They may share a similar physique and previous work experience, but Dave Bautista is adamant that he's not the second coming of Dwayne Johnson. "I never wanted to be the next Rock," the former WWE star says emphatically in a new GQ interview. "I just want to be a good f***ing actor. A respected actor."
As the magazine notes, Bautista's ambitions are paying off with a run of projects that are poised to win him both respect and box office dollars. He's currently part of the ensemble of Rian Johnson's Knives Out follow-up, Glass Onion, which parlayed a successful limited theatrical run into big Netflix streaming numbers.
And in 2023, Bautista is set to appear in A Knock at the Cabin, the next movie from consistent hitmaker M. Night Shyamalan; James Gunn's trilogy-capping Marvel adventure Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3; and Denis Villeneuve's hotly-anticipated Dune: Part Two. That's a line-up that definitely distinguishes him from Johnson, who is coming off of two underwhelming would-be franchise starters — the animated DC League of Super-Pets and the live action Black Adam — and whose only 2023 feature film (so far) is the Amazon Studios-backed Christmas adventure, Red One.
For the record, Bautista has sought to distance himself from other wrestlers-turned-actors before. In a 2019 interview with The Tampa Bay Times,, he called Johnson a "movie star before he was even a movie star," while also adding "Would I consider him a great actor? F*** no."
And in 2021, he took to Twitter to publicly reject a fan pitch to team up with Johnson and John Cena in an action movie. "Nah I'm good," he wrote in response, later issuing a follow-up tweet indicating that he didn't want to be "lumped in" with his WWE cohorts. (Back in his wrestling days, Bautista and Cena tangled in the ring multiple times, and he was part of a three-man team that took on the Rock and Mick Foley at Wrestlemania XX in 2004.)
While Johnson hasn't commented on Bautista's remarks over the years, Cena has made it clear that he understands where the ex-wrestler is coming from and doesn't take it personally. "Dave has worked so hard on his craft," he told Esquire in 2021 when asked about Bautista's Twitter remarks. "I don't have any beef with Dave and I really genuinely think Dave doesn't have any beef with me. He really just wants to be identified and recognized for his work. And I cannot fault him for that. I applaud him for it."
Bautista may not look to Cena or the Rock for acting inspiration, but he tells GQ that he did absorb some early career advice from another wrestling icon-turned-actor: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. "Before I left WWE, [Steve] pulled me aside and said, 'You’re going to get offers for horrible scripts. The money will be tempting. Don’t get caught in that trap.'" (Austin's filmography included roles in The Expendables, Grown Ups 2 and direct-to-video titles like Maximum Conviction.)
With Austin's words ringing in his ears, Bautista says that he was deliberately "picky and choosy" about selecting movie projects — an approach that paid off when he landed his career-transforming role as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, a character he's now ready to leave in the rearview. "There's a relief [that it's over]," he admits, having previously complained about the "shirtless scenes" required for his Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances. "The makeup process was beating me down. And I just don’t know if I want Drax to be my legacy — it’s a silly performance, and I want to do more dramatic stuff."
In addition to getting dramatic, Bautista has also sought out the challenge of taking on more leading roles, starting with Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead."I wanted to be the leader, it was something I chased after," Bautista told Yahoo Entertainment in 2021 during an interview for that zombie action movie. "But I never felt like I was the center of attention on set, because if you watch the film, you see that every character gets their moment to shine."
Speaking with GQ, Bautista teases that A Knock at the Cabin represents another leap forward for his acting career. "It’s by far the most I’ve ever spoken in a film," he reveals. "Just huge pages of monologues … It’s a lot of pressure. I want to remember my dialogue, but not at the expense of losing the emotion of the scene."
Glass Onion is currently streaming on Netflix