If there is any cast member in “Guardians Of The Galaxy” whose work can be categorized as a genuine surprise, it's Dave Bautista.
I've actually spoken to him before this film, when we talked about his work in “The Man With The Iron Fists,” and he struck me there as a very thoughtful guy who has this warmth that may not be immediately apparent when his primary job is to beat the hell out of opponents in the wrestling ring.
Now that I've seen the finished version of “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” I'm prepared to say that Bautista is a serious actor, a genuinely gifted and funny performer who just happens to also be a gigantic dude who looks like he could kill you with his hands. There is a sweetness to him that comes through loud and clear in the movie, and there is also a tremendous comic timing that he has that is a big part of what makes him so special in the movie.
There are probably 50 different lines by Drax or reactions by him that I could bring up when talking about why Bautista's work is so good, but there's one beat in particular that I just couldn't get enough of. During a scene where they are crashing a spaceship, Drax is sitting behind Star-Lord, and he can't stop laughing, delighted by the destruction. It made me cackle in the theater, and Bautista told me it was something that developed on-set as they were shooting, not something that was originally scripted.
“It was one of those things that just sparked in James' mind. He told me to start laughing… and he told Chris to look back at me like I was crazy.”
It sounds like the longer version of that scene would have been hilarious. As it was, Bautista had a lot of time to get into the mind of Drax during the daily application of his make-up, which covers most of his body.
“It typically took about four hours to put on. It was really cool going in, zoning out, and it was just me, and then waking up and there was Drax.”
I think Bautista just bought himself a career with his work here, and I suspect filmmakers are going to try him in roles that they might not otherwise have before this, and that's a very good thing, indeed.
“Guardians Of The Galaxy” opens everywhere on August 1st.