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Hulk Hogan, John Cena, and Dwayne Johnson. Among a certain group of people, these are names immediately recognizable as some of the most important in professional wrestling history. For others, they are the action stars of today and yesteryear. The professional-wrestler-to-movie-star pipeline has existed almost as long as professional wrestling itself and it’s as strong today as it has ever been.
One of the latest Superstars in that lineage? Dave Bautista.
Bautista has been a runaway train ever since he appeared on the scene. He began pursuing a wrestling career in 1999 and signed with WWE the following year. Over a nearly two-decade career, he reached the pinnacle of the professional wrestling world, winning title after title, all while building a successful acting career in the background. He retired in 2019 after a WrestleMania bout against Triple H, but he remains a beloved figure both in and out of the ring.
We love him, of course, for his portrayal of Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his recent turn in Rian Johnson’s "Glass Onion," which gave viewers a character they love to hate. He’s returning to the big screen in Universal’s horror film "Knock at the Cabin," hitting theaters in 2023, in a move that illustrates the secret to Bautista’s on-screen success. Throughout his transition from the combat arena to the silver screen, Bautista has avoided becoming typecast as the alien warrior with more brawn than brains through a constant willingness to try something new.
Here are some of his most notable roles:
Agromael In "The Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption" (2012)
Bautista’s early career is dominated by roles as one of his wrestling alter egos (Leviathan, Khan, Deacon Batista, Dave Batisa, and simply Batista) but he did have a smattering of acting roles in television and movies. Guest roles on "Smallville" and "Chuck" and an uncredited appearance in the 2006 film "Relative Strangers" cracked open the acting door, but his real introduction to Hollywood was a supporting role in the 2012 direct-to-video action adventure "The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption."
It might not be his most glamorous role but considering the success of the first "Scorpion King" in helping to launch Dwayne Johnson to superstardom, there might be something secret in that scorpion sauce.
Drax In "Guardians Of The Galaxy" (2014) & The Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is where our love affair with Dave Bautista truly began. In less capable hands, the character of Drax could have been a cheap caricature driven by bloodlust and little else. Instead, Bautista has given us a character who, over the course of five movies, short films, a holiday special, and a theme park ride, has evolved into someone with dimension. Someone we care about.
He’s still not the smartest person in the room no matter what room he’s in (just look at the mess Drax and Mantis got into trying to save Christmas), but he’s got enough heart to fill a black hole. Dave Bautista made us love Drax, and in a sort of transitive property of storytelling alchemy, Drax made us love Dave Bautista in return.
Sapper Morton In "Blade Runner 2049" (2017)
While wrestling fans saw Bautista in the flesh countless times, many movie-goers only knew him as Drax, complete with screen-ready makeup and prosthetics. He plays Sapper Morton — an old school Nexus-8-model replicant — in 2017’s "Blade Runner 2049." After saving a mother and daughter from being attacked and accidentally killing the attackers in the process, Morton lives as a fugitive farmer on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It’s there that he meets K (Ryan Gosling), a Nexus-9 Blade Runner who “retires” Morton with two shots to the chest, but not before Morton plants a critical seed of doubt.
Morton gave Bautista the opportunity to play a more human role, which is ironic considering that he wasn’t playing a person, or a living thing, at all.
Vic Manning In "Stuber" (2019)
After trading one genre role for another in the MCU and "Blade Runner 2049," Bautista dipped his toe into the comedy pool with 2019’s "Stuber." He plays Vic Manning, a Los Angeles detective on the hunt for Oka Tedjo, the drug lord who murdered his partner. It’s a typical setup for a cop movie but that’s where its predictability ends. After laser eye surgery, Manning is left with diminished vision just as he receives a tip regarding Tedjo’s whereabouts. He does the only thing he can do: He calls an Uber, one driven by the hilarious and talented Kumail Nanjiani. What follows is a variation on the classic buddy cop movie, pitting a motivated but encumbered police officer with the reluctant and hilarity-inducing help of an ill-equipped gig worker.
Scott Ward In "Army Of The Dead" (2021)
Before Zack Snyder’s name was tied up with the DCEU, he made one of the best zombie films of all time in the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead." Seventeen years later, in 2021, he returned to the genre that launched his directing career with the zombie heist movie "Army of the Dead."
Bautista plays mercenary-turned-fry cook Scott Ward, who's hired to get inside the dead city of Las Vegas to retrieve $200 million dollars from a casino vault. Ward recruits a ragtag team including a helicopter pilot, a sniper, and an eccentric safe cracker in a race against time to get the money before the United States military drops a nuclear bomb on the city.
Glossu Rabban In "Dune" (2021)
Frank Herbert’s "Dune" is often hailed as the definitive piece of modern science fiction; Herbert’s complex story of interstellar politics, magic dust, and ravenous sandworms has inspired countless other genre works and a handful of adaptations. The latest is an updated adaptation in 2021 with Bautista playing Glossu Rabban, a member of the Great House Harkonnen and nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, ruler of House Harkonnen and mastermind behind the downfall of Duke Leto Atreides. Bautista will reprise his role in "Dune: Part Two," scheduled for release on Nov. 3, 2023.
Duke Cody In "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" (2022)
Rian Johnson’s "Knives Out" reminded audiences how much fun a good mystery can be and added Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to the pantheon of famous fictional detectives. With the release of "Glass Onion" on Netflix, fans have been treated to another Benoit Blanc mystery, this time with an entirely new cast of suspects and victims. The story centers on billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) and his eclectic group of hangers on. Among them is Duke Cody, a social media lifestyle influencer played perfectly by Bautista. He serves as a stand in for any number of real life influencers who peddle supplements alongside extreme political ideologies. You can, at once, appreciate Cody’s hustle while simultaneously hating the way he’s doing it. Johnson provided his cast with incredible material to work with and Bautista did not disappoint.
Garrett In "What We Do In The Shadows" (2019-Present)
Between big screen roles, Bautista has made time for the occasional cameo, with the most notable being his brief stint as a vampire in the mockumentary comedy series "What We Do in the Shadows."
The series was created by Jemaine Clement and is based on a 2014 movie of the same name, both of which follow a group of vampires struggling to make it in the modern world. In the seventh episode of the first season, titled “The Trial,” the vampires go before the Vampiric Council for the death of another vampire. While waiting to be seen, they encounter another vampire named Garrett — played by Bautista — who has been imprisoned since 1932 for a crime he didn’t commit. It turns out Laszlo (Matt Berry) turned a baby into a vampire for fun to see what would happen and left Garrett holding the bag for nearly a century. Despite his unfortunate circumstances, Garrett maintains a positive attitude. But if he ever finds out who set him up, he’s going to stab them 5,000 times then switch hands and stab them another 5,000 times. Ninety years wrongfully imprisoned will do that to a guy.
Leonard In "Knock At The Cabin" (2023)
On Feb. 3, 2023, audiences will see an entirely new side of Dave Bautista in Universal’s "Knock at the Cabin." In the latest offering from famed genre director M. Night Shyamalan, Bautista plays Leonard, one of four individuals charged with the most important job in the history of the world: Preventing the apocalypse. They trap a family inside a wooded cabin and present them with a choice: To sacrifice one of their own to save the world. Every time they’re asked to choose, and every time they say no, something horrible happens in the outside world, killing thousands.
If the trailers are any indication, Bautista’s performance will crystallize not what it’s like to make a terrible choice, but what it’s like to force someone else to make one.
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