Editor’s note: This is the second in a weeklong series of interviews from an April visit to the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 … now just three short months away.
You’re standing in line for the buffet lunch on the shooting set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, queued behind a small corps of fellow shambling movie journalists, when you feel a presence standing — nay, looming — directly behind you.
You dare to turn and look. Gulp.
Yep. It’s Drax the Destroyer.
And not just Dave Bautista, the 6’6″, 290-pound former pro wrestler who plays the sweetest, most naive murderous madman in the known universe. It’s Bautista, shirtless, in full gear and body makeup, an impressively detailed and lifelike brocade of green paint and raised red tattoos that look like they were carved into his skin. Even up close, under the harsh fluorescent light of this makeshift cafeteria, it looks so. frickin’. real.
So yeah. It’s actually Drax the Destroyer.
“Um, don’t you get line-jumping privileges or something?” you meekly ask, stepping aside to let this mountain of a man pass lest he get hangry and eat you.
“Nah man, it’s cool,” he says. “I’m cool to wait.”
Yes. Yes he is, in fact, cool to wait.
As it turns out, Bautista is probably the coolest dude you will ever meet in a lunch line who can also remove your head with his bare hands.
He cracks wise about the makeup — tells you conspiratorially his new trick is to take a sauna at the end of the day, so it just melts off — and bemoans his temporary diet restrictions. A chicken breast and broccoli for lunch. Drax gotta keep it tight until this shoot is wrapped.
A little later in the day, Bautista sits down for a speed-round of questions from the visiting press. He smiles and chuckles and shakes his head a lot. He gushes like a fanboy about working with Kurt Russell. Like his castmate Pom Klementieff, he upholds the Marvel cone of silence as reporters batter him with clever gotcha questions.
And yes, he’s still in full makeup. Of course that was the first thing he’s asked about, spoiling your sauna scoop.
Have they made it any easier on you with the makeup for the sequel?
It’s so easy, you wouldn’t believe it. I’m not kidding. It takes like an hour and a half now. The last one, they got it down to four hours and everyone was celebrating. This, literally they attack me with paint rollers all over. And it looks better too. It looks way better.
Is it just more people?
They just have a completely different process. It took some testing. The problem was it goes on really great and it looks really great, but it’s really hard to get off. They came up with this idea: they stick me in a sauna at the end of the day [laughs]. They literally have to melt it off of me. That was the thing, because during the test we found out it’s so abrasive they literally have to scrub it off of me. So after two days, my skin was like hamburger. So they came up with the sauna thing, and I literally have a portable sauna that travels around with me.
After the original film, it came out that people with autism deeply related to Drax. Is that impacting you with the character?
That would be a question more I think for James [Gunn, the director]. He writes for Drax and he has a great time doing it [laughs]. I thought about it a lot. It’s really a cool thing. It’s really kind of hard to describe. But it kind of just feels good when you can influence anybody in a positive way, that you’re being a positive role model for somebody. It’s a good feeling, it’s a really good feeling, but I try not to read into it too much because I just don’t want to put that pressure on myself. … I try not to read into that stuff too much, because then I’d have to be really worried about any role that I ever played. I’d have to be worried about when I play a bad guy or I play a scumbag.
It seems like Drax finds a kindred spirit in Mantis. Can you talk about their relationship?
No. I don’t know how much has been disclosed. Obviously Mantis is in this film. For the sake of my job, we should kind of leave it at that right now.
We heard that at the beginning of this film, the Guardians are very full of themselves and very cocky. Does Drax buy into that? What are his feelings about it?
There may be somewhat of a sense of self-righteousness to Drax, but no. I’ve always described Drax as at the heart of Drax there’s really just a heartbroken guy. He’s really heartbroken over the loss of his family. I think he has one mission, and that is revenge.
Does he still talk about going after Thanos? Does he want the team to focus on that at all?
Mmm. Hmm. Yeah. You know … [hedges] That’s a real touchy subject. I think everybody knows from the first film that’s always going to be his mission. That is the reason he is living right now. But yeah, we’ll kind of just leave it at that for now.
We know towards the beginning of the movie the Guardians split up. Where does Drax fall into that?
We’re family at this point. I’d have to disagree with that point. We don’t really go our separate ways at all. We’re very much, I think, a family at this point, as we left off in the last film. I think we pick up right where we started. I think that will be fair to say. There’s not really division amongst us. I think we all have the same mission.
Has your character evolved in terms of the fighting styles? Any weapons?
No, I think if I can say that he has evolved at all, I think that he’s just more prominent in this film. I think James [Gunn] really just found such an amusement to Drax. An amusement for writing for Drax. He’s just more prominent in this film, which is great for me, and he may have developed a bit more faith in me as well. I was still kind of the new guy on set with the last film. I kind of pulled my weight, and he’s developed even more faith in me, so he’s written for me more. That’s just my take on it.
What’s it like working with Kurt Russell?
It’s pretty great, man. [laughs] It’s pretty great. It was weird. I felt like such a fanboy. The first day, I was like, “I’ve got to ask you about this, man: How do you feel about the Rock being cast as Jack Burton?” And he was like, “Yeah, great.” I wanted to hear the opposite: “I think it’s shit. I think it’s shit casting, man. They cast the Rock as Jack Burton, I just don’t agree. Like, Chris Pratt to me is Jack Burton, but that’s the fanboy in me, man. I take things like that personally. [laughs] But he doesn’t take that personally at all. He’s like, it’s the character you’re portraying, now it’s time to move on. Next character. But yeah, a lot of Snake Plissken stories going around, stuff like that. Constantly bugging him about what we want to know. It’s kind of weird to meet people that grew up in films who are still in touch with reality. I’ve met a few people and they’ve been sheltered their whole life and just totally out of touch, and Kurt is not like that at all. He’s like super down to earth and just a real dude and real friendly to everybody, and that’s kind of cool to see, because I’ve seen the opposite.
What does Drax think about Baby Groot?
[laughs] I don’t think Drax and The Tree are ever going to get along. Just always going to be at odds with each other. It’s like that sibling rivalry, it’s what it feels like to me.