Dave Bautista should have been a talk show host. In Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy," he played loose cannon Drax. However, at Bautista's Fan Expo Canada panel, the actor really worked the crowd and rolled with the punches. The challenges commenced immediately when there was no host for the event.
"We were not aware we were supposed to bring our own moderator," said Bautista, "so we're going to keep this real casual."
Immediately, two lines of fans formed on opposite sides of the stage. Surveying the distance between him and those lines, Bautista noted, "This is just kind of weird."
Pausing for a second, he said, "Is this my panel? Can I do what I want to do? I'm just going to come out and walk around."
Bautista took a moment to introduce his special guest star. His "co-host" was best friend and manager, Jonathan Meisner. The two have been pals since they were both 19-years-old.A few questions later, Meisner continued to venture into the crowd with a mic while Bautista plunked down on the edge of the stage.
The next fan touched on Bautista's two vocations. Even with prominent roles in "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Riddick" and "The Man with the Iron Fists," Bautista is well-known as professional wrestler and world champion, Batista. What does he consider career highlights from both of those worlds?
"For wrestling, it would be WrestleMania 23 with the Undertaker," Bautista said. "Movie-wise, 'Guardians of the Galaxy' by far. This was my breakout role. This was by far the biggest thing I've ever done."
The surprise catchphrase of the summer was from the tree-like Groot, who constantly repeated, "I am Groot." Naturally, a fan wanted to hear those three words from Bautista. Without hesitation the actor said, "I am Groot." Then, in a big, booming voice, Bautista bellowed, "We are Groot," which elicited a loud round of applause.
While fans have found plenty to love about "Guardians of the Galaxy," one of the good things Bautista felt came out of it was it broke a popular stereotype.
"I think sometimes people see characters like Drax as one-noted characters," Bautista said. "They are soldiers. They are warriors. That's all they see. That one-dimensional character, who just wants to kill everything in sight. I hope that people look beyond that and see that some of those characters have hearts and they have souls. This just popped into my head, but it's very much along the lines of Maximus from 'Gladiator,' where you saw him and he was that gladiator, that warrior, and then realizing how much he loved his family. He was just so heartbroken over the loss of his family. I hope people take that away from the character.
"It kinda sucks when you're a big guy and muscular and you look a certain way, so you get typecast in a certain role," he continued. "That's all they ever see you as. But, if you can actually take a big guy who is muscular and give him a heart, give him a soul, and put it on the film, that's a good thing for me and other guys."
One audience member was curious about Bautista's reaction when he initially read the "Guardians of the Galaxy" script. After all, it's not every day your co-stars are a talking tree and racoon.
"I went through the audition process, which took months," recalled Bautista. "I didn't actually get the script until I was given the part. Once I received a part, I got the script and couldn't wait to read it because I had no idea what I was getting into. I really loved Drax. I was given different stuff throughout the audition process. Little bits and pieces of Drax here and there, so I kinda got a sense of who he was. I really fell in love with the character.
"But I didn't know anything about 'Guardians,'" Bautista added. "I didn't know anything about the script. I didn't know how they were going to update it and portray the 'Guardians.' When I read the script, I was excited, relieved and proud. It was bigger than I thought it was going to be. I knew it was going to be big, just because it was Marvel. When I read the script, I knew it was going to be huge. If you've seen the film, you realize it's loving and it's touching and it's hysterical, and it read like that."
A nervous young girl asked if Bautista could change one thing in "Guardians," what would it be? "More Drax!" shouted one fan.
"There's a really good scene where Drax explains his tattoos and what they mean," said Bautista. "It will be on the DVD extras. It's a really heartbreaking scene and would have killed the momentum of the film. For selfish reasons, there are scenes I would have liked in there, but they just wouldn't have worked."
One rumor Bautista addressed was that he cried when he was cast as Drax.
"Cried is putting it lightly," said Bautista. "I literally broke down. Jonathan was on the phone with me. He was choked up too. I was actually driving when I found out. The first question that came out of my mouth was, 'Is there any way they can change their mind?' He said, 'No, you are Drax. You got the part.' I was like [sobbing noises]."
"Guardians of the Galaxy" was an action film with plenty of one-liners and zingers that had moviegoers laughing, but Bautista didn't hesitate to share which Drax wisecrack stood out for him.
"I think it would be the green whore line," Bautista said. "When Drax finally starts to redeem himself, he comes out with 'the green whore,' just to irk Gamora some more."
Bautista went on to recall that there was other funny dialogue and moments that didn't make the film's final cut.
"There was a scene in there where they explain why I don't like to wear shirts," he said. "Do you guys know the answer to this, to why Drax says, 'I don't like to wear shirts'? He doesn't like to wear shirts because he has sensitive nipples."
Next up, another audience member praised Drax's dry sense of humor and Bautista's comedic timing. Was Drax's amusing banter something that was specifically crafted for Bautista?
"No, no, no," said Bautista. "That was something director James Gunn specifically wrote for this character. I think that's why he [James Gunn] had such a hard time casting him. It's kind of true to my own personality. He paid me the biggest compliment. Once in the press tour, when we were talking about Drax, James Gunn said that he was really afraid that Drax was the one character that he was going to have to settle on, casting someone he wasn't happy about, until he saw me audition. He said it was just such a relief and he knew right off the bat that he wanted me for Drax. So no, that's James Gunn."
Two co-stars that certainly didn't need trailers or special treatment were Groot and Rocket Racoon, both of whom were created using computer animation. One attendee asked what it was like working with Rocket and Groot, considering they weren't there during filming. As it turns out, that was only partially true.
"It wasn't rough, and that was one of my first concerns," Bautista said. "Rocket's stand-in was played by Sean Gunn, who is James' brother. Sean also plays Kraglin in the film. He was there and was so involved in the Rocket. He wasn't reading off a page. He was really deeply into the character.
"Then we had this guy, and if you looked in the dictionary under thespian, you would have seen a picture of Krystian Godlewski, who was the guy who did the stand-in for Groot," continued Bautista. "He is a theatrically-trained actor and what he really had to do was stand there. But he did it every day with a smile on his face. He was very into the character. He was into the movements, but he really took it seriously. So, it wasn't hard because we actually had people there to play off, who were really into their characters."
The big news lately is "Guardians of the Galaxy" will be tying into "The Avengers'" cinematic universe. It's an opportunity for the two teams to meet -- and hopefully rumble. Which Avenger is Bautista looking forward to sharing some screen time with?
"I think the obvious choice, and I think the one guy that's standing out right now, is Iron Man," said Bautista. "I don't know what is going on with Robert Downey, Jr. I couldn't see anyone else playing Tony Stark. Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark is the reason I fell in love with Iron Man."
The panel wrapped with a small boy posing an important question: How did Bautista get along with everybody on set?
"Pretty well," concluded Bautista. "We get asked this question a lot. It's so funny because you have to hear James Gunn answer this question. He says, 'You can always hear cast members saying how good they get along and how much chemistry they had. And they are lying. I know for a fact 99.9% of the time they are lying.' In this case, we all got along really well. It was weird. There were really no egos. I know Zoe Saldana was the biggest star on set. She was the last person I met. We were all getting along so good. I was worried she was this big diva. The first time I met her, she came running up to me. She goes, 'Bautista!' She gave me this big hug. I knew right from then we were going to have a really good time."
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is in theaters now.