Dave Bautista on Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, family units, unintentional comedy, improvising and getting into shape

When Guardians Of The Galaxy was released in 2014 it was considered a gamble, a bunch of rag-tag characters including a talking raccoon and a tree that says only three words. They were barely known outside of the comics so Marvel was taking a huge risk, but it paid off and the film was yet another box office success for the studio. Now considered one of the hotly anticipated sequels for this year, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, sees our space-misfits back together again. In the lead up to the film’s release we caught up with Dave Bautista who plays Drax The Destroyer, the super strong alien who takes everything literally and the comedic golden nugget of the first film; to discuss family units, unintentional comedy, improvising and getting into shape.

At the end of the first film, Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Drax have saved Xandar and they’re off for more adventures. From initial reports this picks up around 3 months after those events and the Guardians have progressed from trying to unite together to settling into a more structured unit. Interestingly the relationship between Drax and Baby Groot is one to watch out for, and Bautista elaborates on these relationships, and also gives some insight into Drax’s motivations and whether his desire to avenge his wife and daughter’s deaths by killing Thanos could be quelled.

“We kind of pick up where we left off. They had really come together as a family by the end of the first film and we show the involvement of the relationship between the characters. They’ve really just become closer and some of the characters have taken on those typical family member roles that you might imagine; maternal, paternal, sibling, even sibling rivalry type roles. They’re now very much a family unit. Groot is not afraid of Drax, but they definitely have somewhat of a sibling rivalry type relationship. There’s a little tension between the two characters, as there was in the first film. Drax and Groot just don’t seem to quite get along.”

“I think that (seeking revenge) is always going to be the essence of Drax, he’s always going to be suffering over the heartbreak of his family. I don’t think it’s something that he will ever really get past. I think that’s his reason for existing. It’s like if he cuts off one head of a snake, he’s going to look for another head, so there’s never going to be an end to it just because that’s just what he’s existing to do, is avenge the loss of his family. That’s all he has.”

Out of all the characters Drax was considered a particular fan favourite and special because he takes everything that’s said as literal. In light of this he also resulted in being the most non-purposefully amusing character due to his quips and inability to understand the concept of metaphors. Bautista believes that part of Drax’s appeal lay in the simple notion of wanting to be liked and wanting somewhere to belong. Getting to play a character that’s so brutally honest and literal also adds another layer of complexity to him which Bautista relished. It also helped that a certain ease and comfortableness is afforded to him courtesy of working with the same cast and crew.

“I think that Drax, he wants to fit in and he wants to understand, and a lot of the time he’s confused because he comes from a race of people who take everything literally. He’s often confused and trying to fit in and even sometimes pretending like he understands what people mean or what exactly is going on when he really doesn’t, which makes for some pretty funny moments, and a lot of great laughs. He definitely wants to fit in because he’s found people that he really cares about and he wants to be liked.”

“If you look at Drax you think one thing, and then when you get to know the character you think another because he’s not one dimensional. There’s really a lot of layers to him. I think it makes him an interesting character and for me as a performer it makes him really interesting to play because it’s not like a type cast.”

“I was definitely more comfortable performing as him (this time) because I knew them all, I was comfortable and they had all become my friends. I think James (Gunn) writing for me specifically made it a lot easier. He wrote for me as a performer, he learned my strength on the first film and he really wrote directly for me. I think he has a lot of fun writing for the characters.”

One of the possible reasons for Guardians’ naturally flowing comedy may have stemmed from the fact that much of the first film’s dialogue that was kept in was improvised. Director and script writer James Gunn again returning for the second installment is a director known for allowing his actors the opportunity to ad-lib and improvise some of their scenes. Bautista credits him, along with the rest of the behind-the-scenes team at Marvel for having faith in the actors to bring the characters to life.

“It seems to be the way we just do things. That’s our formula, we just improv a lot. James is always really great about giving us the freedom to just have one take where we just do and say whatever we want. He always says, “Okay, now just one for fun.” We do and say the most ridiculous things and sometimes things stick and we use them in the film, sometimes they don’t, but it is great, it’s a luxury to have just that freedom to just play around and improv. I think that’s what builds a strong chemistry within the cast.”

“There’s really a large part of us as performers and as people in our characters. I think that’s why we got the roles and I think that also us being able to just have that freedom on set to improv and be ourselves is what makes us have strong chemistry. At the end of the day, you have to give all that credit to Sarah Finn who was the casting agent, and James Gunn, and Kevin Feige.”

Besides Drax’s amusing personality there also comes his sheer physicality and size. Throw in his blue skin and red tattoos, and the character is quite intimidating and opposing to behold. However an unusual offshoot of having prosthetic makeup to have to contend with was ensuring Bautista was in better physical shape to even wear the prosthetics to begin with. Something that in the first film he didn’t prioritise quite so much but that for this one he felt was necessary both due to the prosthetics and also to give Drax a more physical presence.

“They actually not only made it (the prosthetic makeup) easier, but they also made it better, it was a much faster process this time. It was harder to take off, but it wasn’t completely time-consuming. It was about the same time, but it was just a harder, more taxing process to take it off, but it actually looks much better, which meant that I had to be in better shape for this film.”

“The first film I really didn’t put that much effort into the physical shape that I was in, but on the second one I was very aware that I needed to be in better shape and I think it’s really beneficial. I’ve always been athletic no matter what I look like or what I may appear to look like, I’ve always been pretty athletic, but I looked at it more as an aesthetic part of the character. I wanted to look the part, that was my goal for this film, to just look more muscular which was an easy thing for me to do because I literally just started lifting weights again. I laid off the weights for years, but I just really started focusing more on that.”

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Drax (Dave Bautista)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

In the second installment of our interview with Dave Bautista, we discuss what he’s learned over the last few years delving more deeply into acting. Working on independent films and touching on some of his forthcoming projects. As well as what he hopes fans will take away from Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 hits Australian cinemas from Tuesday 25 April (ANZAC Day) 2017 through Marvel Studios and Disney Pictures Australia.