Few people would have looked at Dave Bautista in his WWE days and thought he would go on to become as successful an actor as he is today. The former Batista, who officially retired from wrestling earlier this year after a final match at WrestleMania 35, has a rideshare comedy with Kumail Nanjiani coming out soon and will be part of Denis Villeneuve’s adaption of Dune as well as the third movie in the Guardians of the Galaxy series.
In a panel at Denver Pop Culture Con, Bautista talked about how hard to he worked to get where he is now. He said that he first decided to pursue acting after he learned he was really bad at it (transcript from Wrestling Inc.):
I was horrible. I was with WWE at the time and I went and did a film. All I wanted to do was wrestle. I loved wrestling. I was obsessed with wrestling. I went in to do a film as a favor for a friend and I realized I was horrible. I was a horrendous actor. I was mortified and I wanted to prove that I could be better.
When Bautista became determined to pursue acting, WWE wouldn’t let him do it outside the company. This led to the multi-time world champion leaving the promotion, but that didn’t immediately propel him into the world of movie stardom.
I walked out on top. I was very comfortable. I was making a very good living and I walked out. Then I starved for three years. I went broke and lost everything. I couldn’t get a job. I said, ‘I will never go back to wrestling until I prove what I set out to prove that I could make it as an actor.’
By the time of his Guardians audition, Bautista says he had “gone broke and lost all my money from wrestling. Fortunately, this turned out to be his big break. He gives a lot of credit for that to director James Gunn.
I got an agent and my agent said, ‘I had to fight really hard to get you this audition. They didn’t want any pro wrestlers.’ I found one picture of Drax and I said, ‘That looks like me. I get this picture. I relate to this picture’. I went and read for Sarah Finn and did my audition. She said, ‘Is there any way you could come tomorrow and read for the director?’ That’s when I knew it was real…
I read for James Gunn and I could tell right away that he really wanted me to be Drax. James and I connected really fast. Where I was at in my life—when I say that James Gunn changed the direction of my life, not just my career, this is why I am so loyal to him. You’re going to get me emotional—I connected with him right off the bat.
Could one say that Bautista walked for miles inside a pit of danger to achieve what he has in his acting career? Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but it’s clear he took risks and worked hard to follow his passion, and doing that has now paid off.