metaphor,” and I think now I’ve got it and I really just don’t. [Laughs.] It’s like a joke within a joke. It’s the inception of jokes. A joke within a joke within a joke…
Does that make it hard to ad-lib? You want to say something but, “Oh no, that’s a metaphor…”
No, it doesn’t. [Laughs.] It makes it easier because I had to Chris [Pratt] to play off. It’s so easy to be the straight man when you have Chris, who’s so witty and so funny.
Was the makeup at all a problem?
It was a problem in the sense that there were long days and I had to maintain this makeup, and so we had people poking, prodding at me. Otherwise it was okay. It was a long process but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad just sitting in the chair for five hours. It was only bad when I had to do it six days in a row, consecutive days.
And then you had to do a full day of work.
Yeah, that was the thing. Like, once you’re in makeup… Because veryday Chris would work out in the morning and Chris would work out at lunch, which drives me nuts because I’m a workout addict. I wanted to work out with him. But once I was in makeup I was in makeup, that was it. I couldn’t even lay down, man.
I would love to see that workout video. Drax the Destroyer pumps you up? How cool would that be!
[Laughs.] That would be great. You’re giving me ideas now.
No, tell people. Put a special feature on the DVD.
Oh man, like Drax does aerobics to ‘80s music? [Laughs.]
I remember when I heard they cast you in this movie, I thought that was a really good idea. I could totally see you as Drax. Did just they come to you, or did you have to say, “You know, I’d be a great Drax the Destroyer!”
No! It was weird, man. It was by chance. My agent, who had just taken me on as a client a week before… He had turned me down, like, three times in the past.
Yeah, he had turned me down. He wouldn’t represent me. I didn’t even have him, so I had no agent… the whole time breaking into films I had no agent.
When he finally agreed to take me on it was… not a “favor” but he took a liking to me because I was a friend of a client of his, who is Cung Le. We were very close friends so he kept running into me and he finally agreed to take me on, and he actually said, “I want to send you in front of this audition, and I’m going to tell you right off the bat, it’s a long shot. There’s a lot of big names trying to get this role, but I had to fight to get you in.” So he sent me, and that was how it initially started. I didn’t seek it out. He told me it was for Drax, and I was like, “Who the hell is Drax?”
Did you do your research ahead of time?
What did you read?
[Laughs.] Yeah, that’s another story. So I got the sides, first thing I did was call my acting coach. “I don’t get it man, I don’t know if I can do this.” Automatically, right off the bat being negative about it. “I don’t get or understand this!”
So he’s a huge comic geek, like a serious comic geek…
Your acting coach?
Yeah. He was so excited. That’s what he said, “Do some research. Get online and do some research. Call me right back.” And I did, I went on and tried to find… What I was really looking for was a visual reference of Drax, like a video reference, and I just couldn’t find anything. I found like one clip and it was really horrible, it was an animated Drax. It was a little thing he did with Silver Surfer…
Oh god, I remember that.
Yeah, it was really, really bad. And I just couldn’t find anything. I found one picture of Drax where he looked menacing, had knives, and I was like, “Oh, yeah. That kind of clicks a little bit. I recognize that guy.” But then I called him back, and same thing. He started filling me in on the background of Drax, he was like, “Oh this is a dream role for you, man. Drax, he’s a tortured soul. He’s really lost. His wife and daughter were murdered.” So that was how it started.
Was the audition an easy process? Were they welcoming, like, “Oh, Dave Bautista! How awesome!” or was it just, “What have you got, Dave Bautista…?”
No, well it wasn’t that. They didn’t… So I went in to audition for [casting director] Sarah Finn and I don’t think she was familiar with my wrestling career. She wasn’t familiar with me at all. But no, she was very welcoming. She made me feel right at home, very relaxed, no pressure. It was like a no pressure atmosphere, which for me was great. So I went in, I did my thing and auditioned. I was supposed to fly – I don’t live in L.A. – so I’m supposed to fly out the next day and she called me back and said, “Hey, would you stay in town to read for the director tomorrow?” So that’s when I get nervous!
It’s always the callback that gets you freaked out.
I was pretty nervous, but that’s a better way to put it. That’s when I got freaked out. I didn’t sleep that night. It was the same thing, I got on the phone with my acting coach and we went over it again. But it was the same thing, really I was in a bad mood that morning because I didn’t sleep. I was just being grouchy, but I go in and James was there and he was all happy to see me. I just felt like I already knew him. He was like, “Okay, we’re going to go through this a bunch of times, do it a bunch of different ways.” It was just a no pressure thing, man. So it was great, man.
Watching this movie got me thinking of all the great mix tapes I’ve seen over the years. Do you have a favorite mix tape that you’ve made or someone’s made for you?
Oh man, it’s funny. I was born in ’69 man, so I grew up next to the tape recorder and clicking it. I was real big on all the… It’s funny, man. Me and my best friend in the world we went to a Journey concert recently and we started talking about our favorite songs for our first love, and they were both Journey songs. Mine was “Open Arms.” I can’t remember what his was, but yeah, so I was more of when rap was getting really popular because I was learning to break-dance and stuff when I was a little kid. So that’s what I was doing. I was recording all the early hip-hop songs and making mix tapes of that.
What have you got next, acting-wise?
We’re doing Kickboxer, yeah.
That’s so cool!
I’m going to do an updated Tong Po.
Oh, no shit! That’s awesome!
That’s what I said. [Laughs.]