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Dave Bautista: âI donât want to be a stereotypical action heroâ
Fil-Am actor and former wrestler Dave Bautista leads the cast of Zack Snyder’s zombie heist film Army of the Dead, premiering on Netflix come May 21.
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Dave Bautista: ‘I don’t want to be a stereotypical action hero’

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

After fighting alongside superheroes, Filipino-American actor and former wrestler Dave Bautista is next seen fighting off zombies in Army of the Dead.

The latest film of Zack Snyder (300, Zack Snyder’s Justice League) is set in Las Vegas, now in ruins and walled off from the rest of the world after a zombie outbreak. Dave is Scott Ward, a displaced Vegas local and former zombie war hero now flipping burgers on the outskirts of the town. But a casino boss approaches him with an irresistible proposition: break into the zombie-infested quarantine zone to retrieve the $200 million left inside a vault beneath the Vegas strip just before the city is annihilated by the government in 32 hours.

Hoping the payoff could help him reconcile with his estranged daughter (Ella Purnell), Scott takes on the challenge and assembles a ragtag team of experts for the greatest heist ever attempted in the face of a “smarter and faster” horde of Alpha zombies.

Dave with co-stars Nora Arnezeder, Samantha Win, Ana De La Reguera and Omari Hardwick.

Interestingly, the former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar turned Hollywood star (perhaps best-known as Drax the Destroyer in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies) wasn’t initially keen on doing Army of the Dead.

During a virtual interview recently, The STAR asked him if it was true that he turned down the role of Scott Ward. “That’s not exactly true,” he answered with a laugh. “It’s because when I initially heard of the project, it wasn’t from Zack (Snyder), it was from his agent, and he didn’t offer me the role… Because I was working on another project with Zack, he told me that Zack’s next project was Army of the Dead. And he told me that it was a zombie heist and that it was really kind of hard to describe.”

Dave recalled reacting that the story sounded great but he wasn’t personally interested. He explained, “I didn’t want to be an action guy, I didn’t want to do an action film. I wanted to do a film that required me to act, perform and stretch myself as an actor.

“It was later when Zack started reading over the parts for me — he had actually written a part for me in the film that wasn’t Scott Ward — and going over the casting (that) he thought I was perfect for Scott Ward so that’s when they said, ‘Will you take a look at the script?’ and I read the script. I saw that Scott Ward wasn’t exactly who I thought he was going to be. He wasn’t that predictable, generic action hero. He actually had some heart and some depth.

“I became intrigued and had a conversation with Zack, and after the conversation with him, I said, ‘I’m just all in, I love it, I love what you want to do, I love this character. Please sign me up!’ So, it was a few different conversations but yes initially, I had no interest (laughs)!”

As mentioned, Dave plays a war veteran and the subject of his Filipino grandfather Alfonso Bautista cropped up during the Zoom chat. Alfonso was a war vet himself who earned his American citizenship by fighting for the US during World War II, Dave wrote on Instagram.

Asked if he had drawn any inspiration from the stories of his grandfather’s time in the military for his portrayal, Dave readily admitted his regret of not knowing that side of his lolo.

He opened up: “We lost my grandfather when I was 18. So, when you’re younger, you don’t think about having those conversations with your grandfather because all you see is right there in what’s in front of you. And the things that we talked about, we talked about food a lot, my grandfather always wanted to take me to McDonald’s, we went there all the time (laughs).

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“He was a barber so I grew up in his barber’s chair and we talked about things like that. At that time, I didn’t have an interest in his background as a soldier. I knew he was wounded, I saw the scars, but I never asked him how he got them.

“Now, as I’ve gotten older, I live with regret of not asking him, of not finding out more about his childhood, where he was from, about my relatives, about his upbringing, about his time in the military and about his youth because I’ve heard from multiple sources that when my grandfather first came to the United States, he was in San Francisco first. And I’ve heard from a lot of people in my family that he was just wild as hell (laughs). Like running the streets, like he was just a terror, and I didn’t know that side of my grandfather. I wish I knew it because it all sounds so interesting. I kind of live with that regret.”

This heartfelt candor was certainly one of the highlights of our interview with the 56-year-old Army of the Dead lead star. Read on.

On why being on set with “zombies” keeps him young:

“You know, superheroes, like being on the Marvel films and hanging out with, you know, my friends in Guardians of the Galaxy and people or actors from the Avengers, it’s great, I love it! I’m a fan. I’m a fanboy. I love being in that atmosphere, I love being included in that conversation.

“But to be around a bunch of zombies who are just flipping and flying all over the place and break-dancing and doing martial arts while they’re made up as zombies, I mean, I’m a big kid and there’s nothing better than that. These are some of the moments where I couldn’t do this anywhere else, you know. This is what keeps me young, you know, seeing a zombie break dance (laughs), so what’s more fun than that!

“But, I also like there were days when we were shooting big action scenes. And in between takes, I would do martial arts with some of the athletes who were made up zombies and I mean it was great! Who would think that I’d be able to do jujitsu with a zombie (laughs)?

On the hardest parts of filming the movie:

“I think the most challenging things for me are always going to be the emotional scenes. Sometimes, it’s a challenge for me to be in scenes where I have to speak to a large cast because I’m typically a soft-spoken person. I’m not a very vocal person so when I have to be the man-in-charge and when I have to speak up. Sometimes, it feels a little unnatural to me and it takes me a little bit out of my comfort zone. The physical stuff, it’s always been a little bit easier for me. Which is why I think I was able to kind of, you know, come into my own in professional wrestling because the physical part was easy.

“Those performance scenes where they’re intimate and they require me to act (laughs), they’re still challenging which is why I’m still very much in love with this. I love that I feel challenged by acting and performing on that level because it’s new to me. I mean, I can’t wait for my next project. I’m always like, I can’t wait to work, I want to work, because I want to become a better actor.”

On playing this badass yet gentle big guy in the film:

“It wasn’t easy. You know, I don’t have a theatrical background. I wouldn’t spend years in drama school. So, a lot of my acting is true, I draw from experiences, so sometimes it’s kind of a little painful. But it’s one of those things where to me, that’s true performance, like that range of performance is something that not everybody can accomplish and that’s also something that’s very unexpecting from a person of my stature.

“Some people would look at my physicality and never expected I would be an emotional person which I am absolutely. I am a very loving, very emotional person, I’m so Filipino (laughs). But it really comes across and I’m a very passionate person, and I want to express that about me because I don’t want to be a stereotypical action hero. I want to be somebody who has a heart because I want people to be able to relate to me, empathize with me. Sometimes, it’s just hard to do when you’re a large-stature, muscular person. I try to dive into those (scenes) and sometimes, again, it’s just not the easiest thing for me. One, because I’m learning still as an actor, and also because I draw on from real experiences.”

On the messages of the film about regret and living life without it:

“If I said I regretted one thing, that if I took back that one thing, it made me change the direction of the way my life went, and that would be my fear. There are things that bother me when I think about mistakes I’ve made in my life. But I know for a fact that I learned from my mistakes and I tried to grow from them as a human being.

“Sure, there are things I would change, especially things that affected other people. But I think my life and my mistakes are what put me where I am now and I’m pretty happy with where I am now. I think I have come a long way and I’m pretty content with my life. I’ve been able to provide for people in my family who I love.”

(Army of the Dead premieres on Netflix on May 21.)

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