How Going From The Ring To Hollywood Taught Strongman Dave Bautista The Value Of Context
Dave Bautista has always been larger-than-life, whether as one of WWE’s most hated villains or a Marvel superhero, and his starring role in stand out success Dune as ‘the Beast’, AKA Count Glossu Raban, continues the theme.
Unusually for a pro wrestler turned actor, Bautista has moved back and forth between the ring and the set, since 2002, picking up lessons from each – but he now says he has learnt enough to try to get on the other side of the cameras…
RSNG Is it true that you don’t read a full script when you audition for a role, and sometimes even when you’ve got the part?
DAVE BAUTISTA, ACTOR AND FORMER WWE WRESTLER “It has certainly been that way for a few movies that I’ve done, yes. Some people find that weird, but I don’t always want to know what the ending is going to be like. I am a fan just like many other people are and just because I’m in the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for myself by knowing what is coming up.
“I hope that means that my reaction to certain situations seems more real and emotional, when that type of acting is required. I didn’t want to read it for Dune and nor did I for Blade Runner 2049 [both directed by Denis Villeneuve].
“However, Denis was insistent that I did so for that because I needed to make sure I knew how I fitted into the film. The movie had to be consistent and if I was only to act out my small parts in the film the way I saw them, and not even comprehend how they turned out around everything else in the film, it would look too weird.
“Context is very important in any conversation and sometimes you can’t just go out on your own – sometimes you need to be a part of the bigger process; and that’s something I’ve had to take on board since WWE, which is much more about you, yourself, and few others.”
RSNG You starred in Denis Villeneuve’s reboot of Dune. What can you tell us about that?
DAVE BAUTISTA “Well, firstly, I’d just like to say how glad I am that I was able to get a part in the movie. Although I wanted to be in it, I wasn’t going to go up to Denis and ask him – that would have been embarrassing for both of us, haha!
“Thankfully, he gave me a call and he asked me if I wanted to play the character of Glossu Rabban. Of course, I accepted but I was trying to play it cool… while on the inside, I was so excited; impossibly excited.
“Not only was it a blessing, but it was also a feeling for me when I analyze my film career and think about where I see myself in the industry and, far more importantly, where people see me. Those people who are going to call me as they have me in mind for a particular role. It’s a good feeling, a really good feeling.”
RSNG You could be missing out on roles because you’re not going up to people asking for the gig though?
DAVE BAUTISTA “That is true. It just dawned on me when I was talking, haha!”
RSNG If any of our readers haven’t seen it yet, should they be excited by Dune?
DAVE BAUTISTA “I certainly am, and I am envious of people who will be going to watch it for the first time. The script is amazing, it blew me away. The thing with Denis is that his mind is so incredible – there’s absolutely no way I would even know where to begin when it comes writing a script like that, or directing one.
“Denis’s ability to create complex worlds is up there with the best visionary geniuses in the history of film. I really mean that. The same does go for James Gunn, who I worked with on Guardians… these people have my utmost respect.”
RSNG You’ve been in the WWE on three separate occasions in your career. What kept you coming back to it?
DAVE BAUTISTA “Well, it’s good to keep having new things to do, but you sometimes know where your home is and what you’re good at. That’s not to say I don’t think I am a good actor, haha! But a new piece of scenery is ideal and keeps things fresh.
“I loved my time in WWE and I didn’t want to leave, if I am being honest. But it gave me the opportunity to do a few more movies and then go back to pro wrestling on my own terms.
“I had a few goals that I wanted to fulfill and entering into the role of Drax the Destroyer in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film was certainly one of those aims. Playing a character in an MCU movie was a privilege and obviously since then, I have been able to get roles in a few.”
RSNG What impact does it have on you physically, to keep switching between different specialisms?
DAVE BAUTISTA “The crossover is quite flat – and by that I mean the characters I am playing on set are familiar in a way to my persona on WWE. I don’t have to start bulking up or losing huge quantities of pounds to be able to fulfill both roles.
“I couldn’t do some of these transformations that I see – Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal… that stuff is seriously impressive and seriously dedicated. I mean, I am dedicated… but not seriously dedicated, haha!’
RSNG It must always be great to come back to such a social environment such as WWE?
DAVE BAUTISTA “The reaction from the fans was both amazing and bizarre – and not always in a good way. The type of villainous character that I have portrayed in the WWE always means that some fans love to hate me, and the rest hate to love me!
“What was weird though was the strange chants that some of the crowd would start up during anyone’s fights – not even just mine. They would be almost totally irrelevant to what was going on in the ring at the time or even on that day or night.
“I’m a huge fan of wrestling, so I do follow all of the storylines and I watch the shows as a fan. That means that I will be concentrating on what’s happening and interacting with it all. I haven’t got time to start chants!”
RSNG Do you have any ambitions to write or direct in the future?
DAVE BAUTISTA “I actually do, to be honest and as I said earlier, I have no plans to try to compete with James or Denis or any other brilliant director and visionary, haha!”
“I aspire to write and direct a small drama, I have a few ideas that I may come back to and I think I’ve got a lot of great experience, advice and knowledge working with some great people and I feel like I could be ready in the near future to try it out.”
“It’s another one of my goals and has been for quite some time. I’ve picked up some little tips and hints from working on sets and I know it’s a really big still. Not for one second do I think I will pick it up easily, but I’m busy and want to move myself in any way I can.”
“I do think that, eventually, I have what it takes to become a really good addition behind the camera. Until I get that chance to do so, I will keep on working on my knowledge of the technical side of things, but watch this space!”