The Awesome Unpredictability of Dave Bautista

The former WWE wrestler-turned-actor is full of surprises.
By  · Published on January 9th, 2019

Dave Bautista is a fascinating fellow. Just when you think he’s settled into a groove, he’ll accept a role in a project that promises to be quite unique, hotly anticipated, and unlike any of his other movies. At least that’s the case with the latest movie he’s joined anyway, and it’s one that will undoubtedly give him the chance to make another positive impression on moviegoers.

Variety has reported that Bautista has joined Denis Villeneuve’s Dune reboot, which reunites the pair following 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. The movie, which has been described as “Star Wars for adults” by the director, is quite an exciting project. The literary source material has a harrowing history when it comes to adaptations, but Villeneuve is as good as any modern filmmaker you’ll find, and I’m sure he’ll do it justice.

That said, casting Bautista has made me even more pumped to see this movie. He was really impressive in Blade Runner 2049, and working with Villeneuve again will bring out the best in the former WWE star-turned-actor. Even though he’s already starred in a heady Villeneuve sci-fi flick before, Dune could showcase a new side to the actor that could potentially see him ascend the Hollywood ladder even further. He’s no stranger to space adventure movies, but Dune will be unlike his previous forays into the genre.

As a fan of pro wrestling, I always watch grapplers make the leap to acting with a keen curiosity. Unfortunately, their success as sports entertainers has rarely translated to their acting endeavors. Even some of wrestling’s biggest and most charismatic stars of all time — Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper — have been relegated to the realms of B-grade fare when they switched careers. Dwayne Johnson, John Cena, and Bautista are rare exceptions who’ve found considerable success in both. In all honesty, though, I doubt anyone ever expected Bautista to turn out as great as he has.

Of course, this had nothing to do with Big Dave’s ability as an actor. Most of the biggest stars in wrestling are more than able to convincingly portray characters and give compelling performances. Wrestling is essentially simulated combat rooted in soap opera, after all. However, Bautista’s early roles consisted of cheap WWE Studios-produced action movies like Wrong Side of Town, which starred rapper Ja Rule and fellow wrestler Rob Van Dam. One could be forgiven for assuming underwhelming WWE movies would have have been his bread and butter, given that movies like that are the norm for wrestlers. Fortunately, he moved on quickly.

A few years later, though, something amazing happened. In 2014, he starred in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy as the loveable brute Drax the Destroyer. His performance was arguably the greatest highlight of Marvel’s space opera, too. That movie was a real breakthrough moment for his career. On top of the universal visibility that’s guaranteed when you star in the MCU, playing Drax also showed that Bautista was an excellent comedic performer who could showcase some emotional depth. As goofy as the Drax character is, he is also burdened with inner turmoil. Bautista has conveyed these nuances of the alien’s character superbly.

Following Guardians, he joined the James Bond universe as the silent and intimidating villain Mr. Hinx in SPECTRE. The notable part of his performance here is that it’s dialogue-free, yet the character is a standout in the movie due to his physical prowess and intimidation factor. If you want an actor to play such a role, Big Dave is your man. And as far as henchman characters are concerned, Hinx is a damn good one thanks to Bautista’s undeniable presence and monstrous persona. I’d love to see Bautista cast as the main villain in a tentpole franchise movie, but landing a memorable role of any kind in a Bond film is no small feat.

Someone of Bautista’s size and tough guy edge could easily be typecast in these types of tough guy roles. It’s unsurprising that most of the films he’s starred in have been action movies, though he has a tendency to pick some good ones. If you look through his filmography, you’ll find a couple of the best hidden gems in recent memory. Bushwick, where he plays the lead, is an outstanding survival thriller about a Second American Civil War breaking out in a borough of New York City. The film is an unsubtle allegory of the divided political climate, and it approaches its outlandish premise with gritty realism and stone-faced sincerity. Elsewhere, he was the hero in the incredibly fun and silly 2018 Die Hard clone Final Score. In that one, he rides a buggy through the corridor of a British soccer stadium. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

Of course, not every movie has been the best representation of his talent. Many would argue that an actor of Bautista’s growing star power and ability is above playing secondary characters in questionable movies like Kickboxer: Vengeance and Enter the Warrior’s Gate. Still, his willingness to lend his talents to movies like those only makes him more unpredictable and exciting.

As for his upcoming roles, they include a mixture of Marvel, action comedies, and family films. No one really needs to say anything else about Avengers: Endgame, which is due out in a few short months. Stuber, which is about a detective who recruits an uber driver to help him stop crimes, also looks like it will provide some entertaining hijinx. My Spy will mark his The Pacifier/Kindergarten Cop moment, as he plays a tough law enforcer tasked with protecting a child, only to find that the girl is more of a challenge than fighting criminals. Finally, he’s also re-teaming with Sylvester Stallone for Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station, and that’s bound to bring the macho bravado.

Dune and Escape Plan 3 are also further examples of the sense of loyalty and respect for colleagues that motivates Bautista’s career choices. He has a tendency to stick with collaborators he’s worked with in the past. As his well-publicized reaction to Gunn’s firing from Marvel over some jokes proves, he actually cares about his colleagues and will go to bat for them when they need some support. However, this loyalty extends way beyond his most notable output as well; he’s worked with director Steven C. Miller more than once, and those films are among some of his lesser-known efforts.

All in all, Dave “The Animal” Bautista is a great actor and an even better human being. One day, I hope to see him cast as the lead in a massive studio movie and become the big box office attraction he has the potential of being. At the same time, I hope he never stops taking on roles of smaller stature that are fun and sometimes baffling. Perhaps a few more sophisticated and challenging parts going forward will open more doors for him. Nevertheless, he’s a talent worth watching, and I’m sure his career has many more surprises in store for us.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.