Don’t call Dave Bautista a wrestler-turned-actor.
And not just because the former WWE world heavyweight champion could do some serious damage if you did.
The man who stole the show in the Guardians Of The Galaxy films as Drax, the muscular alien who takes everything literally, has been quite open about wanting to establish himself as a credible actor.
“I never considered myself a wrestler-turned-actor. I have a huge chip on my shoulder. I get really angry when people say that,” says Bautista, 50.
“I understand but it just strikes a chord with me. I just fell in love with acting and wanted to pursue acting.
“It is nice to get to know people who didn’t know that I was in professional wrestling and are shocked to find out.
“I got a lot of that this year because I did go back to wrestling. I’d have more than a few people say they never knew I was a wrestler.
“It feels kinda good and that I’ve accomplished a lot. To me, that’s a huge statement.
“I’m not at all embarrassed of my wrestling background. I love it and I’m very proud of my career but it feels great to be acknowledged as an actor because I love it so much.
“I really respect the craft of acting. I also love the art of professional wrestling – it’s storytelling and performance.
“To me, wrestling was always a theatre of violence, so it feels really great to be acknowledged for my acting. I wouldn’t consider myself a great actor by any means but I’m definitely learning.”
In the new action-comedy Stuber, Bautista plays a cop on the trail of a brutal killer who’s picked up by mild-mannerd Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani).
“I wanted to do a comedy because I’ve been wanting to round out my career by doing everything,” says Bautista.
“I read the script and just found myself laughing out loud, which is kind of a rare thing.
“When you read through scripts and find yourself really getting into it, you know there’s something special about that. I could see myself playing the character.”
As for preparation, did Dave cruise around in an Uber for a day or rewatch 80s action-comedy films like Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cops?
“There were a few films that were mentioned to me, and the one that really stuck in my head was 48 Hrs!” laughs Bautista.
“The director said early on that he wanted my character to feel like Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs – just really kind of salty, surly and sarcastic but in a very comedic way.
“So I watched that again. It holds up, it’s pretty funny but as far as being politically correct, I understand why I don’t see it played on TV much any more!
“But the movie is still great, and I really did take a lot from Nick Nolte’s character.”
Bautista admits he’s less comfortable with comedy but says: “I learned a lot about comedic performance from the director.
“Some things I just didn’t get, it felt odd to me. He kept really insisting that I do things a certain way and even say things in a certain tone.
“They felt really unnatural but when I watched them, I saw how they made sense.
“With Kumail, I just let him do his thing. I played the straight man and bounced off of him. He said all the funny stuff, and I just sat there, saying stupid stuff with a straight look on my face like I usually do!”
Stuber (12A) is in cinemas from Friday July 12.