While relatively young in his film career, Dave Bautista is a veteran performer and entertaining, having spent years in the WWE as “Batista.” In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Bautista beat out many other actors for the role of Drax the Destroyer, an unintentionally hilarious warrior with a dark past and a quest for vengeance.
After chatting with Bautista at San Diego Comic-Con last July and seeing him work up tears over how happy and fortunate he is over director James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast and crew giving him this opportunity, we were ecstatic to talk to him again on set in September when principal photography was nearing completion.
As we sit at at able along with other journalists, the towering Drax the Destroyer walks into the large warehouse and approaches our table. It’s Dave Bautista, fully done up as the team’s most intense character, grey-skinned with red textured tattoos covering his body. He’s massive, powerful and dangerous looking. But he’s a teddy bear with his soft-spoken, yet deep, powerful voice.
Dave Bautista: You have to put it on like, 70 times.
Before we begin, sir, we got to say, I think, seriously, one of my very favorite Comic-Con moments ever was you on stage this year, and it was just the idea that you were so moved by having been given the part. It’s great to see.
Dave Bautista: One of my very favorite parts of Comic Con this year was being on stage as well.
Dave Bautista: No, because it was weird, because it was my third Comic-Con and two years before, I had gone as a spectator, and I went with my girlfriend, and we both dressed up so we could walk the floor and really experience it, and two years later, I’m in freaking Hall H, man up on a panel with Guardians of the Galaxy. How weird is that? And I went the year before for Man with the Iron Fists, but it wasn’t nearly…I mean, in Hall H, it was just…
That energy was incredible, wasn’t it?
Dave Bautista: It was amazing.
Especially because we had just seen the footage that you guys had just seen.
Dave Bautista: Yeah. None of the footage that they showed of the movie. You know, we hadn’t seen any of that. So we kind of just like… I don’t watch my playbacks because I hate to see myself act. So it was pretty cool.
Was that a huge motivational factor for you guys when you came back to London?
Dave Bautista: Nothing can motivate me any more than I’m motivated.
I mean, it just…it couldn’t happen. I mean, I think that was never… me being motivated was never a factor. Never.
In the comics, Drax, his destroyer goal is Thanos, and in here, we’re focusing you more on Ronan.
Dave Bautista: Okay. Are we allowed to give out that? (laughs)
That’s okay, yeah.
Dave Bautista: Okay, cool. See, I don’t know what’s…Marvel is pretty strict about, you know…
We’re embargoed too. So…
Dave Bautista: So I’m always afraid I’m going to say the wrong thing. (laughs)
We’re on lockdown. We can’t reveal any of this for a while now.
Dave Bautista: Don’t feel bad, man. We’re in the movie, and they’re got us on lockdown.
What’s it like having your character’s motivating factor being so focused in on one particular person?
Dave Bautista: I mean, it’s easy. I have a clear-cut goal. This is the reason I’m alive. This is the one and only reason I’m alive, is really to avenge the death of my wife and daughter. So there’s a lot of motivation there. It makes it easy for me to focus on what my goal is and who my character is.
Because the physical transformation that you go through every day, is that a chance for you to sort of focus your head and get into who Drax is, and is there that moment when you look in the mirror and you’ve changed completely?
Dave Bautista: It’s so weird, man, and I keep not only thinking this, but I keep hearing this over and over that I was really born to play this part. I mean, I love putting on the makeup and everything, especially – you guys don’t really get to see the contacts. The contacts are really the icing on the cake. They’re really cool. But, I can just relate to Drax so much, it’s not even funny, and just the simple things that we have in common. I mean, simple things like the tattoos (laughs) and just the tragedy, because I’ve had a bit of tragedy in my life as well.
So, it’s really easy for me to pull from that, and you know, the stuff, it’s such a…the coincidences of Drax using two knives as his weapon of choice. I’ve done Kali for years, you know, for years just by chance. Just little stuff like that. Not only that, but just like the first time I ever saw… because I didn’t get Drax at all when I first read the sides for the audition. Just didn’t get it, and I saw a picture of Drax, and I was like, “Holy shit. Holy shit, that’s me,” and it freaked me out.
Obviously, you get to do some action in this. Talk a little bit about how you prepare to do these action scenes, and was there one thing that, when you were presented with like, animatics or previs, you were like, “Oh yes.”
Dave Bautista: Yeah, you know, I didn’t do a whole lot of preparation. We came in and started doing a whole lot of stunt training, which really just meant fight choreography, even before we started filming. (laughs) Luckily for me, I’m a lifelong athlete, and I adapt real quick, and it’s really cool too, because Chris Pratt, who is playing Star-Lord, is an athlete, and he adapts really fast as well. Because we actually rehearsed for this fight scene that we had together for two and a half months, and the Friday before the Monday that we shot it, it all went out the window, and we got one look at it the Friday because we went to look at it while we were shooting, and the reason was because James decided that the fight scene was so elaborate, that the way we were shooting it just wasn’t going to work. And we didn’t get it at all, man, because we were doing all this cool stuff, and James is like, “You’ve got to trust me. It’s not going to look right the way we were going to shoot it. We need to simplify this and make it…” and it wasn’t nearly as cool, we didn’t think, until we actually saw it, but we really had to learn the whole fight scene…because he wanted to shoot it in one shot, and it took us 22 takes to get it right because there’s a lot going on, and it’s us fighting together. But we had to learn it that Friday, really, just by visually watching it before we came into shoot it on Monday. So, I mean, stuff like that. Thank God that we are pretty athletic guys, and we really just went for it, and it took us a long time to get it, but we got it, and it’s a hell of a fight scene.
And just in general, what’s it been like working with James Gunn? Because, I mean, as you mentioned, just not watching the dailies, I have to imagine you have to have a ton of trust in him.
Dave Bautista: Not only do I trust this guy, but he’s just so much fun. I mean, have you guys all met him?
Dave Bautista: He’s (laughs) so much fun, man. He’s so just chilled and relaxed, and he’s got such a great sense of humor, and he’s a very witty guy, and it just feels like we’re hanging out, man. He’s very playful, and he jokes a lot. That’s what the atmosphere has been like, and everybody… because I hear that over and over between me, Chris, and Zoe, is that we all just…we trust in his vision so much, because he really does, and we knew this right off the bat, that James has such a clear vision of what he wants, and so he’s making it very, very easy on us. Very easy.
As a comic book movie and as a fan yourself, what was something that you got to do that just made the fan inside you kind of flip out, and maybe, also, what was something that you saw that maybe wasn’t something you were involved in? Just something you saw that made the fan in you excited?
Dave Bautista: God, man, that’s a huge question. I wouldn’t really don’t know where to start. I mean, really, you guys have covered a lot of it. It’s really just from actually being a comic book character to, really, the first time seeing the different sets, and seeing the makeup, and seeing everybody else in their makeup. It’s really cool, because especially on days when we have our big cast where we have extras, and I mean, everybody’s on board, it’s just…the costumes and stuff are all so different and so unique, and it’s just that you could sit around, and it’s totally…the geek in you just sits around just staring, and you’re like, “Oh, it’s just so cool. Oh my God, that’s so cool. Oh, you know, the spaceship,” and even the prison setup that have staged, it’s freaking amazing, and it’s so much bigger than anything I’ve ever done. So, it’s really just so overwhelming.
That’s a huge question. I wouldn’t know where to start, because it’s just all so cool, and this is the way you stay young, man. Stuff like this, because it totally brings out the kid in you. Even… I’ve had action figures, and I had action figures. It was always one of my favorite things. The action figures and the video games when I was with WWE even though I’m not a gamer, because I would literally go out and buy the games just so I could play myself and then put the game away, you know (laughs). So, I knew we were going to have Guardians action figures and stuff like that, but I didn’t know we were going to have LEGOs (smiles)… like a Drax Lego, man. I mean, stuff like that, I just love.
This is such a crazy ensemble. Do you have a favorite particular character other than yourself?
Dave Bautista: I’m, obviously biased but it’s Drax (laughs). If I had to say a favorite character, just because I find him so interesting, and he’s really cool the way… it’d be Rocket Raccoon, and I don’t know how it’s going to be when they do the voiceover and Bradley’s there. Right now, James’ brother, Shawn Gunn, is playing Rocket Raccoon, and he’s so into this part, and it’s such a shame that he’s not going to be Rocket Raccoon, because, to me, he is, and he’s making the part. He’s bringing so much…I don’t know, so much passion to Rocket, and even when he’s just doing his lines and I’m not even looking at Raccoon, I feel like I am. He’s just so into this character, but I think Rocket Raccoon, because he is so interesting. He’s got so much going on, and he’s also got so much baggage with what he’s been through. I’d probably say Rocket. Yeah.
Kind of bridging off that question, what is Drax’s relationship with each other member of the Guardians?
Dave Bautista: Well, that’s thing, man. The way we start off is, I mean, we don’t really care for each other much at all (laughs), and that’s where we go, and it’s weird, because we come together. Then we split apart, and then we really come together, and it’s really when we are the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s really that point, and you totally feel it, and in the scenes that we’ve shot, you can really feel just kind of the love, and the passion, and the chemistry to where we actually form this band, and it’s just such a band of misfits, man.
It’s like, we’re all jaded, except for Groot. Groot’s so lovable (laughs), but we all have a really jaded past, but we finally… I think we all discover a bigger reason for living. Something that’s bigger than us. Something’s that bigger than our own past. Something’s that bigger than our own pain, and that’s when we form together into Guardians of the Galaxy, and you’ll feel it because you feel it in the scenes. You can feel it in the chemistry between the cast, and that’s the coolest thing that’s made this pretty easy for me, because I still…you know, I don’t have a whole lot of experience in film, but if the actors are there, I can be there. If they’re in that moment, I can be there. It’s much easier when your coworkers are just… they’re there in the moment, and you don’t feel… if you were out of the moment, you would feel odd, but it’s so easy to just get there and be in that moment. We had good chemistry between the cast. Very good chemistry.
Oddly specific question, so it’s fine if you can’t answer it, but how many fight scenes are you in?
Dave Bautista: Yeah, I don’t know if that would be a problem answering it, but I think there’s about four major fight scenes, I mean, where there’s really a lot going on, a lot of action. I’d say probably four, but there’s a bunch of different physicality here and there, you know? Yeah, it’s a fun movie.
The etchings on your body are connected to some really personal stories, and I wonder how much you had a part in building those out at all, or did they tell you from beginning to end, these are the stories that you have?
Dave Bautista: Yeah, no, and that was really…I think James had a lot to do with that, of course, and I think we have such a brilliant [creativev] team here, and I think the designers of that had the most to do with it, but yeah, I don’t want to give it away (laughs)…there’s a lot of comic relief to Drax. He doesn’t realize it (laughs), and I don’t want to give it away, but there is a little bit of a… because he sees something in the tattoos that everybody else doesn’t see, and that’s all I’m going to say about that without giving a lot away, but yeah, no, I didn’t really have any input in them other than making sure that they fit (laughs), because we did a bunch of different tests for the makeup and stuff before they decided on a final look for Drax.
We were over in makeup, and they were telling us how long it takes to put all this stuff on you. Can you talk about that process?
Dave Bautista: Yeah. It’s cool, man, because right now…the team actually set a record today, because when we first started doing it, it was in between four and half to five hours just to put on, and it usually takes about an hour and a half to take off, but today, they actually did it in two hours and forty-seven minutes.
Dave Bautista: Yeah. Which, I mean, compared to four and a half hours, that’s a big difference. Man, I wish they were here, because these guys are incredible, man, and they’re going to be like, the unsung heroes to Drax, and I kind of wish I could introduce them to the world because they’re just so talented, and they’re such a fun group. They make it real easy, because it’s never boring in makeup. I mean, it’s never boring. Sometimes I just zone out, but they’re always full of great conversation. They’re always playing music. It’s always very upbeat, and so it’s not something that I dread going in to do, you know.
How does the makeup feel as the day goes on? Do you forget that it’s on?
Dave Bautista: No, no, no, because it just…you know what? I constantly feel dirty. I just feel dirty and sticky even after I take it off.
Do you have gray on everything at this point?
Dave Bautista: Well, from the waist up. Thank God I have pants (laughs). You know, Drax doesn’t particularly care for shirts, but no, it’s just from the waist up. So it takes that long. It would take, I think, twice that long if it was full body.
This is kind of a weird question, but it goes all the way up to your mouth. Can you taste it? What does it taste like?
Dave Bautista: Alcohol. It tastes like pure rubbing alcohol.
Oh, wow. All day?
Dave Bautista: All day. Yeah.
(laughs) What’s it like being the only member of the team that is shirtless?
Dave Bautista: Cool. Yeah, (laughs) no, it’s okay. I mean, this will be my… I guess my second movie as the shirtless guy. I seem to be (laughs)… that’s how I’m creating my niche. My niche is I’m going to be the shirtless guy.
Did DeNiro start it?
Dave Bautista: Yeah. (laughs) No, it’s okay man, because I totally get it, and I think there is going to be a little humor thrown in about it. It was so funny, because when I first read the script, there was a few lines that weren’t in there, and it was regarding my distaste for shirts. So, I came to rehearsal one day and went reading through it, and one of the lines about Drax not really caring for shirts was in there, and I looked up at James, and he was just sitting there going [does impression]… and I said, “I didn’t see this line in the script.” He goes, “Because I just wrote it in last night.” (laughs) So, it’s all kind of little things like that that make Drax really interesting. I think a lot of that stuff…because he’s very literal. So sometimes he just doesn’t realize that he’s being funny, but he’s actually hysterical. I think Drax steals a lot of scenes with that type of stuff.
Expanding on what you said at Comic Con, you know, your first big, big time movie here is the next big Marvel Studios franchise. What has the process been like for you coming into that role, and now that you’ve been shooting, how different is it? What’s the journey been like?
Dave Bautista: Yeah. I swear to God… so, my girlfriend just came over, and she was there the day that I found out I had the part. I literally broke down on the side of the road, and I turned right… I was on my way to the gym, and I got the news on the phone. I broke down. I drove home, and I walked in, and I was just a mess, and so I shared it with her, and she just came over, and we were talking about it and we both were like… I just still can’t believe I’m here. I mean, it’s the weirdest thing, man, and it’s really hit me too, because we’re less than three weeks from finishing, and when I first got over, it was like, five months. It’s a long time. Now, it seems like it’s just flown by. It’s almost sad, but I feel just unbelievable.
Did they make you guys sign a contract where they have you for a certain number of films and a certain number of years, and if so, are you excited about the idea at some point-
Dave Bautista: (Laughs)
-the Guardians running into the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Dave Bautista: So, I’m not going to answer that, (laughs) but I will say that I’ve heard the rumors the same way you have, and if we go there (laughs)…because I want to go there, you know. Just as a fan, I want to go there. I’m a fan of all this stuff.
I’m putting fist pump into my notes.
Dave Bautista: That’s what I’m saying. I want to be a part of that. I don’t know if you guys know, I was a wrestler for a long time. Before I ever started, I worked with two wrestlers. One’s Triple H, and one is Ric Flair, and I heard that we were going to be in a group with them, myself and a buddy of mine named Randy Orton. Randy and I started together, and I heard that we were going to be in a group with Triple H and Ric Flair. It was just rumors, and I just prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I prayed, and prayed, and prayed hoping it would happen, because I knew it would change my life. So, that is the exact same feeling that I have here. So I’m praying, and praying, and praying, and praying, and praying, and I hope that it happens.
Sir, very nice to see you. Thank you. Best of luck.
Dave Bautista: Appreciate it.
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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