SPOILER WARNING: The following interview may contain minor spoilers for Blade Runner 2049, in theaters Oct. 6.
“Gentle giant” is a phrase that’s rarely used to describe Dave Bautista whenever he appears on the big screen. Whether brash, unfiltered and destructive like Guardians of the Galaxy’s Drax, or just simply imposing and deadly like Spectre’s Mr. Hinx, Bautista is typically unleashing a torrent of unchecked mayhem.
It’s safe to say that his role as replicant Sapper Morton in Blade Runner 2049, with respect to the tightly guarded, secretive plot, is not a deviation in terms of action. It's important to note, however, Bautista also delivers a fresh, nuanced performance that impresses as much as his imposing physique does.
The off-screen Bautista, however, is a mellow, soft-spoken and gentlemanly presence, always impeccably dressed and thoughtful in his responses. More than anything, though, the wrestler-turned-actor-slash-action-superstar is proudly a fan. And lately, he’s been genuinely living a movie-lover’s dream, sharing the screen with screen idols like Robert Downey, Jr., Sylvester Stallone, Pierce Brosnan and Jodie Foster.
Bautista joined CBR for a peek into his fanboy’s rollercoaster ride through Hollywood – and the actual big theme park attraction that he’s still dying to check out.
CBR: You were a fan of the original Blade Runner – that fan side is a big part of you, and when you get an invitation to play in that world, of course you're going to say yes. But was there any sort of intimidation factor that came later, after you said yes?
Dave Bautista: Oh, of course! Yeah, right off the bat. Of course there was. You know, it's weird, because, well, I'm getting along now. I mean, I've been in this business for a while – I've been pursuing it for seven years now, but I haven't done all that many projects, so it still feels kind of fresh and new to me. I've spent way more time watching and admiring a lot of these people on screen than I have been actually acting.
I don't have that much of an ego, so I'm not afraid to say that someone is a much better actor and I'm going to learn from them and I'm excited about it. But at the same time, it is intimidating, because I don't want to let anybody down. I don't want to be the dipshit that's messing up scenes. When you have these people that are just accomplished and talented, I mean, it is a little intimidating that you won't be able to hold your own. I don't want to be that guy. I really want to hold my own.
You're no stranger to altering your look for parts, but for this guy, Sapper Morton, I thought it was a really interesting way in which you took on the appearance that you had for him. Tell me a little bit about getting there.
I owe that all to makeup, but when I first went to meet with Denis [Villenueve] about the part, he thought I was too young for the part. I'd never been told that, you know?
But because of the nature of the character and the background of the character, he needed to be older, and so I was asked to do makeup tests and pictures, and Denis still wasn't crazy about it. Then he asked me to get in full costume and do the screen tests, and he said, "It's great. It works. The makeup works."
I lost a few hairs, and just wrinkled myself up, grayed myself up. I mean, that's what it was. It was an aged, withered, beaten-down, broken-up look. Even the walk – he wanted me to walk a certain way, and it kind of all added to that to look like the character is just aged and withered.
How much input did you get into that character? Was there a lot of discussion back and forth as to how you were going to play him? Did you add some flourishes to him?
I thought I had Sapper kind of figured out, because, you know, I did my interpretation for the screen test and they were happy with it and I got the part, so I thought this was what they wanted. When I actually started filming, I found out through Denis' direction that it really wasn't at all what he wanted. It was a discussion, but it was much more direction – it was only a discussion, because I was asking him questions to really try to nail this character and what he wanted.
I was just trying to give him the Sapper Martin that he wanted, and I really relied on his direction. The Sapper Martin that came across on film, it was completely because of him, because of the direction and the attitude and the way he wanted me to portray the character.
I thought it was cool how the intro sort of mirrors the beginning of Blade Runner, to a degree. There's a sort of structural symmetry. But the character is a lot more important than just another replicant. That must've been fun to try to figure out how to convey more than one side to Sapper in that time we have with him.
Yeah, it was. It was. But you know, I like to think that that's why I got the role, because I'm able to do that somewhat. That character was a lot more interesting than I thought he was going to be when I first read him on page.
But then this is why I didn't want to read the script at first – I knew my part, I knew my scenes, but I didn't want to read the script because I wanted to go and watch the film as a spectator, as a viewer. But they really insisted that I know the background of this character, I needed to know how he fit into the whole storyline. When I did, it just made all the difference in the world, and it made sense to me why they wanted me to read it. That's why. That's where it all came from.
Also, we did the short [prequel] film, which just got me more in touch with the character. So now I know his background, I know how he fits in, I know what he's done, what he's after. That just gave me a sense of who this guy was, and that's why I was able to go through the range, through the kind of rollercoaster of emotions that he went through.
I really like your commitment to being the fan in the audience and trying to take in the movie as a fan when it’s finished.
Oh, man, I totally am! Yeah, I totally am. That's just me. I mean, that was my sanctuary growing up, you know? I was just always that kid who was in front of the TV or at the movie theater. It was a big deal to me to go to the movies. It still is: like, I'm the type of guy, I like to go to the movies; if a movie comes out, I prefer not to wait until it comes and we see it on TV. I like the whole experience. I like the big screen, I like the popcorn, I like everything about going to the theater.