Dave Bautista, the six-time world heavyweight wrestling champion turned actor, had many career highlights in his days with World Wrestling Entertainment. He’s one of the longest reigning (282 consecutive days, 2005-06) WWE champions of the 21st century and defeated many formidable opponents including Triple H, John Cena and Randy Orton, and was a two-time winner of the annual Royal Rumble.
From acting in several direct-to-video projects, Bautista was then cast in small roles in the RZA kung fu tribute film The Man With The Iron Fists and the sci-fi actioner Riddick, before rocketing into the stratosphere with his acclaimed turn as the vengeance-driven Drax the Destroyer in Marvel’s 2014 smash hit Guardians Of The Galaxy.
And now he’s menacing James Bond as the well-tailored Mr Hinx in Spectre, the latest instalment of one of the world’s most popular film series – quite a rocketship ride for a man who describes himself as a novice actor.
“I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet,” says the modest Bautista, 46, while doing press rounds for the 007 film in London. “I just saw the film for the first time the other night, and it’s one of those things where you wait to see how people respond, you know, with the recognition and stuff. I don’t think it will change me because I live a very simple life.
“Although Guardians was extremely successful worldwide, I didn’t get a whole lot of facial recognition because I was so heavily made up. My fans from wrestling knew, but most other people, the movie fans, wouldn’t make the connection (that he’s the guy from Guardians).”
Bautista, who is of Filipino-Greek parentage, was relatively late to the pro wrestling scene, making his debut in WWE’s affiliate Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2000 at age 31. Did he see his career heading down this path 15 years ago?
“At that point, every day I was just worried that I was going to get fired!” he laughs.
“Even when I got my call-up to be on (WWE) TV, I was in this awful gimmick (as Deacon Batista, an enforcer for Reverend D’Von). I really was day-to-day worried if I was going to keep my job or not.
“I wasn’t really thinking about success, I was just trying to keep my job. It was stressful, WWE isn’t an easy life, it’s rough – you earn your keep, (but) you’re expendable. And you always keep that in the back of your mind. No matter who you are, you’re expendable. As soon as you drop off, someone takes your spot and the show continues.”
1. How would you relate the lessons you learned in WWE to acting?
Logistically, everything else compared to the WWE is a piece of cake. It’s like super-easy. The schedules are easier, the travel, the workload, and also I’ve found through my lessons with WWE, in dealing with people, you treat them with respect, treat your crew members as equals.
It seems (in films) there’s a separation a lot of the time, between actors and crew members. With the WWE there’s no separation, we’re one big team, we work together every day, all year long. So I don’t have that separation factor, I treat people equally and it’s worked out to my benefit.
I think people respect it and appreciate it. So I think I bring a different attitude, being on the grind with everybody else and being a member of the team.
2. What were your initial feelings when you landed the Spectre job?
There were a lot of different feelings. First and foremost I was excited, a little overwhelmed, you know … it’s like a bittersweet thing when you get something that you want so bad, but then you also know that you’re going to be leaving everything and everyone you love for eight months.
It’s rough for me because I’m a homebody, I don’t go out much. For me to leave the people I love, my familiar surroundings, it’s always a tough thing. But mostly, just excitement.
3. How did you flesh out the role of Mr Hinx?
I never really developed a back story for him – I kind of just followed direction, I knew the kind of character that Sam (Mendes, the director) was looking for. I knew the kind of aura that he wanted the character to project, I was familiar with that.
Sam did say he was looking for an iconic, memorable henchman without specifically referencing a previous villain. When you look at Hinx, he’s somewhat a hybrid of Oddjob (Goldfinger) and Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) but he’s faster, stronger, just … more.
He’s almost like the Terminator. That’s the best way I can describe him – very much like the Terminator.
4. You must get offered a particular type of role a lot. What sort haven’t you been offered, that you’d like to do?
Yeah, absolutely. We turn a lot of stuff down … now we’ve got good projects to be choosy about. I’m getting offered smart roles, not just as the musclehead.
I’d like to think I could do a role where I just play a dad. Maybe a romantic comedy, even if I’m not the lead, just a character in it … any type of dialogue-driven film.
I’m a huge fan of Guy Ritchie, and when I say Guy Ritchie I mean the ones like Snatch, RocknRolla, those films. Anything with (Quentin) Tarantino or (Martin) Scorsese – I’m real big on storytelling, man.
5. In WWE, you touched many lives through charity work. Does acting give you the same opportunities?
Not as much as WWE, to be honest. And that’s a tribute to WWE. I don’t think people realise how much charity work they do and how much they are in touch with the community, how they like to get out there and make their superstars accessible to anybody in need.
If I do stuff like that now, it’s almost like people are reaching out to us to do it. I try to use my social media for protection of animals, it’s huge with me. I would do anything for children.
I think I can really make a difference in a position as a worldwide celebrity and no longer just a WWE superstar. I want that responsibility. Something like that would not be a burden to me – it would be a pleasure.
Spectre is currently showing at cinemas nationwide. For GSC showtimes, turn to P17.
5 Questions With Dave Bautista