Dave Bautista doesn't want to be a movie star, he wants to be an actor. He may be both

Adam Graham, The Detroit News on

Published in Entertainment News

On screen he's the center of attention, a hulking mass with a bodybuilder's physique and an air of cool mystique surrounding him. He can play quiet and brooding or loud and boisterous, and either way it's difficult to take your eyes off of whatever he's doing when the camera's rolling.

But off screen, Dave Bautista says he's unassuming and even a bit shy, and he says it's been a long road learning to accept himself and feel at home in his own (heavily inked) skin.

"There was a time in my life, like kinda into my 40s, when I just became comfortable with being uncomfortable," says Bautista, on the phone last month from the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. He's sheepish enough that even saying the name of the hotel out loud produces a slightly embarrassed chuckle from the star.

But he's earned his right to be there, as well as his status as the thinking man's pro wrestler-turned-actor of choice. Over the last decade, he's built up an impressive resume of roles, working with directors such as Sam Mendes (the 2015 James Bond adventure "Spectre"), Zack Snyder ("Army of the Dead"), M. Night Shyamalan ("Knock at the Cabin") and Rian Johnson ("Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery").

He also played Drax the Destroyer in three "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies (as well as a pair of "Avengers" titles), and this weekend he's on screen, along with seemingly one-third of Hollywood, in the blockbuster-in-waiting "Dune: Part Two." It's his third pairing with A-list director Denis Villeneuve, whom he credits with elevating his acting chops, as well as his ambitions.

"I originally started pursuing acting because I realized what a bad actor I was," says Bautista, who turned 55 in January.


He got into it after kicking around World Wrestling Entertainment, where he wrestled as Batista, "The Animal," beginning in 2002. He collected 10 championship titles during his time with WWE, but he had a ways to go before transitioning his in-ring accomplishments to big-screen success.

Early on in his acting career — he was still wrestling at the time — he appeared in a movie "strictly as a favor to a friend," he says, and the experience left such a bad taste in his mouth that he had to wash it out.

"I went and I did this film and I thought it was going to be easy, and as I was doing it, I was mortified at how bad I was," he says, without calling out the name of the production. "I was self-conscious, I was embarrassed, and I left that film feeling so unsatisfied that I wanted to prove it to myself that I could be better."

That began a long journey for Bautista, which continues to this day.


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