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.