GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY INTERVIEWS
By Jedd Jong
There’s no doubt that Dave Bautista is a physically imposing man, standing at 1.98 m tall, his bulging arms completely covered in tattoos. At the Southeast Asia press tour for Guardians of the Galaxy held in Singapore, he sported a beard and an ivy cap, looking laid-back and casual. As a professional wrestler going by “Dave Batista” or simply “Batista” and nicknamed “The Animal”, he is a six-time world champion. Currently on hiatus from wrestling, Bautista has turned his attention to the screen and takes on the role of Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel sci-fi fantasy adventure flick.
While he has played a good many giant bruisers, Bautista comes across as an unlikely gentle giant, living up to how he describes himself – as “socially awkward”. Sitting down with F***, Bautista opened up about just how much clinching the role meant to him, how he was pranked on set by his co-stars, the frustration of not being able to tell anyone that he had snagged the coveted part and what he thinks of the Drax action figure made in his likeness.
Your makeup took four hours to apply…
It took 4 hours to apply, but it also took about 1.5-2 hours to take off. By the end of the film, they got it down to 3 hours application, 1.5 hours removal.
Did it hurt?
No, it didn’t really hurt. It got uncomfortable sometimes; it’s okay. Like a few days in a row, it would be okay, but 4 days in a row you’re no longer comfortable, 5 days in a row you get really itchy and 6 days in a row I just want to peel my skin off. 6 days in a row weren’t all that often, but that did happen a few times. They use chemicals to put it on, then they also use chemicals to peel it off. If they just peeled it off, my skin would come with it because a lot of it was prosthetics glued to my skin.
How did you manage to stay standing for 4-5 hours straight during the application process?
I had 5 people working on me, what they did was I had to stand up but they had these posts on which I could rest my arms with tennis balls on them. Just…I don’t know, I’m a pretty patient person. It was layers and layers of paint and pieces and pieces, I don’t remember how many pieces it was but I want to say like 25 separate pieces that all had to be glued on. They had to do it in a way such that when I moved, it wasn’t wrinkling and folding. My team was so talented, best makeup people in the business. By the end we were like family; I still keep in touch of them. One of them, my makeup artist’s kid, went to Wrestlemania with me. We developed close friendships because we spent so much time together and they were so good about making sure that I was taken care of and that I was comfortable, they were such pleasant people that it didn’t bother me, it just flew by.
Will you avoid accepting a role that involves such heavy makeup in the future?
No, not at all. I don’t know, I mean Drax is the only role that I wanted to do like this. I don’t want to keep repeating roles that are superhero movies. This is like a dream role for me, but I want to do other stuff. I don’t always want to be an actor that’s in makeup, I want this to be that role for me because to me, it doesn’t get any bigger, it doesn’t get any better. I’ve topped out as far as superhero roles go, this is it. I can’t imagine doing anything else [in this genre].
How does being an introvert like you described yourself earlier help in playing this character?
I don’t know if it helps [laughs]. But I think…I don’t know, I don’t over-analyse things. I think that’s the reason I fell in love with acting because it’s an outlet for me, I internalise everything. I usually let everything out at the gym, that’s who I am. Actually, I spent so many years in the gym, I tell everybody it’s my therapy. If I don’t go to the gym, I start getting stressed out, anxious. So I think that kind of outlet lets me be somebody who I’m really not. Drax is very chest-out, a power guy, and me, I get social anxiety! It gives me that opportunity to be somebody that I’m not, maybe somebody that I wish I could be.
You are a collector of vintage metal lunchboxes, which is very retro cool. How do you think the retro element of Guardians of the Galaxy will appeal to audiences? It was awesome hearing “Hooked on a Feeling” in that first full trailer, but there were some fans who didn’t know what to make of it. Also, what do you think of the Marvel Legends figure that’s been done of you as Drax?
I love it. (This writer passes the figure on to Bautista). I’ve seen it; I love it.
Do you think it looks like you?
Yeah! This is the kind of stuff that instantly turns me into a little kid, like how cool is this?! [Laughs] but as far as like the music…it’s weird, because when you say they hear the music and they don’t know what to make of it I think that every trailer I’ve seen, people have thought ‘the movie’s going to be this, it’s going to be a comedy’ – no, it’s not what you think. Because it’s just so multi-levelled, you just can’t put your finger on it [based on] one trailer that has a bunch of laughs in it because it’s got everything. So no matter what you’re thinking when you walk in, it’s not going to be what you thought – it’s going to be a lot more than what you thought. It’s got something for everyone, it’s just so entertaining across the board. I think James touched on it earlier, but I think that people are, whereas not with other superheroes, at least not so much, that people will be able to relate to these guys. They’re just normal people with kind of troubled pasts and they’ve all got their baggage that they carry around with them and everybody can relate to that in some sense. I think they’re just going to be easier to relate to, the superheroes from Guardians.
What elements of your character do you relate to, and why?
I think kind of the easiest thing and not so much on the level of Drax, but the easiest thing I can relate to is the sense of loss. I’ve lost people very close to me, I’ve lost family members, maybe not even so much literally like lost them because they passed away, but just lost them for various reasons. So yeah, I relate to that, not as extensive as his loss, but kind of the same pain.
Were there any funny incidents on the set while making this movie?
The funny thing about this is that every day was so much fun! There were long, long hours and I think we bonded and became really close because the hours were so long, but at the same time, it was so much fun because James just made everything fun! It was light-hearted and easy-going and it wasn’t like going to work every day, it was like going to hang out with your buddies. Chris is just so funny and Zoe, those two were just, you guys got a little sense of that, she’s so funny and it was so much fun. If I had to put my finger on one thing, there was one day where they decided to have – I think it was kind of a joke thing – but Chris Pratt, they were having like a dance-off on set, it was a big joke and what James did to amuse himself was to get everybody, hundreds of extras and he had the whole cast like dancing, it was kinda ridiculous – but the joke to that was that I was the only one who came on the set without knowing what was going on, the joke was on me and I was like “what the hell are we doing?!” When I saw everyone dancing I was like “oh yeah, now I get it.”
Will we see that as an extra on the Blu-ray?
I hope so, I imagine that they’re going to do something with it, I would love if it were a DVD extra.
Do you hope that this will spawn a franchise, and how many films are you signed on to?
I hope that it will lead to sequels. How many sequels? I don’t know, you guys know as much as I do. Maybe not as much, because of Marvel’s hush-hush policies. But I really hope this will lead to sequels, because I’d like to see more of the Guardians personally, myself.
There was a photo you posted on Twitter of you at the spa, and some movie news sites ran with the idea that the masks on your face at the spa were makeup tests for Drax. Did you have to hide a lot of details of this film from your family and friends? What were the most frustrating moments of “I wanna tell you, but I can’t!”?
What was so funny is that that picture, I have a friend, she’s a female bodybuilder named Kris Murrell and she’s in L.A., and she insisted that I go to this facial place with her. She’s the one who actually took the photo and posted it and somehow it got twisted into the makeup test for Drax. I don’t know how that ever started, but the hardest thing was because even after I did get the role, for months I was not even allowed to tell anyone that I had the role, it was hard. My friends were still, there were so many rumours that Jason Momoa had been offered the role and my friends were kind of heartbroken for me and I wanted to tell them so bad but I just couldn’t because I didn’t know if they would tell someone, and one person tells another person, and the next thing you know the internet rumours…I did, my manager and my agent knew and we didn’t tell anybody. It was pretty rough because all the rumours were still going around, particularly about Jason Momoa getting the role and I wanted to say “I got the role! In your face!” because it was not easy getting the role, it was hard and stressful and I couldn’t have been any happier when I got it. To have all that joy pent up after so many months of stress, it was hard, not telling them.
Did you tell your family?
I told my fiancée, that’s the thing, I was driving on my way to the gym and when I found out I turned around and went home. She cried with me, she had to deal with the stress of all those months. The downside of that was that I had to say goodbye, she’s pretty busy herself but we were separated for six months (while shooting the movie).
Could you elaborate on the details of the audition process?
The funny thing is when I first had an audition, my agent told me “this is a really long shot but I had to fight to get you in front of them to audition” so I went in not really thinking much of it, I was thinking “I have a shot at this” but at the same time, I really wanted this, I really wanted it after hearing about Drax, hearing about how cool this role was going to be. I went into the audition, I don’t live in L.A. so I flew out there just to go this audition and was flying off the next day, and Sarah Finn who is the casting agent called me and asked me if I would stay in town and come back to read for the director. I was like “wait a minute, I wasn’t expecting this!” My hopes started to be elevated, but also my pressure started to be elevated, so that night I didn’t sleep. Anyway, I went back to audition, and like James said earlier, I just clicked with him right away, I was at ease with him right away. I went to that and it went well and went on the side a few times to audition, I went back for another audition, then I had a screen test, then I had a screen test with Chris [Pratt] and then I’d come over for makeup tests. With auditions, screen tests and makeup tests, I probably went in 7-8 times. This was over 3-4 months, and this all waiting, this is not even having been given the role yet! So each time I went in, my hopes got higher higher and higher, but each time I went in, I was also afraid that I was going to get the call that said “you didn’t get the role” because then I would be heartbroken. It was a stressful, stressful period.
Drax’s spirit is that of a human being whose family has been killed by Thanos, that spirit transplanted into a powerful alien body. How did you try to bring across the humanity still inside Drax?
You know, I didn’t put too much thought into it, I pretty much…I just tried to put myself in that place, how would you be if your family was killed in front of you? I put myself in that place emotionally and I never really thought of that being the “human” side of Drax, I just thought of that being the “husband and father” side of Drax.
How familiar were you with the Guardians of the Galaxy Comics before you were given the role?
I wasn’t, I wasn’t familiar with them at all and that’s been brought up a lot. I’m right there with everybody else, I had no idea, I had never heard of Drax, but the one thing that made it very challenging was I just couldn’t find that much reference material, because I wanted to be prepared for this audition to have some sense of who Drax was but really, I didn’t have any reference material, he’s changed so much throughout the years. The one thing that I saw that I connected to was in the latest version of Drax in the comic, I related to him visually because I looked at him and said “he looks like me” [laughs). But I didn’t…when I auditioned, when I played the part of Drax, it’s just how I perceived he would be so it’s just a huge part of me. I didn’t rely on any reference material, it was just how I would be.
James Gunn said earlier that “there are more outsiders than insiders”, would you like to elaborate on that?
He was just saying that I think if you ask any person, if you asked all of us individually if there’s something provocative, something you feel like you have social anxiety about, there’s something you feel like other people couldn’t relate to you about, I think everybody would probably say “yes”. I think some people just come to terms with that, they accept it about themselves and they know they’re awkward and they’re comfortable with it. Then there are those other people who have that as well, but pretend like they don’t and I think it’s just become more common, people are more open about being socially awkward, I’m socially awkward. If you look at me, I look like a big jock. I’m like a big musclebound jock. Socially, I’m just awkward but I came to terms with it a long time ago because I look like this (motions to himself) but inside I’m like this (hunches up). I look like a big jock but really I’m a big geek, but I think people are more open about it, you’re not an outcast anymore, you’re more open now. Everybody’s just kind of open about it, they’re open about their geekiness.
I did a movie called The Man with the Iron Fists…
Brass Body. He’s my buddy and he’s the director, his name is RZA, he’s from one of the most famous rap groups ever and most people would perceive him to be kind of thuggish, kind of hardcore, from the streets. He comes to me and says he’s a big nerd! He’s always been a nerd his whole life. To look at him to hear him, you wouldn’t think it, but talk to him for 10 minutes and you’re like “okay, he’s a nerd.” He came out and said it to me, and I said if this guy, this hardcore rapper, can say he’s a nerd, then you see how things have changed. It’s okay to be a nerd, you don’t have to be embarrassed about it.
Each member of the Guardians is a misfit or outcast in some way. Did the cast get time to rehearse and work out the dynamics amongst the team or did it develop on set as you were filming?
That was cool, I think it developed more as we bonded more, the more time we spent together the more time we got to know each other. I think that because of James, who was so particular about who he wanted for each of the certain parts, he said he wanted all of us to have chemistry, he doesn’t want any prima donnas on set. Thanks to him, he got him. We all had chemistry and we bonded and I think it really comes across, as we were filming we felt comfortable with each other, while we were shooting there was no awkwardness and we all trusted each other. Chris and Zoe in particular, they knew that I was a little insecure about my acting because it is new to me and this is a huge step to me and I don’t try to hide it, I was very open about it, very open that I was nervous, and they were always comforting to me, complimentary and helpful so we did, we bonded and they helped me elevate my acting.
Was it filmed roughly in sequence?
No, it was all over the place. We shot between three studios and many separate locations, but the sets were immense, just crazy. When I walked in [the Kyln prsion set] it was crazy, this thing was 360 degrees it was like being in a real prison, the biggest set I had ever seen in my entire life, it was so elaborate, it was crazy.