Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) eyes an orb in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)Link
Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), left, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
The Collector/Tanaleer Tivan, played by a white-haired Benicio Del Toro in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Nebula (Karen Gillan) strikes a pose in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
The Milano spacecraft soars through the skies in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) looks intimidating in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the last survivor of the Zehoberi people in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a sentient tree with muscle in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
The fan-favorite character Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
The antihero Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Gamora (Zoe Saldana), left, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in a scene from "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) shines a light. (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) with Gamora (Zoe Saldana). (Jay Maidment / Marvel)Link
The Milano speeds through the warring skies. (Marvel)Link
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in a scene from "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)Link
Gamora (Zoe Saldana), left, Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). (Marvel)Link
Actor Chris Pratt photographed at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills hotel in March. Pratt plays a charming trouble-maker in Marvel's new space action comedy "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times).Link
Pratt plays Peter Quill in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)Link
When Dave Bautista took the stage at Marvel’s Comic-Con International panel in San Diego last year, he was overcome by emotion sitting beside his “Guardians of the Galaxy” cast mates. The film had only begun shooting, but when the former champion WWE wrestler talked about winning the role of Drax the Destroyer in the interstellar adventure, he appeared overwhelmed.
“There’s a point where I go to set every day and I still can’t freaking believe I got this job,” he said at the time. “It’s something that I wanted more than anything I ever wanted in my life. When I got it, I broke down and cried like a little baby.”
One year later, Bautista, 45, seems just as moved when he thinks back to being cast in “Guardians,” which blasts into theaters Friday as the first installment in Marvel’s latest franchise (a sequel to the movie was announced last week at this year’s Comic-Con).
“It’s just because when it’s brought up at certain moments, I just flash back to the story,” Bautista said in an interview with Hero Complex earlier this month. “Same feelings, very fresh.”
Directed by James Gunn, “Guardians of the Galaxy” introduces summer moviegoers to a motley band of outlaws turned heroes: Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finds himself hunted by an aristocratic outer-space bad guy named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) after he comes into possession of a mysterious orb. Before long, he befriends misfits that include Zoe Saldana’s assassin, Gamora, Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer, along with raccoon Rocket and his pal Groot, voiced in the movie by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively, who ultimately join forces to stop Ronan from launching a genocidal attack.
Rooted in a 2008 comic book series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the $170-million movie represents Marvel’s first wholly cosmic adventure, but for Bautista, “Guardians” represents his first real starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster. Since leaving wrestling behind several years ago to pursue acting, he’s had featured roles in films including “The Man With the Iron Fists” and “Riddick,” (the latter of which starred his “Guardians” cast mate Diesel), but nothing on the level of Drax, a hulking bruiser of a man covered in tribal tattoos who’s determined to avenge the murder and his wife and child.
It’s the sort of part that earns a fellow his own action figure, but Bautista said it was Drax’s profound loss that made him an intriguing figure to bring to the screen: the character’s intimidating exterior camouflages a sensitive core.
“That’s what I loved about the character,” Bautista said. “That’s also why the role meant so much to me. Even as much as I wanted the role, I needed the role — it was hard getting people to look beyond the WWE stuff. That’s how they saw me. People who didn’t see me as that didn’t know me at all. It just wasn’t easy getting jobs. I look like a gorilla, just the way I’m built. They slap a label on me, then they find out, oh, I was WWE wrestler, and they’re thinking, oh, I want to do action movies, I want to be the next Rock, which isn’t at all what I want or what I’m interested in.”
Seated at a table on Disney’s Burbank lot on a mid-July weekend, the soft-spoken Bautista looked noticeably different from his screen alter ego, sporting close-cropped brown hair and a beard. For his “Guardians” scenes, the actor would spend between four and six hours in makeup, much of that time standing, so that elaborate prosthetic pieces could be applied all over his body, but Bautista said he had few qualms about the process.
It enabled him to silently focus on his internal transformation, while the makeup team worked on his outward appearance.
“It felt like I had a tight shirt on, oddly enough because Drax doesn’t like shirts,” Bautista said. “They had this little perch that I would lean on, then they had these two big sticks with tennis balls on them. There was a five-minute period where I would lay down where they needed to put a certain piece on my back… I was always looking forward to that five minutes.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” Bautista continued. “I’m kind of a zen person. I would try to close my eyes when they started and try not to open them until they were finished. I just felt like I closed my eyes, I wasn’t Drax; I opened my eyes, I was Drax. Once they put the contacts in, all sense of Dave Bautista was gone.”
Perhaps surprisingly, mastering Drax’s unique speech pattern proved more challenging. The character takes everything said to him in an entirely literal fashion — leading to some especially humorous interchanges with his compatriots — and he also favors more formal language, a departure for Bautista.
“I ramble a lot, I’m a rambler,” he said. “I don’t have the best grammar, so it was a bit of a stretch for me. There was a line in there, it’s one simple word, but it’s where Drax goes, ‘Behold.’ I’ve never said, ‘Behold,’ in my life. I’m 45 years old, and I’ve never used the word ‘behold.’ It was really challenging for me to get that one word out… He refers to Chris [Pratt's character Peter Quill] as ‘companion,’ it’s an odd thing.”
Rather than immerse himself in Marvel lore or exhaustively study Abnett and Lanning’s work, Bautista said he relied on the massive sets that were constructed in London (the Kyln, the space prison where the Guardians meet, stood three stories high and required more than 100 tons of steel to build) to give himself up to the space adventure.
“What I did to prepare was just open my mind up,” he said. “I’ve been working with an acting coach for a while, and that’s always what he’s kind of encouraged. Know your lines, otherwise, have an open mind because you want to get lost in the moment. When you have talented actors and directors to work with, then it’s pretty easy to do. The sets were so massive, there were so many extras, so many costumes, it’s pretty easy to believe you’re in a different universe.”
Despite its oddball trappings, “Guardians” is on track to earn at least $65 million in its opening weekend at the box office, and early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive — which perhaps helped convince Marvel to already announce the sequel, which is set to open July 28, 2017.
Bautista said he was struck watching the completed film for the first time by the sense of wonder it inspired and the camaraderie among the characters.
“At first, I was watching my performance and I was unhappy with it, and somewhere I kind of got sucked in as a fan,” he said. “I lost touch that I was actually in the film. I wasn’t watching my performance, I was watching a group of these a’holes save the galaxy. It was awesome. I loved it. I was hooked. I was emotionally invested in these guys… They don’t particularly like each other in the beginning. Not at all, but by the end of the film, they’re family and they’re willing to put their lives on their line for each other and other people. They’re not selfish anymore.”
– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex
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