Guardians might have saved him

Dave Bautista is thrilled with his move from wrestling, says Charles Mi­randa

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

AF­TER two dozen takes on the same one­minute scene on a packed film set an hour west of Lon­don, you might ex­pect Dave Bautista to be a bit tired and griz­zled.

But the man- moun­tain ac­tor is grin­ning from ear to ear and springs off set be­tween takes to an­nounce “this is a dream come true”. And no, he is not be­ing sar­cas­tic. He may be wear­ing con­tacts, false teeth and a neck- to- waist pros­thetic torso and has had to re­peat the same line in an alien- es­que gut­tural voice for more than an hour, but the 44- year- old Amer­i­can couldn’t be hap­pier.

Just as well. Every­one has seen what hap­pens when the for­mer six- time world cham­pion pro­fes­sional wrestler gets an­gry.

But af­ter his suc­cess­ful switch from wrestling to act­ing he says he doesn’t care what he has to do, as long as it’s on set.

“I can’t de­scribe it, it’s a dream come true and it’s some­thing I not only wanted but I needed,” Bautista says.

And now he has been in Guardians Of the Galaxy, the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Marvel Uni­verse that also in­cludes the Iron Man, Thor, Cap­tain Amer­ica and Avengers fran­chises.

It has been a rocky road for the for­mer bad boy of wrestling, but he’s now happy.

Wash­ing­ton- born Bautista is glad to ad­mit he is in a bet­ter place than an early child­hood when he lived in poverty and was steal­ing cars by 13.

He be­came es­tranged from his par­ents and lived on the streets be­fore be­com­ing a night­club bouncer. But he was then charged and con­victed of an as­sault on two pa­trons and sen­tenced to one- year pro­ba­tion.

He was al­ready body­build­ing when he joined the ju­nior ranks of pro­fes­sional wrestlers. Within two years he was asked to join World Wrestling Entertainment as a vil­lain­ous en­forcer and by 2005 had won his first world heavy­weight cham­pi­onship.

His pop­u­lar­ity as a wrestler was sealed. By 2010 he was earn­ing a small for­tune when a friend asked whether he would be in a small movie role. He loved it and wanted to do more, but his con­tract was held by WWE. “I re­ally just fell in love with it,” he re­calls. He asked if he could do more but his WWE mas­ters said no and he threat­ened to re­sign. They sensed a ploy to get more money and on the eve of his con­tract ex­pir­ing, they of­fered him a huge new deal. He wasn’t bluff­ing.

“My last day there, there was no cel­e­bra­tion or any­thing, I just walked out the side door by my­self, no­body said good­bye to me and I took a gam­ble,” he says.

“When I left I had no sup­port from them at all. So I had to pound the pave­ment, au­di­tion af­ter au­di­tion and try to find parts and it wasn’t easy. Over the last few years I’ve been mak­ing very lit­tle money.”

Af­ter a cou­ple of small roles in straight- to- DVD flicks, in 2012 he got a small role in Man With

the Iron Fists, star­ring Rus­sell Crowe. The movie was widely panned, but he was not daunted and next landed a role in Vin Diesel’s science- fic­tion ac­tioner, Rid­dick. Then he was of­fered the role in Guardians

Of the Galaxy, this time as a “good guy” named Drax the De­stroyer. The ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated movie ver­sion of the cult comic fol­lows a bunch of ex- con mis­fits who join forces to de­feat a greater evil and stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Sal­dana.

Bautista said he cried “like a baby” when he was of­fered the part, but more out of frus­tra­tion and the anti- cli­matic exit from wrestling.

“I needed this part,” he says. “I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out not mak­ing the money and pound­ing the pave­ment when my years for wrestling were run­ning out.”

Like his lat­est char­ac­ter, his says he has turned his life around.

“Here on set I do feel like Drax,” he says. “I do feel like a su­per­hero.”

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