Dave Bautista is best known as former WWE Superstar Batista, four-time World Heavyweight Champion and two-time WWE Champion, but that's all about to change with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend. The massive actor takes on the role of Drax the Destroyer, a warrior whose sole existence revolves around his quest to avenge the death of his wife and child, who were killed by the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). While stuck in the high-tech Kyln Prison, Drax meets up with Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), as these intergalactic misfits join forces to become the Guardians of the Galaxy, in order to stop Ronan from destroying their entire universe.
Although he is no stranger to the feature film world, with roles in The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption and last year's The Man with the Iron Fists, Dave Bautista truly comes into his own as Drax in this Marvel Phase Two adventure, a character who I noted in my review as being the biggest pleasant surprise of the whole movie for me, with a perfect monotone delivery that adds much more humor to an already-hilarious film.
I recently had the chance to speak with Dave Bautista at the Guardians of the Galaxy junket, where he talked about his initial preparations to play Drax, the amount of time he spent in the makeup chair each day, his remake of Kickboxer, and much more. Take a look at what he had to say below.
First off, congrats on this. It was incredible. We all had a blast watching this.
Dave Bautista: Did you? Cool. That's so good to hear, honestly.
Can you talk about your familiarity with Drax and the comics before you signed on? Was this something that you were new to, and did you have a lot of research to do?
Dave Bautista: I had absolutely no idea who Drax was. I had no idea who the Guardians of the Galaxy were before I got the sides for this audition. The first thing I did when I got signed, was, I called my acting coach. I was excited, and my agent told me this was a big part, and a lot of people were trying to get this part, and it was great. I needed it. I needed a big break. When I got the sides, I was so discouraged, because I didn't understand him at all. I called my acting coach, and he was so thrilled. He's a huge comic book fan, and he told me to go online and research, and call him back.
Were there any specific arcs or stories that you looked into when you were researching Drax?
Dave Bautista: No. I mean, there was Wikipedia (laughs). I was really looking for a video reference of Drax, which was impossible. I found an animated version of Drax, which was long gone. Drax has been revamped three times or four times, and it was not helpful at all. It was brutal. I didn't know what to do.
I wasn't expecting Drax to be nearly as funny as he was, and a lot of that comes from that delivery. For one, was that hard to get down? To play someone that "literal?"
It sounds like the process of the prosthetics and makeup was a physical challenge in and of itself.
Dave Bautista: Yeah, it was. But, it wasn't that bad. I think it sounds worse that it was, just because it was so lengthy. But, I'm just a very patient person. I can, literally, just sit here and zone out for hours (Laughs). But, also, my makeup team, they were so good and so entertaining, so there was a lot of good conversation going on. A lot of good music, so it just kind of flew by. It wasn't so much the hours in the makeup chair, it was kind of the consecutive days, like four, five, six days in a row in makeup. It was like, 'God, I just want to get out and get clean.' That's what kind of made it tough, but not so much the makeup chair.
I read that James used a lot of the music on the set, the music and (composer) Tyler (Bates)' score. Did you have an experience like that on a movie before?
Dave Bautista: Yeah. I did a movie called The Man with the Iron Fists for a friend of mine, RZA, from the Wu Tang Clan, who was real big on playing music while we were shooting, or just while we were gearing up for a scene. There is so much fun music in this. It really helps you get in the mood.
I thought it was interesting, because you usually don't hear about the composer cracking the score while you were shooting. The awesome 70s and 80s songs are one thing, but I thought it was great that he had the score ahead of time.
Dave Bautista: Yeah. He was telling us about it, and how incredible it was. I heard and saw it for the first time yesterday, and I'm just beyond impressed. At first, I was watching the film, and criticizing myself, and I'd beat myself up half to death. But then I just got sucked into it and just started watching the film and enjoying it. It's such a fun movie, man.
I can't think of anything that I've had more fun at all year.
Dave Bautista: Yeah. It was fun, and entertaining and emotional.
These guys are all outsiders, but Drax is even more of one than all of them, especially when you see him at the prison, and he's already there. Did you guys develop anything where you explored how he got into prison?
Dave Bautista: No, they don't go much into his background. There were a couple of scenes that didn't make it, where they do explain a little more of his background. It was one of those things where I think the challenge was trying to get everybody's background story, without slowing down the movie. Some of the stuff with Drax, where he's talking about his family, just really slows it down a lot, because it's a hard thing to deal with. His wife and daughter were murdered, you know. So, it didn't feel right, and fit with the mood of the movie. Hopefully, they will, because there will be more opportunities to tell it, because it's pretty interesting and pretty heartbreaking. But, at the same time, you want to keep it, especially the initial movie, you want to keep it fun.
I can just imagine that the sets on this movie were amazing. If there was anything that you could "lift" from the set, what would that be?
Dave Bautista: There would be a few things. You know, I would love to have the knives, Drax's knives, because they were so bad-ass. But, also, there was a chair, in the Milano, that I sat in, and, sometimes, fell asleep in (Laughs). I think it was a barber chair that they converted into a spaceship chair. But, yeah, I would lift that, for sure. I'd put it right in the theater room, or something, where I could just lay back.
Now, this is James' first really huge studio movie, after coming off a bunch of really successful indies. How would you describe the environment he creates on the set?
Dave Bautista: Just fun, lighthearted, very free. There's nothing stiff about James. I always tell people that I never got up thinking, 'Oh God, I've gotta go to work,' because it just felt like I was going to hang out with my buddies, and we were going to do something really cool that we were all excited about. James was the leader of that. He's the one who set that mood for everyone to be relaxed and have fun. He was always the guy on the set having the most fun. You could literally hear James laughing at the top of his lungs when we were shooting scenes. It was always like that. He just made everything very lighthearted and fun.
Is there anything you're developing that you can talk about?
Dave Bautista: Yeah. We're going to do a remake of Kickboxer, Jean-Claude Van Damme's Kickboxer. I'm going to be the updated Tong Po (originally played by Michel Qissi). Yeah, they're revamping the script, making sure the script is right. Other than that, I may go back and do some wrestling, I hope so.
Who's directing that?
Dave Bautista: That's a good question. I don't know. I don't know if they've gotten a director. I'm not even that familiar with the lead, I can't think of his name, off the top of my head, but they do have a couple of big names in the film. I'm not going to say, because I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say, but yeah, it's going to be fun.
That's my time. Thanks so much, Dave.
Dave Bautista: Yeah, thank you.