When you ask around about Dave Bautista — talking to people who have worked with him, specifically — it becomes clear that he’s a very thoughtful guy. After shooting wraps, he likes to buy gifts for his castmates. And not just any gifts, but really personal things. Often, people on the receiving end of Bautista’s gifts get lunchboxes. Oh, yes, Bautista loves lunchboxes and has, by all accounts, a pretty amazing collection. So what Bautista will do is find out what a person likes, then get them a lunchbox that corresponds to that. It really is a very thoughtful thing to do. (Also, note to the cast of Knives Out 2, you might want to clear some space for your new lunchbox.)
Also, even in interviews, which I get the impression Bautista does not like (then again, who would?), he’s incredibly thoughtful (there’s that word again) with his answers. I’m not sure he’s capable of lying. Or, at the very least, he’s a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeves and lets the chip fall where they may. He’s a realist and he knows his age and he knows if he wants to achieve his goals as an actor, he has to make his move now.
He’s currently starring in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead (as a guy leading a team robbing a Las Vegas casino during a zombie apocalypse), which will be in theaters this weekend, then on Netflix the following week. Bautista chose Army of the Dead over his pal James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad for a couple of reasons. First, he’s the star of Army of the Dead. But maybe more importantly he wanted to start a relationship with Netflix. And that paid off with his recent casting in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out 2. And Bautista admits that probably doesn’t happen without Army of the Dead.
And then there’s Drax. Yes, Bautista tweeted the third Guardians movie would be his last because he’ll be 54. When I countered that Harrison Ford will be 80 when the next Indiana ones comes out, Bautista made it clear why that’s a different situation.
We have a mutual friend. When I told him I was talking to you today he said, “You’ve got to ask him about his lunchboxes!”
Yeah, I’ve been collecting lunchboxes since 2003. Yeah, [our mutual friend] also gave me a lunchbox. He threatened me once, and I can’t remember what he threatened me about, but he threatened to shit in one of my lunchboxes.
So isn’t one of the most valuable lunchboxes Superman fighting a robot? Do you have that one?
I do, yeah.
Yeah, I have that one.
That’s very impressive.
Yeah, I have some that are actually really pretty rare and hard to get. I don’t have a huge collection. I’ve seen collectors with much bigger collections. A lot of people are really focused on international collections or very obscure lunchboxes, and I just kind of focus on what I like and what I remember as a kid: TV shows that I loved, superheroes, stuff like that. And a few that are kind of rare that are hard to get.
I have one lunchbox. I have The Fall Guy. It’s worth like seven dollars.
I think I have a The Fall Guy around here somewhere, but it’s pretty beat up. But I do have both original Six Million Dollar Man lunchboxes that are just pristine, brand new, tags and everything. When I wrapped on James Bond, I gave Sam Mendes a James Bond lunchbox and he just looked at me like I was ridiculous. He says, “Oh, I’m going to put that on my mantle, right next to my Oscar.”
Did that discourage you or encourage you to keep giving lunchbox gifts?
No, no. I don’t care. It’s kind of a gift of love from me. On Guardians 2, I gave everybody lunchboxes and I tried to find out what their favorite lunchboxes were or what their favorite cartoon shows were. I gave Zoe Saldana a Charlie’s Angles lunchbox.
See, I find this very thoughtful because you have to find out something about every person and then give them something just for them.
Yeah. I think so, but I don’t know, I’m biased.
I read your quote about why you did Army of the Dead versus Suicide Squad. And you mentioned creating ties with Netflix. With the news you’re going to be in Knives Out 2, does Knives Out 2 happen for you without you taking Army of the Dead?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t know what the real answer to that is. There’s a part of me that would hope so, but I’ve made certain moves in my career that have been intentional, in the hopes that they would lead me someplace. Like when I switched agencies. I switched agencies, not because I had a bad agent, I loved my agent. We had a personal relationship and he was a real friend, but I felt that I had outgrown the agency I was with and I left about a year and a half too late and I missed a couple of projects. And I wanted to be at a bigger agency where I would be introduced to more filmmakers and be packaged into films and projects and have that take off. So my intention in building a relationship with Netflix was so I’d be in the mix. I’d be in the conversations with Netflix and I’d have kind of a home where I could go and pitch projects and they’d already be familiar with me, my work ethic, what I have to offer. So, I think, I hope that I would have gotten the part otherwise. I mean, even if I hadn’t been kind of already a family member at Netflix. But the truth is, probably not.
So, I’m kind of in the mix and I have other projects with them as well. Definitely, it was the right move. It still bothers me because I had to make that call to change. But still, I believe that it was the right move.
I only ask this because of your tweet the other day about you only want to play Drax in one more Guardians movie because you’re going to be 54. Your movie career started later than a lot of people’s movie careers start…
Do you feel more of an urgency? That you have to do the things you want to do and don’t have the time frame maybe someone who started acting when they were 20 has?
No, it’s more of a desperation. I constantly feel like I’m under a time crunch because I’m aging. And also, there’s going to be a point in my life where I just want to be home. I don’t want to be on the road anymore and I don’t want to be traveling anymore. I’ve kind of paid my dues out there on the road. But also, I’m fighting to stay in shape. It’s becoming harder and harder. And things like that, being in the entertainment business and aging, I mean, it’s a rough thing. You’re going to have 100 other, 1,000 other, 10,000 other actors and entertainers lined up right behind you to take your place. It’s how it is. It’s just being realistic. My journey has come full circle with Guardians. When James Gunn is done, I’m done. Drax will live on, but I’m going to be done.
Well, James did retweet your tweet and say there’s no Drax without you.
Right. Well, that’s a personal sentiment and that’s coming from a very good friend. And also, I think this will be it for him as well, so we’re kind of wrapping up this journey. But the character’s not going anywhere and they can revamp him and reboot him all day long, which I believe that they should. I would love to see it personally, as a fan. I would love to see them do Drax’s story justice because it’s such a great story. And I believe that if there’s somebody that can step in and put a whole different twist on it and play Drax, then it would just be a different look, but it’s a possibility and something I’d like to see personally as a fan.
Well, reading between the lines of what you were saying about taking Army of the Dead, it did feel like you were basically saying, “Look, Suicide Squad would have been fun, but it’s a supporting role, and if I’m going to make my move and be the star of a movie, I’ve got to be the star of a movie.”
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to do. It is very hard to get out of your comfort zone. It’s hard to take a chance on yourself. It really is. It’s terrifying. You don’t really get ahead if you don’t. I mean, you can’t always play it safe. Sometimes you’ve got to take that risk. And it was a risk for me because I knew Suicide Squad was going to be successful. It’s going to be a huge movie.
We all know it’s going to be a blockbuster. It’s already got a built-in fan base, the cast is incredible, director is incredible. But I really had to just kind of gamble on myself, which I made a habit of doing throughout my career. And sometimes it paid off and sometimes it hasn’t. But, still, I feel like I’ve gotten ahead because I’ve gambled on myself, I’ve believed in myself, and I’ve gone with my heart.
Speaking of gambling on yourself, your role in Blade Runner 2049 really hit me and it hit a lot of people. You put yourself out there with that one. It was a role that made people think, oh, he can do anything.
Well, I mean, I didn’t feel like I could do anything. That was the opportunity that I was looking for because I don’t get offered roles like that a lot. At that point, nobody was offering me roles like that. It was hard for people to see past my physicality and see that I actually wanted to… I used to tell people when I was just coming up, even after I got Drax, I was like I just really want to do some acting. I want to be a better actor. I want to do some drama. People would kind of giggle at me. My agent at that time, he really didn’t understand me, and it was kind of that small, little role in Blade Runner that just opened up some eyes and people started looking at me differently.
You conveyed so many different emotions in the screen time you had. There’s a lot going on with that character.
Thank you. Thank you. It did, it opened up a lot of doors for me and it afforded me the opportunity to build a relationship with Denis Villeneuve.
Oh, did it really? That role in particular got you more roles?
Yeah. And I think there are still some people, maybe not so many now, but I think there are still some people, at that time, who didn’t really know me. Who might not have even thought that I was capable of doing a job or playing a part. There’s a bad stigma that comes along with professional wrestling and I think sometimes people are worried about bringing that to their film set. They don’t know if I’m going to be an arrogant prick or I’m just going to be Mister Full-of-Testosterone and come in and just be kind of a dick on set.
Right. Or giving the Roddy Piper scream the whole time.
[Laughing] Yeah! I think there is some of that that just comes along with the background of professional wrestling. But I think I’ve shaken it at this point. I hope I have.
Though, I will point out, when you mentioned getting older, Harrison Ford is going to be 80 when the next Indiana Jones comes out. He’s somewhere laughing at you going, “Oh, 54. Yeah, okay, buddy.”
Yeah. But it’s fucking Harrison Ford!
He’s Harrison Ford!
So with Knives Out 2, how does that work? Do they just come to you and go, “We want you,” or do you meet with Rian Johnson? How did that work out?
Yeah. It was both of those. It came to the attention of my agency. I think the first thing was the conversation with Rian and we got on really well. He knew I was super excited to meet him. And then we had a great conversation, really about everything else other than Knives Out. And then he said, “Man, you know, I’d really like to send you the script.” He sent me the script and I read it and I loved it. Then it was the conversation with my agent and I was like, “Man, I really want to be in this. I really want to be in it.” So they just started pursuing it and it was another conversation with Rian, and then they offered me the part.
So you read the whole script? Because last time we spoke you told me that you don’t like reading the whole script because you don’t want to be spoiled. And Knives Out 2 is maybe the most “spoiler” movie possible.
Yeah. I did read the script. And the reason I read it is because Rian wanted to talk to me about the script. So yeah, I read the full script so we could have an in-depth conversation about the full script. But typically I don’t, especially if I’m in a smaller part.
Are you sad you don’t get to see it all play out now?
Yeah! A little bit. A little bit. Yeah, I’m a fan and I love films and I loved the first Knives Out. I’m a fan and I don’t want the spoilers, man. I want to go to the movies and kind of be surprised. I guess that’s just who I am. I love films, man. I love films and I love television.
That’s all I have, but I’ll make sure to bring up to our mutual friend that he threatened to take a shit in your lunchbox.
Fucker. All right. It was a pleasure, man.
‘Army of the Dead’ will be in theaters May 14th, and hits Netflix on May 21st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.