Ex-wrestler Bautista joins pantheon of Bond villains
LOS ANGELES - Former pro wrestler and rising Hollywood star Dave Bautista is joining one of cinema's most exclusive families in his new role as a James Bond villain.
As Mr Hinx in "Spectre," the latest adventure of the unflappable 007 due out in Britain next week and most everywhere else in early November, Bautista joins a pantheon of bad guys that are at least as interesting as the British spy himself.
Fans are especially fond of Jaws - the towering Richard Kiel, who bit through power cables with his metal teeth as he faced off against Roger Moore in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker" in the 1970s.
There is also Spain's Javier Bardem as a twisted cyberterrorist in "Skyfall" (2012) and Denmark's Mads Mikkelsen as crime lord Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale" (2006).
Bautista, 46, hopes to add his Mr Hinx to the list.
He says the experience of filming a Bond movie "on top of a mountain in Austria" was a dramatic turnaround from his rough-and-tumble childhood in "the worst streets of Washington," where he had become a car thief by age 13.
It "feels like you're in a dream," Bautista told AFP in an interview, adding that Bond is "like the ultimate superhero, but real." Bautista's Mr Hinx works for the shadowy criminal group SPECTRE - the acronym for Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
The other lead bad guy - Franz Oberhauser, portrayed by Austrian Oscar winner Christoph Waltz - is also a SPECTRE member.
The network is not new to Bond faithful. It was first introduced on the silver screen in the very first film starring the super-spy, the classic "Dr. No" from 1962 starring Sean Connery as 007.
In the film, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), who had metal prostheses in place of his lost hands, reveals to Bond that he belongs to the criminal network.
Bumps and bruises
Bautista, who stands at 6'4" (1.93 meters) and whose enormous biceps are liberally tattooed, certainly looks the part of a formidable Bond nemesis.
But he said the choreographed on-screen fighting with the spy in the form of Daniel Craig did not always go smoothly, despite his time as a wrestler and mixed martial artist.
"There were lots of bumps and bruises," Bautista said. "Daniel hurt his knee." Did he emerge unscathed? "Dan punched me in the nose," he said.
Bautista had more tender remembrances of his interaction with his female co-stars.
He admitted to going weak in the knees around Italian actress Monica Bellucci, calling her "breathtakingly beautiful but extremely sexy." As for French actress Lea Seydoux, who also appears in the movie, Bautista was impressed by her soft beauty.
"There's something almost angelic about her," he said. "When she smiles, she lights up a room."
Youth of hard knocks
Bautista, an American of Filipino descent, grew up in a neighborhood where violence and crime were common.
As a teenager, Bautista discovered bodybuilding, which he credits as ending his stint as an underage car thief.
He worked as a bouncer, and in the 2000s launched a career as a professional wrestler. He won the World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight championship six times, garnering along the way an enthusiastic following among wrestling fans.
Bautista gets nostalgic when remembering his days as star of the ring.
"Sometimes I miss the entertainment aspect of it," he said.
A key influence in his move to acting was another wrestler - The Rock, now better known as Dwayne Johnson, star of action films including several in the "Fast and Furious" series.
Bautista's Hollywood adventure began in 2006 in minor television roles, which led to big-screen parts in "The Man with the Iron Fists" (2012) with Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, and "Riddick" (2013) with Vin Diesel.
His biggest hit came as Drax the Destroyer, one of a crew of misfits led by Chris Pratt in last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy".
The Disney/Marvel studio film, a global megahit, turbo-charged his career.
In upcoming movies, Bautista will star in "Heist" along with Robert De Niro, "Marauders" with Bruce Willis, and as the main villain in a remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme 1980s action film "Kickboxer." Of course, Bautista will also return as Drax in a "Guardians" sequel.
He is however modest about his success.
"I don't want to be a movie star," he said. "I want to play great characters."