Dave Bautista: Unleashing beast mode on and off the screen

Dave Bautista Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

DAVE Bautista, a towering presence both on-screen and in real life, has carved his path in Hollywood with an unapologetic embrace of his Filipino-Greek heritage.

The wrestler-turned-actor is set to reprise his role as Glossu “Beast” Rabban Harkonnen in “Dune: Part Two,” joining returning stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, and Javier Bardem with new additions to the cast that include Florence Pugh and Austin Butler. The highly anticipated film is scheduled to hit theaters on March 1, 2024.

In an interview with the Asian Journal, Bautista reflects on his journey, diversity in the industry, and the joy of playing the bad guy.

Inspiring diversity and inclusion

Bautista, considered a role model for aspiring actors with diverse backgrounds, emphasizes the importance of inclusion and diversity.

“Diverse is my love language,” he told us, reflecting on his own struggles to find role models growing up. His journey, shaped by being a person of mixed race raised by a lesbian single mother, fuels his commitment to breaking barriers in the entertainment industry.

“I know a lot of my life I never really knew where I fit in. It was hard for me to feel like I fit in because I didn’t have those role models,” he shares. Bautista believes that focusing on inclusion and representation is not just a social responsibility but a personal one, resonating with his own experiences.

In an interview with GQ, Bautista, whose mom is Greek and dad is Filipino, shared his pride in three tattoos. One on his upper left arm are the flags of the Philippines and Greece placed side-by-side. On his left elbow, he has three yellow stars and the sun from the Philippine flag. The black-colored Philippine sun surrounds an Eye of Providence on his chest.

From hero to villain: Embracing the dark side

Dave as “Beast” Rabban Harkonnen in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune: Part Two,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Having portrayed both heroes and villains, Bautista finds playing the antagonist more fun and challenging as a performer. He draws parallels between his wrestling career, where he embraced the role of the “bad guy” to enhance the hero’s narrative, and his love for portraying villains on the big screen.

“I think, you know, the root of me. I’m a good person, I’m a nice person. I’m a kind person, and I take pride in that. But it’s fun playing the bad guy,” he shares. Bautista’s journey in Hollywood showcases his versatility and willingness to explore different facets of his craft.

Dune: A Timeless Tale with Timely Themes

Discussing his role in “Dune Part Two,” Bautista emphasizes writer and director Denis Villeneuve’s dedication to staying true to Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel and the fan base. He encourages audiences to appreciate the storytelling and visual representation while acknowledging that political interpretations are inevitable.

“People shouldn’t lose sight of the entertainment value of this and look at this as just beautiful storytelling,” he urges. Bautista credits Villeneuve’s commitment to the source material, creating a cinematic experience that aligns with the novel’s essence.

“Dave is excellent. We spend more time with Beast Rabban—let’s just say, he does not have a good time in ‘Part Two!’” Villeneuve said. “He’s humiliated, he’s struggling with the Fremen, and we see this is a character who is reaching his limit, panicking and losing control of Arrakis.”

Collaborating with Austin Butler and Filipino Martial Arts

Austin Butler, a new addition to the cast said, “I had a blast playing villainous characters with Stellan Skarsgård and Dave Bautista, they are both such sweet and funny guys and they welcomed me with open arms.”

Bautista on the other hand describes the experience of working with Butler as a blessing. He praises the younger actor’s talent and genuine nature, emphasizing the importance of feeling at ease with co-stars.

(L-R) Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune: Part Two,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photos by Niko Tavernise

Viewers will experience an adrenaline-fueled cinematic showdown as Timothee Chalamet’s Paul Atreides confronts Butler’s treacherous and bloodthirsty Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in an epic duel, a highlight that’s more than worth the price of admission. The intensity builds the moment the actors utter the words, “May thy knife chip and shatter.” This nail-biting scene isn’t just a spectacle; it’s a heart-pounding experience that elevates the entire movie as the choreography unfolds like a mesmerizing dance, capturing the intricacy and intensity that makes this duel truly unforgettable.

“It was really about trying to find Feyd’s fighting style, and if Paul has training in the Atreides and Fremen way of fighting, how does Feyd’s differ? And I trained vocally as well. And once I saw myself in the mirror and I didn’t have any hair, and I had the black teeth… You start to see the transformation, and that just becomes a blast, because then you can lose yourself in it,” Butler said.

“I knew the fight scenes were going to be really taxing, and I wanted them to feel powerful, so we trained a lot. We did a lot of Kali, which is Filipino stick fighting, and a lot of knife work,” he added.

Reflecting on Butler’s training in Kali, Bautista expressed his love for it, highlighting its presence in Hollywood for decades.

“I love it. Now people are actually recognizing it for what it is,” Bautista noted, emphasizing that Filipino Martial Arts have been contributing to cinematic fight scenes for years. His personal favorite is Kali, appreciating its versatility with empty hand or knife techniques.

Notes from Denis: A validation of trust

Receiving notes from his director is a source of immense joy and genuine excitement, making Bautista feel validated in his career choices. This validation is particularly significant, considering the challenges he faced in earning the trust and belief of others in the industry.

Reflecting on their collaborative journey, he acknowledges the initial challenge of earning Denis’s approval for a character in their first film together. Despite Denis not seeing him for the role initially, Bautista persevered, earning the trust and subsequently gaining robust support from the acclaimed director.

“To feel like I’m collaborating with him, we’re investing, we’re talking about a character, it just feels like… I feel validated,” Bautista shared.

As Dave Bautista steps back into the shadowy realms of villains in “Dune Part Two,” he carries with him more than just the weight of Beast’s ferocity. He’s a beacon for aspiring actors, an advocate for diversity, and a testament to the transformative power of storytelling. With his unapologetic approach to life and craft, he continues to leave an indelible mark on Hollywood embracing challenges and bringing authenticity to every role he undertakes.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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