Getting up close with former wrestler Dave Bautista was terrifying.
Standing at almost two metres tall and probably twice my width, the 45-year-old looked every bit as menacing as his character Drax the Destroyer in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
He may not have been wearing the full body make-up, but his thick, black, brutish-looking facial hair certainly didn't help either.
However when he smiled and greeted me with a firm handshake, all those feelings of intimidation disappeared.
Here was a soft-spoken, gentle giant who often punctuated his responses with laughter.
Bautista is a familiar face to those familiar with wrestling - he's a former six-time world champion and an international spokesman for World Wrestling Entertainment.
But when it comes to the world of regular showbiz, he's totally unfamiliar - a fact he was quick to share with M when we met at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre earlier this month.
What made you decide to leave the ring for acting?
I started out in a film as a favour for a friend in 2008 and it just kind of evolved. It was hard but I loved it. I liked the challenge. I decided then it was something I wanted to pursue.
Hollywood has many action heroes. Are you prepared to compete with the seasoned pros?
I'm not really into action stuff. People assumed I'd go for that because of my wrestling background.
I want to do drama. I like Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino stuff where they do interesting dialogue-driven stories.
But I won't turn down roles just because of the genre. I've been picking and choosing based on how appealing the roles are, or what kind of experience I'd get from them. If I get to work with established actors, I find that's the best for me to learn.
Did you consider going to drama school?
No, because I started acting when I was 40. I don't have time to go to drama school. I'm not getting any younger!
I work with a private coach. I'll never be too proud to put myself in a student role.
I still struggle with dialogue and moods of certain scenes. For each film that I've done, I've gone through lines with him, and I'll continue to do so.
I also learn faster if I surround myself with experienced people. It's like with wrestling. I learn faster if I pick the brains of established wrestlers. The learning curve is different.
If you put me next to an established actor, I'd be asking questions until they get tired of me. There's still so much advice I can get.
What is your biggest stumbling block in terms of getting a dramatic role?
How I look. My physical appearance is somewhat a hindrance to pursuing dramatic roles.
But I've already taken steps to rectify that. For instance, I'm already laying off weight training. I'm focussing more on cardio workout, exercises that make me look more normal and help me blend in visually. I'm also growing hair and a beard so that I won't look like a jock.
Do you have a dream role?
I never think about that actually. It's weird because I don't picture myself as a leading man but more a supporting character. I'm more comfortable with that. I'm more interested in the story.
The only time I can visualise myself in a leading role is if there's ever a Drax spin-off. I've not thought that far. Right now I'm just hoping for a sequel.
This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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