Except for one thing, Dave Bautista might today be just another wrestler-turned-actor following in the footsteps of contemporary Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, hoping for some slight measure of the latter’s fame.
That one thing was a second-tier Marvel movie about a group of ragtag sci-fi heroes nobody expected spectacular business from. Instead, Guardians of the Galaxy became the third biggest movie of 2014 with a global box office of $774m (and Marvel’s third biggest superhero movie ever).
Thanks to his role as hulking brute Drax, Dave Bautista was suddenly at the top of all the hot lists. But now, as henchman Mr Hinx in the latest James Bond film Spectre, he tells Playboy such success was just the start of a larger battle – against perception.
Because Guardians was so huge, are you coming into Spectre feeling like a bona fide movie star who’s made it?
No, not at all. We were hoping that because I did Guardians I would be auditioning more and people would be talking to us more about parts. Marvel’s a big deal and a stamp of approval but it really wasn’t until after Guardians came out people actually saw that I was acting.
That’s when I started auditioning more, and I’m still auditioning. I’m not above it. If there’s a part I want I’ll audition for it. I’m a working actor, that’s what I set out to be, I didn’t set out to be a movie star and I still have no aspirations of being a movie star. Different characters are what I love to do.
Do you have to dig your heels in to get offered the parts you want rather than just be the musclebound bad guy?
Yeah, and it really is hard finding great scripts these days. My agent would kill me if he heard me say this, but I don’t want to be a part of shit films.
I want to be in stuff that has good storytelling, that’s why I’m a fan and love movies so much – good storytelling, good characters, good performances – that’s the kind of stuff I want to be involved with.
It sounds like there’s a lot more performance in* Spectre than just stunts.
Yeah, but at the same time that’s the cool thing about the Bond franchise, it’s not just your typical shoot 'em up film. It has a very international feel to it. It’s very sophisticated and smart, and it’s directed by Sam Mendes so you know it’s going to be very well scripted and just beautiful.
So is the real Dave Bautista a big soft teddy bear and you have to bring the toughness to the surface?
No, I’m an emotional person, I cry at commercials. If the people I love are hurt, I’m hurt. But at the same I can say I’m a tough guy, I just don’t feel like I need to prove to people I’m a tough guy.
How did convincing people you can play more than just muscles change your relationship with fitness and your body?
There was a period of time where I had such a chip on my shoulder, I really wanted to be an actor so I was so against being a big guy. I stopped lifting weights. I was on these extreme diets trying to lose weight – which is hard, it’s a chore in itself. But I’ve kind of given that up now because I think people know now that I’m serious about acting.
I love to work out, I love to lift weights. I love martial arts, so I’m going with that more and letting myself be who I am, which is naturally a bigger and muscular guy. Hopefully I’ll still get roles that are interesting and not stereotyped or typecast as a big muscle head.
Does that mean you’ve had a lot of resistance from casting people and directors because of your physique?
I think it was an internal struggle, maybe an insecurity within myself
What about the rumour you’re playing the Kurgen [originally played by Clancy Brown] in the Highlander remake?
It’s not confirmed and there’s a lot that’s up in the air about the project itself. But yes, I want that part, I’ve been very outspoken about it. They haven’t offered it to me but we’ve talked about it and I’ve been told that I am right for the part.