By Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee
LOS ANGELES — Most actors in movies based on comic books can look through loads of material to get clues to playing their character. Professional wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista found little to help him understand Drax the Destroyer — the metaphor-challenged fighter in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“It was a little rough because there’s just not that much material. Also, Drax has changed so much over the years,” Bautista says of the character from the Marvel Comics universe. “What I was really looking for was a video reference and I found one very old animated series with Drax on it. But, basically, there was nothing.”
He ended up pulling bits and pieces from the script and relying on his acting coach, who just happened to be a fan of the comic book team that launched in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes No. 18. Drax, Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot are the “Guardians,” a group of petty thieves who come together to save the universe.
One thing Bautista learned was that along with his imposing mountain-like physical presence, Drax is not the typical muscle-bound character. Aside from not understanding metaphors, he’s very intelligent. That’s not the typical role offered to someone out of the world of professional wrestling.
Bautista loves playing such a smart character, but he understands when he gets offered roles that are more about brawn than brains.
“It is what it is. When you look a certain way, people perceive you a certain way. When you come from the wrestling world, they want to cast you as ‘Bouncer No. 1’ or ‘Bouncer No. 2.’ I was trying to get away from that,” Bautista says.
Not only is Drax smart, he provides some of the best laughs in the movie. Bautista says the jokes — mostly based on the character’s literal take on metaphors — work because of his co-stars, particularly Chris Pratt as group leader Peter Quill. Much of the comedy was improvised by the two actors.
“Guardians” is the biggest role for Bautista outside a wrestling ring. The six-time world champion with the World Wrestling Entertainment previously appeared in the films “The Man With the Iron Fists” and “Riddick’ (with “Guardians co-star Vin Diesel) and the TV shows “Chuck” and “Smallville.”
Not only is this a bigger role, it is one of the best experiences of Bautista’s career because he had so much fun. Though, he had to spend four hours every morning in the makeup chair to create the look for the always shirtless Drax, who is covered in weird designs.
“It wasn’t that bad. I would zone out. I meditate,” Bautista says. “It really wasn’t so much the consecutive hours in the chair, but the consecutive days in the chair. That’s when it got rough. After five, six, seven days in a row being in the chair, I just wanted a day where I felt clean.”