Not long ago, I got the chance to interview Dave Bautista for Marvel Studios' upcoming [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) (which is exactly as awesome as you've heard it is), and two things struck me. One, he is an enormous mountain of a man, and anyone who wondered if he wasn't imposing enough to play the role of Drax the Destroyer, let me tell you, the man is a tank. And two, he's also one of the most humble people I've ever interviewed.
We talked about his experience as the "new kid" on set, how gross he felt after the sixth consecutive day of putting on the heavy makeup for Drax, and whether or not we might see a new design in [Guardians of the Galaxy 2](movie:1081113). Onward!
What struck me about it was how much just seemed improvised on the spot. There was just so much chemistry. Were there a lot of scenes where James Gunn let you guys just riff off of each other or was it all scripted?
No, not at all. It was a lot of improv with us, but also it felt like James was writing as he was going the sometimes because things would spark in his head, especially with Drax. He had a lot of fun writing Drax. It was a lot of great chemistry and a lot of great improv.
I think Drax’s character will surprise everybody the most because people who aren’t familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy from the comic books before – there’s just so much depth to him. Was this sort of character a stretch for you?
Some of the stuff was a stretch. Some of the dialogue was just a little stiff; it just wasn’t the way I normally speak so that was a little rough but the emotional stuff wasn’t... Which was what I loved about the role – I wanted and I needed to be able to show that side. People had such a one-noted perception of me from wrestling. That’s the only way they saw me and I think a lot of people are either going to love that Drax has that side to him, or you’re going to get the guys that just want that head-chopping warrior and they’re going to be disappointed that Drax actually has a heart. But, yeah, that is actually what I loved about the character.
It was really done skillfully in that for a, kind of, origin story – every single character managed to show those two sides. It was really incredible that way.
That was kind of a huge challenge too, ya’ know.
Something else as well: visually it was stunning! Everything, the costumes - just your make up alone was flawless!
For us as well. Some of the sets were just so big and elaborate, but also with all of the extras and everybody with their different looks... That’s how we were every day. We’d walk in and see new life forms every day. We were like little kids and go, “Look it, oooh my god so cool.” The make-up people are just so talented, man, so creative. It’s just insane.
What was that [makeup] process like? ‘Cause I mean, yours was by far, obviously the most time consuming – yours was so intricate.
It was an extensive process but it wasn’t that bad. My make up team was pretty entertaining and also, I’m a pretty patient person. I’m a pretty Zen person. So it was just one of those things, you kind of meditate every day and try to laugh, a lot of good conversation, a lot of good music so it kind of just flew by.
It wasn’t really the “daily process” but when it got into consecutive days – you know, four days in a row, five days, six days in a row of make up and sitting there, it’s just like, “God I want a day off.” I just wanted to feel clean, you know? They use a lot of chemicals to remove the make up and I’d still have to go and take a shower and really scrubs just to come back in the morning and do it again.
I know that everyone had a lot of fun when they walked onto the Kyln Prison set What was that feeling like when you first walked onto the set and looked around knowing that you got to play in that for the next few days?
It was awesome, but terrifying because that was my first scene was at the Kyln. They started filming a couple weeks before so I hadn’t even seen it and I walked it; it was so much bigger than anything I had ever done. But also, I’m walking in cold and you can tell that everyone was already in the groove and I was the new guy, hadn’t been acting that long so it was kind of terrifying. It was pretty intimidating.
Did you find that it was easy to connect with them [the cast] and that it was all very natural?
Yeah, and it was because of the individual that were involved. For one, James, from day one just made me feel totally relaxed and no pressure and also when I had my initial screen test with Chris Pratt – just connected with him right off the bat. I think most people would give you the same answer. He’s just such a fun loving guy; it’s just hard not to connect with him. I mean, you’d have to be like the biggest dick in the world not to connect with this guy. I felt at ease with him right off the bat.
Even Zoe, you always hear the nightmare stories about the diva actresses, she’s by far the biggest named actress on set who had the lead female role so I didn’t know what she was going to be like. We were driving to set one day and this was going to be the first time I met her so I’m a little bit nervous, I get out of the car and she jumped out of her car and goes “Bauuuuutista!” and gave me this big hug. That was my initial meeting with her. It was like the whole way. She’s very sweet. She’s very loving and affectionate. It was all good, man. Very family type atmosphere.
While you were on set did James Gunn have ideas of what he was going to do already [for Guardians of the Galaxy 2]? Did he kind of talk to you guys about, “Hey if this goes really well here’s where I’m thinking of taking this story...”
No, no those talks never happened. We joked around about new tattoos that Drax might come up with, stuff like that but we never really talked about going forward. It’s one of those things where you don’t say anything because you don’t want to assume and also don’t want to jinx yourself. It’s still a big mystery, I mean, we feel confident about and I think everyone who comes out of the theater and sees it feels confident on it but it’s still an unknown, it’s still a gamble. I think everyone is still holding their breath.
I can say that I was looking around the theater during the screening, a sea of cynical journalists, and it was just like seeing a bunch of kids watching a movie.
It’s a fun movie!
Since this is the second movie you’ve now done with Vin Diesel in the past year, do you think you’ll see yourself joining the Fast & Furious franchise?
I would if Vin was involved. I love Vin, and he’s been very good to me. Oddly enough, I was actually up for a role in the last Fast & Furious. It’s weird because the same actor and I were up for the same role in Guardians and we were also up for the same role in Fast, so I got the role of Drax but he got my role in Fast.
I definitely think that Drax is a cooler role.
[laughs] Yeah, I’m not complaining!
[Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) is in theaters now - and you should definitely see it.