As the only Marvel ensemble movie that doesn't involve the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast is understandably stacked. Theoretically it should be hard to shine when standing next to It Boy Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper voicing a gun-toting raccoon, and Vin Diesel voicing the cutest (and first ever) plant-child you've ever seen, but on the lowest of lows, Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer is a quiet MVP. In a movie that has to pile on the jokes just to distract us from the overwhelming sadness, the former WWE entertainer's blunt brute is a main source of levity—and, eye-popping action.
Bautista may play a big personality on-screen but in person he's hardly a social butterfly. "[People] expect me to walk through the door with a personality like The Rock but I always tell people that the reason I look like this is because I'm not that guy." Quiet and reserved, Dave Bautista is not what he seems on paper. Complex caught up with Bautista after a press conference held for Vol. 2 to talk about the film, what's next for Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and where he sees his acting career going overall.
You mentioned at the conference that you don't actually enjoy doing press because, what most people don't know about you is that you're very shy and soft-spoken. When you transitioned into film, did that give you pause, the idea of opening yourself up more?
Yeah, it was absolutely terrifying. The first time I had my experience as an actor working on set I realized that I was a horrible actor. That's how it kind of came to be where I wanted to pursue it more because I was so bad I wanted to prove that I could be better. But, even the first time I started with an acting coach, I was so self-conscious, man. Just started shaking and sweating. It took a lot of coaching and working with me to try and get me to stop being so self-conscious. And I still am. I still get terrified of auditioning, but I just don't let it stop me. I don't let fear stop me from doing anything.
So, now, after two Guardians, a Bond, and some other movies, do you feel like you're fully out of the shell?
No. I'll never be fully out of my shell, cause it's just who I am. I actually learned how to talk about it when WWE used to send me out to go and do public speaking. The first thing I used to say when I got up—I would warn people. I'd say, "I wanna tell everybody here that I actually have a phobia of speaking publicly, so if I start to shake and have to walk away"...and they thought I was joking. They'd laugh at me, and I'd be like, "No, I'm really serious." And I learned to say this is just who I am, this is how I am. I'm in my 40s now. I'm not gonna change anytime soon.
One of the things I noticed about this movie in comparison to the first is that you're way more of the comedic relief this time. Based off of what you said about your personality, was it harder to play Drax this time around because of placing that weight on you?
No. It wasn't harder at all. It was actually, I mean, it's pretty easy when you—Have you done any acting at all?
No, no. I went to school for screenwriting. They taught us a little bit of acting around that, but not much.
So, actually, then you'll get this. It's so easy when someone writes so incredibly for you. They write brilliantly, they know you as a person, they know you as a performer, and they know your character. They put it all down on paper and you read this and you think, could you have made it any easier? And then, also, James [Gunn] is not only the writer, but also the director, so he has such a clear vision in his mind of not only what he wants you to say, but how he wants you to say it. So, when you really trust in your director and you believe in him completely, all I need to do is know my lines.
So, to that end, would you say you've developed a relationship with James beyond any other director you've worked with?
James really believed in me on this level when no one else did. A lot of people labeled me coming out of professional wrestling not only because I came out of a sports entertainment background, but also because of the way I looked, and also because of the character that I portrayed when I was in WWE. They thought that's who I was, that I'm a guy who's gonna come to the door and start growling at everybody, that's what big guys do. But, I'm not that guy. And James Gunn was open-minded enough to see past it. It changed the direction of not only my career, but my life.
It's interesting you mentioned playing against type, because coming away from this film...it has so many jokes, but I feel like that's because it's so dark, and the characters are so profoundly sad—but you bodied the comedic relief and levity. It made me wonder if you would ever do something that has no action at all?
That is my dream [laughs]. When I set out to be an actor, I set out to be an actor. I didn't set out to be a movie star. I may have taken the long route, but obviously, now, I can say, without a doubt that it's paying off, because I was offered those roles when I first left wrestling. I could've done all the bad, cheesy action stuff that would've stereotyped me, but I didn't wanna go that route. I knew I would be pigeonholed to those types of roles. I wanna do comedy and drama— especially drama. I always feel like drama and theater is where you really earn your acting credibility. And that's what I'm after, man. That's my mission.
What were some of your influences, stuff you loved growing up?
When I was a little kid, we snuck into a movie theater, and I was with about three or four of my friends and my little sister, and they all wanted to go see Porky's. This is before your time. Well there's a lot of nudity. But, I wanted to go see Chariots of Fire. And I just sat in there and I cried and I was inspired. Those types of films just meant so much to me as a child. Now this is popping into my head just cause it's relevant to what we're doing, but I had a long conversation with Stallone about some of his earlier stuff. A lot of times he's stuck with that label of some of the stuff he did in the 80s, which wasn't the greatest stuff. Like Cobra. Everybody wants to talk about Rocky 4, I could give a rat's ass about Rocky IV. What I want to talk about was Rocky I. Because that movie changed my life. Not everyone remembers the scene from First Blood where John Rambo just broke down. He was talking about what he went through in Vietnam. That's the stuff I wanted to talk [to Stallone] about. That's the kind of stuff that shaped me as a person and as a performer.
What was it like working with Kurt Russell?
It was pretty surreal. Look, Kurt's been acting since he was a child. He's Hollywood royalty. We all looked at him like that, but he didn't act like that at all. He just blended right in. I talked to him about it and he said, "Well you gotta come in. You gotta make the team. That's what I do. You don't wanna come in and mess up the system. I wanna be part of the team." That's an athlete's mentality. There's a lot of people that come on to projects and think, "Well, I'm better than everybody in here and I want a bigger trailer than that person and I'm not coming out of my trailer until this person comes out of their trailer." I've seen those attitudes before. And Kurt didn't have that at all.
One of my favorite things about the Guardians that stands out among any other superhero movie that's out right now is extremely weird. It's like, quirky. Very eccentric. The tone.
Oh [laughs]. This film—well, one, it's the characters. But two, it's the writing of James Gunn. He's extremely weird. If you've ever seen Slither [laughs]. He has a very dark, twisted sense of humor and he's just got a different outtake on everything, but that's what makes him super interesting. What I love about him is he's just a fan. He writes for them, he relates to them. That's who he is at the end of the day. He's an uber fan. He's just that dark, weird little kid.
Drax has a solo comic. Would you ever be interested in doing a solo Drax film?
Oh, yeah. You know why, really? I'd really just love to explore his past more. Even if we don't do a Drax film, I hope they do it more in Guardians [Vol. 3], like look into his past. I'd love to see other people from Drax's race. Not only that, but I would love the fans to be able to put a visual— you know, a name with a face. I'd love for them to see his wife and his daughter and actually see and have references for them.
Like some backstory.
[Drax has] talked about it a little bit here and there, but you've never really seen him interact with his family and you've never seen how much he loved and cared for them, and you don't really know the depth to how heartbroken he is. So, I think it would really be an interesting emotional note if we added that into a film or god willing, just do a whole Drax film. That would not only give me the opportunity to tell more of his backstory, but that would also leave time to be more of the Destroyer, because I would love to see some of that too.