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Dave Bautista thrilled to put mind, muscle into 'Galaxy' guardian Drax

Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:53:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2014 04:36:30 PM CDT
Dave Bautista in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Disney/Marvel Studios

Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer in "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Never mind the Transformers: There's definitely more than meets the eye with the pale-green, tattoo-covered strongman Drax the Destroyer in the new Marvel superhero action adventure "Guardians of the Galaxy" -- and the star who plays him, Dave Bautista, couldn't be any more thrilled over complexities of the time-honored comic book character.

Bautista, who made his mark in the past 15 years in the WWE and MMA, told me in a recent interview that he loves doing movies and being given the opportunity to play a flawed, emotional  character who walks the fine line between bad and good. After all, Bautista noted, playing such a dynamic role is something few actors get an opportunity to do.

"That was cool thing,  giving not only Drax, but all of the Guardians range. It just makes the characters that much more interesting. It was really cool to see that story because, really, at the beginning, they were all A-holes," Bautista said, laughing. "They're a bunch of misfits and definitely not Boy Scouts. But I think that's what makes them easy to relate to. They've all got baggage and chips on their shoulders. They don't even like each other, but at one point they all bind together for a greater cause other than focus on their own problems and issues with one another."

In "Guardians of the Galaxy" opening in theaters nationwide Friday in 2D and 3D, Bautista embodies Drax, a muscle-bound space warrior hell-bent on exacting revenge on Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a powerful, ruthless space villain who killed his wife and child.

Eloquent and sincere, yet sometimes maniacal and menacing, Drax, thankfully, is in good company. Deeply flawed like his fellow "Galaxy" outlaws -- Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) -- Drax is also willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good and willing to do whatever it takes to save the lives of billions of people if a mysterious orb they're trying to prevent from falling into the wrong hands.

The interesting thing about playing Drax for Bautista is that in real life, the actor says he's much like the character in terms of how he's perceived. Feelings are feelings, no matter what body possesses them, he said, and the fact that Drax is from another world is almost irrelevant.

"That emotion is what gives Drax his soul. He's not just a one-note strong warrior," Bautista explained. "When I compare him to me, it's like this: When you look at him you think one thing, but when you talk with him, you think another. A lot of times people want to slap a label on you. When you're with something like the WWE, they perceive you a different way, even though it's not true to who I am."

Of course, Drax's outer appearance is quite a bit more jarring, Bautista admitted.

"When you look at him, he's just scary," Bautista said, laughing. "He's scary, menacing and intimidating. But when you get to know his story, you learn that it all stems from the loss of his family. He really is heartbroken and not just out for revenge for the hell of it. He's really doesn't have anywhere else to channel that pain. "

Since the history of Drax's character in the Marvel comic book world dates back more than 40 years, Bautista said he had also had to weather the perception of diehard fans and their criticisms as the project was starting to come together. And while it appears the fan base has fully accepted him now, Bautista, 45, says that wasn't the case at first.

"There was a bit of backlash not only when it was announced that I had the role, but even before, when word got out that I was in the running for it," Bautista recalled. "When I was in the audition process, a lot of comic book fans who were not happy. They wanted a very serious, established actor playing their beloved Drax. Don't get me wrong. I wanted their approval. It means something to me. I'm a fanboy the same way they are. I want them to be proud and think that I did Drax justice."

These days, Bautista continues to enjoy the fun byproducts of being associated with the character, including the ultimate fanboy boy honor -- being turned into an action figure.

Of course, the burning question is, since Bautista has already had WWE action figures produced in his likeness,  will there be an ultimate showdown between one of those and his new Hasbro 6-inch figure of Drax? And if so, which figure has the upper hand?

"I have to go with Drax," Bautista said with a laugh. "At the end of the day he's a superhero – a knife-wielding superhero."

And the way it looks of things, there's bound to be more action figures of Bautista as Drax, especially considering the fact that in the film's end credits, it's announced that the "Guardians of the Galaxy" will return. Bautista said he's looking forward to playing the Drax once again, and if he gets his druthers, the Guardians will be seen even more in an extended sort of capacity.

"Marvel has so much material to work with, and so many interesting characters, superheroes and stories that a lot of times intertwine," Bautista observed. "Speaking just as a fanboy, I hope all these stories start intertwining. I'm looking forward to the sequel to see what happens to these characters from here. We're all speculating, but I think everybody wants to get a bigger look at ('Guardians' villain) Thanos and see what he's about. It's cool, man. It's fun."