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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

Finding himself

When he decided to lean all the way into acting in 2010, Bautista left WWE behind to pursue his goal. (He closed the door but never slammed it shut; he returned to WWE for stints in 2014 and 2019.)

While he landed roles in films like RZA's "The Man With the Iron Fists" (2012) and the "Pitch Black" entry "Riddick" (2013), he wasn't sure how far he could take his acting career, and his bank account was quickly drying up. That's when he got his shot at "Guardians of the Galaxy," which "completely changed my life," Bautista says.

The role of Drax, the blockheaded behemoth of the "Guardians" franchise, showed he was more than just muscle, he also had swift comic timing and a dry wit. He received raves for his performance, and afterward he took full advantage of the opportunities it afforded, embarking on what he calls a "purpose-driven" mission to seek "deeper, more meaningful" roles, and getting "very picky and choosy" about the directors he worked with.

One of the filmmakers he sought out was Villeneuve, the French Canadian filmmaker who was becoming, along with Christopher Nolan, Hollywood's go-to guy for cerebral blockbusters.

Villeneuve was working on "Blade Runner 2049" at the time, and producers liked Bautista for the role of Sapper Morton, a replicant living in exile outside of Los Angeles. (They were fans of his work in WWE.) Bautista was "crushed," he says, when Villeneuve told him he was all wrong for the character, but he flew out to L.A. anyway to meet with the director, and they talked about everything except the part.

 

Meanwhile, producers still had faith in him, and he did makeup, costume and screen tests for the role. Finally after the screen test, Villeneuve was won over and he awarded him the part, and it was working with Villeneuve on "Blade Runner" that changed Bautista's outlook on acting, he says.

"When I would talk to people, that role — and it's a very small role — kept coming up over and over and over, because it allowed people to see me in a different light," Bautista says. "It's not only that the character was so layered, but Denis was the first director to completely strip away my physicality, which allowed me to completely rely on my acting ability. People saw that and they recognized that, and it just opened up doors for me."

One of those doors was a revolving one with Villeneuve, who cast Bautista as Glossu Rabban, a darkly vicious character in the director's "Dune" saga. He played the part in 2021's "Dune" and returns in "Dune: Part Two," where his character has several violent outbursts, at one point repeatedly bashing a subordinate's head into a control panel.

For Bautista, the supporting part is another step toward his goal, and he's putting in the work to get where he ultimately wants to see himself.

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