Blade Runner 2049 is better than the original, says Dave Bautista, US wrestling champion who has undisclosed role in sequel
Son of Filipino and Greek Americans, who graduated from wrestling ring to casting couch and returns as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, says Denis Villeneuve’s sequel has ‘a better story, told in a better way’ than 1982 film
He may be struck down for blaspheming, but US wrestling champion turned action movie actor Dave Bautista thinks the hotly anticipated sequel to cult sci-fi movie Blade Runner is better than the original.
The six-time WWE world champion, whose role in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 remains a close secret, filmed in Hungary last year alongside Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright and Harrison Ford.
“I think it’s going to be – and this is hard to say because I know I’m going to get some grief for this – I think it’s going to be better than the first film,” Bautista, 48, said in an interview over a hasty lunch at a West Hollywood hotel.
“And I’m saying that because I think the script is better, it’s deeper. I think it’s a better story, I think it’s told in a better way, and I think it just answers a lot of questions. It’s going to be great.”
The long-anticipated Blade Runner 2049, set some 30 years after the events of the cult classic that came out in 1982, sees Ford reprise his role from Ridley Scott’s original as Rick Deckard, a Los Angeles cop who hunts rogue androids.
Bautista is tight-lipped on details about his own involvement but describes his part as “a great role, man, an actor’s role”.
“Visually, you are stepping back into that world. You’re going to be reintroduced to Deckard. The cast is absolutely amazing and I can tell you the script is super deep and really beautiful,” he says.
Known by sports fans the world over as World Wrestling Entertainment’s “The Animal”, Bautista is a six-time world champion and one of the organisation’s most popular stars.
Bautista was born into poverty in Washington to a mother of Greek ancestry and a hairdresser father who was the son of Filipino immigrants. In his autobiography he talks about growing up in basements in the worst parts of the city, where three murders were committed on his front lawn before he was nine.
He also opens up about his own criminal past, including a conviction on a drug charge and another, since overturned, on assault, and how getting off the streets and into body-building may have saved his life.
“I had a little bit of a different childhood. I grew up in not so great neighbourhoods. There were times when we couldn’t afford food. We were just poor,” he says. “When I look back on it, it seems like a rough childhood. But when I was growing up I don’t remember ever thinking that we had a rough childhood, or feeling like we were missing out.”
Bautista – who was so shy he says he barely spoke until the age of 30 – made his debut under the hot lights of the televised wrestling world in 2002, establishing himself as a bright new star and dominating WWE for a large part of the next decade.
Determined to get over his shyness and make it as an actor, he appeared in several direct-to-DVD movies before winning parts in The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) and in Universal’s Riddick (2013) opposite Vin Diesel.
His big break came as tragic but loveable strongman Drax the Destroyer in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro.
The movie was a surprise mega-hit, taking US$773 million at the box office to become the third-highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014.
The actor’s performance proved so popular that Gunn gave him an expanded part – and most of the best jokes – in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 , which is released in the US on Friday.
“On the first film, the role wasn’t written specifically for me. I signed on well after the script was written, and James of course tweaked it a little bit for me,” Bautista says. “But I think he was so proud of me for the first film that he wanted to include me more.”
Bautista is acutely aware that, in leaving wrestling for the bright lights of Hollywood, he is walking a path well trodden by the likes of Hulk Hogan and, more recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
While Johnson has been praised for his performances, critics have been less kind about other wrestlers, and Bautista is very clear that ex-WWE stars shouldn’t get special treatment.
“I think people should question it,” he says. “They should question wrestlers just coming in who think they’ve just been on TV for 10 minutes and all of a sudden they’re going to be stars.”