Dave Bautista and Sean Gunn clarified one thing early on during their C2E2 appearance. They can’t talk about Infinity War.
“I don’t want a poison dart to shoot me in the neck,” Gunn declared.
That said, the two MCU mainstays hastened to reassure fans that even without writer/director James Gunn (Sean’s brother) at the helm, the Guardians of the Galaxy will be the same dysfunctional family we know and love.
“The Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony Russo, writers and directors of Infinity War) were encouraging and awesome,” Bautista said. “They didn’t want us to be their version of the Guardians. They wanted James Gunn’s version of the Guardians. It was somebody joining us as opposed to us joining them.” Driving the point home, the actors revealed James Gunn wrote significant amounts of dialogue for the Guardians in Infinity War.
THREE GUARDIANS ON ONE STAGE
On screen, Bautista plays the endearingly literal Drax the Destroyer, while Gunn depicts irrepressible space ravager Kraglin. But Gunn pulls double duty for Marvel: he is the motion capture performer for Rocket Raccoon.
“I’m there for the other actors,” Gunn explained. “They’re working with another member of an ensemble. I also provide a reference for the visual effects team so they know where he’s going, how his arms are moving, et cetera. They animate him so when Bradley Cooper goes into the booth to record Rocket’s dialogue, he has a complete picture. It keeps me employed!”
Gunn devoted his entire life to acting. In contrast, Bautista came to the art after he forged a reputation in the WWE. His first movie in 2006 proved to be unforgettable in more ways than one.
“I did a film for a friend. It was a small part where I played a guy sitting next to his topless girlfriend. I thought acting would be easy. It’s embarrassing, but I found it was really hard. And I left thinking, I want to be better…and the hilarious thing is that my topless girlfriend sitting next to me was Stormy Daniels!”
Cue the crowd exploding.
Bautista, however, shrugs this memory off in the grand scheme of things. Judging his performance made him want to get better.
“I had no interest in being a movie star,” Bautista said. “I never wanted the spotlight. I just wanted to be a good actor. I love it the way I loved wrestling and both of them, I’d do it for nothing…Wrestling is the closest a performer can get to being a rock star. I put everything I had into it, but I was on cruise control at the end. I would only go back to close it out. My passion is acting.
“It was a hard three years. It’s still not easy. I think I’ve broken down a lot of barriers but it’s been hard to make people see past the musclehead.”
Bautista was especially frank describing how he got the part of Drax. “I knew nothing about the Guardians or Drax or his origin story. I was nervous and my agent said ‘it’s probably a long shot anyway.’ But my acting coach is a comic book guy.” His coach told Bautista to dive into the original Marvel books. “I found one picture of Drax that made me go, ‘I know this guy,’ and I latched onto that picture through the auditions.”
“It’s true that Dave was a longshot,” Gunn added. “He beat out a lot of famous actors with pedigrees for this role, and it’s a testament to how awesome he is.”
Gunn also had words of praise when Bautista (whose filmography also includes SPECTRE and Blade Runner 2049) described himself as an aspiring actor. “I don’t think you’re aspiring anymore!”
“No,” Bautista insisted. “The moment I stop aspiring, that’s when it’s done.”
A SIDE TRIP TO STARS HOLLOW
While Bautista came to the MCU from the world of wrestling, Gunn’s traveled via Stars Hollow, Connecticut. His signature role is the eccentric-doesn’t-begin-to-descrive-him Kirk from Gilmore Girls.
During the audience Q&A, a fair proportion of questions for Gunn dealt with Kirk.
“The most fun thing about playing Kirk was picking up the envelope with the script for that week, not knowing what I would be doing but knowing it could be anything and everything.” One all-time moment from the show, for Gunn and the fans, is The Journey of Life: “Gilmore Girls was a script where every line was written, nothing was ad-libbed, but for this, the script said ‘Kirk does an interpretive dance about the journey of life from birth to death.’ So I asked Dan Palladino, who was directing, ‘What do I do?’ and he says ‘You just do what you do!’ And apparently, that’s what I do. There’s something about humiliating myself that comes naturally to me.”
It may be humiliating but it’s also endearing. Bautista shared a story from when the original Guardians of the Galaxy premiered. “I was promoting the movie in Toronto all by myself. And this company, I won’t say who…they’ve got a mouse for a logo…they had a smoking hot 26 year-old marketing rep. I’m trying to impress her, talking about how big my part is. But all she wanted to know was ‘What’s Sean Gunn really like?’”
“And you never got me her number!” Gunn yelled.
Infinity War remains a clandestine subject, but Bautista and Gunn transfixed the crowd with their tales of Guardians and their colleagues.
Both agreed their favorite scene to film was the campfire sequence in Volume 2.
“It was a great time,” Bautista said, “and for a couple days we were riffing and feeling relaxed and there was a lot of great stuff that didn’t make it into the film!”
“It was so much fun, and I didn’t have to eat as much jello!” Gunn added.
On the other hand, while Bautista counts Drax telling Mantis of his family as one of the most powerful moments he’s played on film, the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy hit all the actors involved hard.
In Bautista’s words: “There’s a great picture of Sean crouching in his green suit and I’m sitting with him. Me and Rocket were mourning the loss of Groot. I felt so much emotion because this dude was pouring his heart out, and he was not required to do that. He is a giving actor and he was giving that emotion to me.”
“It annoys me,” Gunn said, “when people ask if it was hard to keep a straight face when acting with Bautista. He’s one of the most emotional guys I’ve ever seen!”
But one moment stands out for different reasons. As Bautista put it: “Drax’s voice is really James Gunn’s voice. I’m just his muse. I think he writes for Drax just to amuse himself…You can hear Gunn laughing off set. When it comes to Drax, he gets such a kick out of him and I can tell the performance is working by watching him laugh! We were over in London for the first film, rehearsing, and I got to that line and I said ‘James, I don’t remember this being in the script!’ He was laughing and said ‘I know, I just wrote it last night!’ Then I say the line and he was laughing like crazy. And the thing is, I don’t have sensitive nipples. He has sensitive nipples!” (The line was cut from Guardians of the Galaxy but reinstated for Volume Two.)
The two actors have nothing but the best to say about their costars. Bautista showered good words on Zoe Saldana and Robert Downey, Jr. for making an inexperienced actor like him feel welcome. And both Bautista and Gunn appreciate the down-to-earth Chris Pratt.
Bautista: “Chris yells and laughs all the time. Ryan Gosling is so quiet you can barely hear him when he talks.”
Gunn: “Chris Pratt loves fishing the way Bautista loves training and I love drinking and gambling!”
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS
One final topic that got much discussed is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy unique to the MCU: the soundtracks.
“When my brother writes the script,” Gunn said, “the first thing they do in production is secure the rights to the songs so the action can be choreographed to the songs, and sometimes the actors will have earbuds on so we can hear the music.”
“We wanted to hear the music.” Bautista confirmed. “You’d be surprised how much a song can draw you into a certain emotion and we could share those emotions together. We all loved ‘The Chain,’ and ‘Father and Son’ puts you right there at the end of Volume 2 and it was heartbreaking.”
So an audience denied Infinity War secrets tried one last big question: what songs would be in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3?
“Don’t look at me, man, I don’t know!” Gunn exclaimed at this. “Some of the songs in Volume 3 might be from Yondu’s Zune. It could open the door to a wider variety of stuff. But I swear to you I don’t know that’s true! My brother takes great pride in handpicking all the songs himself.”
But the imposing Bautista had one idea.
“I hope there’ll be a little Journey. I’m a huge Journey fan.”