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While the biggest draw to ARMY OF THE DEAD may be its director, Zack Snyder, the international cast is also something that will no doubt appeal to a diverse amount of viewers, including such names as Hiroyuki Sanada, Ana de la Reguera, Samantha Win, Ella Purnell, Garret Dillahunt, Theo Rossi, Nora Arnezeder, Omari Hardwick, Matthias Schweighofer, Raul Castillo, Tig Notaro and, of course, Dave Bautista, who leads this pack of “Los Vengeance” into the zombie fray. Bautista has certainly achieved household recognition, be it as a professional wrestler or the lurking goofball that is Drax The Destroyer in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, but his ambitions seem to go much deeper than just being the big badass that he is.
While on the set of Army of the Dead, Bautista seemed relaxed, yet still eminating an air of intensity. Soft spoken, but with a deep voice that sometimes feels like a whisper, Bautista, decked out and kitted up for action (shooting the wire-work scenes that day as he jumps from table to table firing at zombie attackers), the actor talked in-depth about his career, his ambitions to direct (and steal some tips for Snyder himself), the material he most wants to do (indie films and a TV series), his representation of the Filipino community (he’s half Filipino on his father’s side), why it’s hard to find dramatic work (take a guess), why he would’ve turned down the role had Snyder not been directing (understandable), the rehiring of James Gunn for Guardians 3 and, finally, how he felt about Drax not getting to kill Thanos (I mean, he DID kill Drax’s family).
It’s an interesting peek behind Bautista’s hardened shell and he comes off genuine, hungry and maybe even a little misunderstood in terms of how he’s being best utilized. One thing is for sure, though, and that’s that Bautista is excited to be where he is and working with a director that could potentially make him shine in a way he hasn’t before.
Q: Well, what’s the experience been like doing that as Zack Snyder zombie film.
Dave Bautista: It’s been, let’s just shorten that and say Zack Snyder film, because that was why I signed on, was to work with Zack. Because originally Zack and I had been working on another project we were trying to get done for like the last three years, which for one reason or another never materialized. And so Zack called me up one day and he said-cause I knew this film was happening. And I talked to him, we’re both at GA. So I’d been thrown my way a few times and I-sounded cool, but this wasn’t what I thought I was going to be working with Zack on. Anyway, he called me and said he had written another part that he wanted me to do, actually it was the Vanderohe part. And he said, when he came down to casting, I’m trying to think of who Scott was. And he said Dave’s not Van, Dave’s Scott. So he called me up. I guess he had talked to them, Netflix already made sure that he approved and then call me up and offered me the part. And I took it, but that was why, because I wanted to work with Zack. I wanted to work with him for years and it’s really just so I can, um, so I can steal all his shit. I want to steal his stuff. I want to watch him work, cause he’s great. Like visually he’s, he’s a visual master and I wanted to, uh, get in and learn from him and steal his stuff. So I could go on and direct my films and take credit for his work. I’ll steal all his stuff and my films will look like his films.
Q: What were some of the things that you ended up learning then from him that you’ll take with you?
Dave Bautista: Just kind of camera tricks. And I also liked that he’s very much-Um, and I only know this because watching this documentary about Spielberg was one of those guys who visually was looking around and see something and runs and grabs the camera. He goes, let’s shoot it. Let’s shoot. And Zack is very much that way. Cause we’re shooting all this with, you know, a lot of natural light, mostly natural lighting. So they’ve only stuck like a little, a couple of light tubes in here and there, like very sparingly, but most of it’s all natural light. And so a lot of times he’s just catching things on the fly, which is it’s weird. It’s because it’s one of those things where our schedule is constantly changing because of that. But as well, you want to be flexible because you want to be a part of that at the same time. Sometimes it can get a little frustrating for schedules. It’s nice knowing what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You kind of prepare a little better. So it’s one of those things where we’re just on a lot of things on the fly. And sometimes, especially when we’re in the desert, the weather was changing, lights were changing or go on to something else or come back to the next day. It gets a little frustrating sometimes. And also the way a lot of his focus tricks are really, really unusual. Really unusual, but lead for a really interesting, interesting look on the characters, but also a really interesting look on the background. So, a lot of times because of the way he’s shooting, the background will almost become one of the characters. I mean, feels like it’s another person that it feels like it’s alive. So, I learned a little tricks here and there. It’s an interesting-it’s an artistic way to look at a zombie film. It’s different.
Q: Is that stuff that he keeps everyone clued in on or are you specifically looking over his shoulder?
Dave Bautista: No I don’t. I think he’s very open about it if you talk to him about it. But um, I think sometimes he’s just making it up as he goes to. It’s an artistic thing I think. And that’s, what’s good about it. I like that he’s picking up the camera and being an artist. Sometimes I think he even loses sight of the performance because he’s so concerned visually the way he’s creating things visually. Um, so it’s, it’s really, it’s an interesting process because we feel the actors that we’ve really kind of relied on each other every once in a while, as far as cause I think, Zack sometimes gets so focused on what he’s shooting and we’re, you know, as performers we’re concerned about our performances. We’re not, we don’t, we’re not looking through the camera. We’re not seeing the big picture. We’re just seeing our performances. Sometimes, I think Zack is so focused on everything else, every once in a while we’ve relied on each other for our performance. Does that make sense?
Q: With Scott [Ward], as a father, which is, I guess a little unusual, for a big crazy Zombie film. How is that being-?
DB: It’s weird. There’s so many different things in this film. There’s so many layers to this film. There’s a lot of relationship. There’s a lot of heartbreak in the storm, but there’s also-this. film is a lot more political than people realize. I think that’s being laid out right now politically. It’s very political. And it makes sense, it’s an element-but I think most people would just see as a zombie heist film, that’s what it is, but some people will pick it apart and. see the political.
Q: From your perspective, has there been more freedom to explore that angle with this being a Netfix movie as opposed to a big studio project?
Dave Bautista: Um, no. It feels like a big studio project to me. There’s, I think there’s been a lot of flexibility as far as performance, but I think, um, you know, I’ve sat down with Zack a few times where I kind of disagreed with what was in the script. and he’s explained to me why he felt strongly that it should be certain ways and at the end of the day he’s the director and I have to agree with him. But there’s been a few things where I thought, to me, they could’ve gone different routes. But, I think he’s got a vision in his head, he’s got a message in his head and at the end of the day he’s the boss.
Q: I remember there’s a long time ago when I was watching you on TV. And Eddie Guerrero called you “Bautista”. And that meant a lot to me. I think it meant a lot to Filipinos across the country. Now you’re Dave Bautista all the time and starring in the biggest movies on the planet. What does that mean to you to kind of be our guy on this side?
Dave Bautista: It’s weird. It’s so funny that you said that because I’m getting ready- my agent’s probably gonna have a cow- but I’m getting ready to get the stars front and center really big on my chest. [laughter]. That just speaks to where my pride is as far as being a Filipino and I’m, you know, I’m half Filipino, but I have basically, I grew up with my father’s side of the family. That’s what I know. And also I’ve never been embraced like I was when I went to the Philippines. So Filipinos embraced me and It means a lot to me, cause I want to be embraced, I want to represent something, I want to inspire people. So, it means a lot to me.
Q: Have you been lucky to work with some great directors filmmakers? Is that what’s driving your decisions most of the time?
Dave Bautista: Um, I don’t know if it’s driving my decisions, but I think it’s definitely, it’s. definitely my ambition-by choice. Zoe Saldana, um, early in my career said that that would be, that I should be careful directors that I work with. Be very picky and choosy about the directors. And that’s always in the back of my head. It’s always top of my list, I have kind of a list of directors that I want to work with and some that aren’t on my list, they come my way. First thing I do is I want to. be-I want to know what they’ve done, see what they’ve done, I’ll go back and I’ll watch it and see how they direct performances, how the performances are Performances are a huge deal to me. And also, you know, if they’re good storytellers, that means everything to me cause I think sometimes, if you have a film, performances could be great, I mean, there’s a lot of films, a lot of big superhero films where performances are great, but somewhere along the line, they lost track of the story and just made the movie shit. So I always keep that in the back of my mind. But definitely, yeah, directors are, I want to work with the best directors in the world, cause I want to be a director so I want to learn as a student of this.
Q: We were talking about Zack sort of giving feedback as you go and kind of letting performances go versus I know you worked with James Gunn who is also very interactive with you guys on set, how did the two of them compare as directors on set?
Dave Bautista: I think James would be much more, I feel like he’s much more involved with performance. I think. um, I have a lot more flexibility with Zack. Um, James is a control freak. Have you guys all met with him? He’s very much a control freak, um, Zack seems to-which I don’t mind, because he’s a great director. Like he’s a brilliant director and he’s a brilliant storyteller. So I’m okay to give myself to guys like that and I trust them. Zack just seems to be willing to give you much more freedom and flexibility. And you know, when he’s happy with something, because he’ll say cut a certain way, um, you can see him, he doesn’t, um, he doesn’t give you a whole lot of emotion, but he’ll look at you and he’ll like, shake his head and you can tell when he’s really happy with something. And every once in a while, I’ll feel like self-conscious or insecure. about my performance and I’ll go and I’ll ask him, ‘what do you think? do we need adjustments or anything?’ And he’s like, “No, it’s perfect.”.
So it’s like sometimes if you, like, with opposite guys like James Gunn, like I was giving this performance once and he was really upset, not because of the way I was performing. He was upset because where my eyes were looking. So he told me to pick a spot. I swear to God, pick a spot, focus on it and don’t move my eyes. And also like directors, like Denis [Villeneueve] very much, he has a vision and he doesn’t want you to sway from that vision. Um, which is really helpful for me, cause he’s brought out some really, I think, really strong performances in me that I didn’t think that I was capable of because he was directing me to go a certain way. Just, my small role in Blade Runner  guys showed up to do that role a certain way. When I got there, I realized that it was all wrong. Cause he had me do everything differently, down to the way I walked. And then I got so much love for that small role and I have to give credit to him cause of the way he directed me to perform. With all these guys they’re just really great at one thing-well, not one thing, because really, I think passionate about like certain things, we just kind of draw from them and learn from. them.
Q: As far as the next few years, what are you looking to do?
Dave Bautista: Television. Yeah. I want to do a television series. I’m dying to check that box. I really want to do-there’s something, a project I was pursuing for a long time and we just had this struggle to get it done. So, I’m looking at other projects right now. I do want to do a television project and then I have, uh, I think I have my bigger projects lined up, but I have my bigger projects lined up, but I wanted to just fill in those smaller things. I also still want to step back and do more independent stuff, which is also a struggle for me because I look like an action hero. A lot of times the deep, dramatic indie films don’t want to cast me. And I get it, my look is distracting, but at the same time those are the performances that I prefer. So, hopefully more indies; dramatic indies. And then a Television series.
Q: Why TV?
Dave Bautista: Well, there’s a few different reasons. I think TV is really a great way to learn because of the pace that they work at. I also think that I’ve always had this way that I thought to build myself as, as an actor goes for my career. And I think TV, when you’re face is up there every week, every week just builds your career. It makes you a valuable name. But I also want the challenge of just moving like that, just moving like that constantly, what you give them. Cause you got like a few chances to get these takes in and what you give them is what you’re stuck with. That’s your performance. And that was kind of something-that was the reason I took, um, I did a film called Pusher. It was a small film, but there were long, long takes. And it was really a challenge for me at the time, because the performance I gave on that take was the performance I was stuck with. And, I wanted that challenge, because I want to be a better actor. So, that’s it, I want the challenge and I also want to get my face out there and build my career.
Q: Got to find a showrunner you can trust.
Dave Bautista: Absolutely. We’re talking about one now. One that I’m very interested in. But, I want to make sure it makes sense, because it’s a 6-month commitment and I’ll be 51 when I do it, so I’m not getting any younger. So, giving up six months, it’s gotta make sense- Q: You look 30 DB: Thank you. [laughter] I have so much make-up on!
Q: Is there a specific genre you’d want to do for directing?
Dave Bautista: I just always lean toward drama. I just like drama. I have a couple of ideas of my own that I’d like to get done, but again that all goes back to being valuable. If you’re a valuable name you can get-people listen. If you walk into a room, people listen. So, I’m trying to build myself as an actor so people pay attention. Studios will listen. Producers will listen. If you can make them money, they’ll be willing to listen.
Q: If you do directing would you also do writing?
Dave Bautista: I would definitely collaborate. I’m not that person. I can give you an outline of a story, but to sit down and write out a whole conversation would take a long time. It would take forever and I’d overanalyze everything and it’d never be right. So, yeah, I’d rather give someone a storyline and say this is the first act, second act, third act, I know what I want this to be, I know what the end of this is, now let’s write this. I’d rather sit down with a qualified writer, somebody who’s educated in doing this, somebody who’s already proven, that would be my preference.
Q: You mentioned that you look like an action hero, which you do, so for a movie like this, is this like you just show up, put on the gear and you’re good to go or do you actually have to go through some training-?
Dave Bautista: No, I just show up without the gear and I was good to go.
Q: I mean, you look action-ready, so that’s what I mean-
Dave Bautista: And that’s what I mean. If Zack wasn’t directing this film, to be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. I probably would’ve passed. I’ve passed on a hundred movies along this vein. I probably would’ve said ‘nah, it’s another action guy’, I could care less. But, because Zack is directing, I said ‘hell yes, sign me up.’ But yeah, I showed up and I was ready. [laughter]
Q: You kind of showed up to this industry very used to telling a story with your body. Has that been an asset to you?
Dave Bautista: No, because I’ve tried to go the other route. Like, The Rock is a perfect example of someone who uses that strength, so I wanted to go against that grain and make everything much smaller, very subtle. I make a living off of subtlety. I want that to be my strength. I want that to be what separates us. I don’t want to be that guy who walks in that room, I never wanted to be that guy.
Q: Specifically, you and The Rock?
Dave Bautista: No, I don’t mean that as a dig on him, but you know how he is as a character. He feels very professional wrestling to me. I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be an actor. I want to act, I want people to judge me for my acting, my subtlety. I want to take roles that require that. I don’t want to be a big action guy who just says cool shit and kills a lot of people and gets the girl. I don’t want to be that guy. I want to guy that makes people cry, who makes people think, who inspires people. I want to be a dramatic actor. I just love it. I love acting.
Q: Theo [Rossi] was raving about your performance and said it was very unexpected, did you guys get to flex that?
Dave Bautista: I think so. There’s some pretty emotional beats that I’ve gotten to flex a little bit. And then there’s some cool action shit, too, where I just kill zombies. Which is also cool for me to, again, it goes back to me being the guy they expect me to be, but also being the guy they’ve never really seen me be. I haven’t done a whole lot of action stuff if you think about it. Even with my Marvel stuff, I’m not really known for my action in Marvel, I’m known for saying dumb shit [laughter]. So yeah, I think it’s kinda cool.
Q: In the concept art, we see you in your military gear, but also in a white cap and apron. Can you talk about that?
Dave Bautista: Well, so my dream-I’ve lost my American Dream. I had a food truck. And that was my dream. I just wanted to be my own boss and have a family. And when the zombie breakout happened it just all went to hell. So, after we contained the zombie breakout, I lost everything, including my family. And, I was working as a short-order cook in a crappy little purgatory.
Q: So, that taco truck was your taco truck?
Dave Bautista: It’s my taco truck. It once was. That was my American Dream. My dream now is, like, to have another truck, another restaurant, just go back to the way life was.
Q: You mentioned wanting to be a director and you were very vocal when James Gunn was taken off Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3. Now that he’s back, what’s your reaction to that?
Dave Bautista: Obviously, I’m happy. Ecstatic. But, also I think it’s a big statement for Disney to go back on a decision like that. Like, I think that’s a huge statement, a very political statement. It’s not something they needed to do, not at that point, but they basically stepped back and did the right thing and I think that’s a huge statement. So, not to sound condescending, but I’m very proud of Disney. I’m sure that wasn’t easy for them, because they’re basically admitting to the world they made a mistake, they’re wrong. But, also, what that statement says goes a long way. So, hopefully that’ll stop-I don’t know if it’ll stop, but maybe it’ll deter people from making rash decisions like that from the past and people will see political attacks like that for what they are, cause that’s all it was really. It was a political attack and it was a rash decision, it was a bad decision. It empowered really horrible people. So, I think for them to go back when they didn’t have to at that point was a huge step. I’m very proud of them.
Q: Also, to scratch that TV itch, in the Marvel world they’re doing a lot of Disney+ streaming-
Dave Bautista: Yeah, I was shocked. I got on my Twitter for a second and started to bash them for not making-like, not one Guardians [of the Galaxy] character got a TV show. Like, how does that happen? There’s so many interesting characters in that world. I just don’t get it. But, then I thought, I don’t know what they have in mind and I don’t know what they have planned, I get that they take all their marquee characters and they gave them shows, so I don’t want to take away from that just ‘cause I’m bitter that nobody from our series-honestly, if they offered me a series, I wouldn’t do it. Not a chance in hell would I do a TV series playing Drax. That is a make-up nightmare. I would be miserable. Yeah, that make-up isn’t fun. It’s awful, so I’m not gonna sign up to do a series where I’m in that make-up every day.
Q: Were you disappointed that Drax didn’t get to take his vengeance on Thanos personally [in Avengers: Endgame]
Dave Bautista: Yeah, I think everybody was. I said in interviews somewhere where that I wish Drax would’ve killed Thanos and I got all these people saying, ‘That doesn’t even make sense! How could you say that? Drax doesn’t deserve to get to kill Thanos!’ And I said it because there’s not a character in the Marvel Universe that doesn’t want to kill Thanos. Of course Drax wanted to kill Thanos. Everybody wanted to kill Thanos. So yeah, a little disappointed, cause I kinda take that whole storyline very personal. But, I think every character wanted to get their hands on Thanos. I have to say on the record that I love Josh Brolin [Thanos] to death. He’s actually one of my favorite people and by far one of my favorite actors. I love him. He’s such a brilliant actor. He’s overlooked way too much.
Army of the Dead blasts onto Netflix on May 21st, 2021.