Dave Bautista on His “Heartbreaking” Decision Choosing Army of the Dead Over The Suicide Squad

Dave Bautista opens up about his 'heartbreaking' decision to lead Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead [...]

Dave Bautista opens up about his "heartbreaking" decision to lead Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead over reuniting with his Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn on The Suicide Squad. Known for his role as the muscle-bound Drax in Marvel's Guardians franchise, the wrestler-turned-actor was reportedly wanted for the role of Peacemaker — ultimately played by WWE rival John Cena — in Gunn's DC Comics ensemble opposite Margot Robbie and Idris Elba. Bautista was "all up for" joining Gunn in the DC Extended Universe and almost passed on Snyder's zombie heist movie for Netflix, but a taste for meatier and more dramatic roles saw Bautista betting on Army of the Dead:

"The decision was heartbreaking," Bautista told Entertainment Tonight. "The conversation with James Gunn was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my career because this is a man who is not only a friend, but this is a friend who had faith in me and believed in me when not a lot of people did. And he not only changed the trajectory of my career, but he also changed the trajectory of my life because he had faith in me."

"So to go to him and tell him that I can't do this film, and I can't do the role that he wrote for me, was so hard," added Bautista. "It just really hurts my heart even thinking about having this conversation. So at the time, it was a supporting role and a great film, but I was doing it because it was with James Gunn. I just wanted to work with my friend."

Bautista previously revealed Gunn was supportive of the decision, telling Digital Spy of the conversation, "He said, 'I completely get it. I'm proud of you that you're even in this position. I'm proud that I had something to do with you being in this position where you have to make these hard decisions.'"

After his role as the soft-spoken Sapper Morton in director Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, Bautista was looking for "roles that would afford me the opportunity to perform and be an actor and do some dramatic stuff," he recently explained to CinemaBlend about almost passing on Army. "I wanted to showcase my range as an actor and a lot of times you just can't do it when you're playing an action hero."

After a deeper look at Scott Ward — a zombie war hero and an estranged father to Kate (Ella Purnell) — Bautista realized the heist in an apocalyptic Las Vegas "was all kind of backdrop to the real heart of the story, which was a redemption story between Scott Ward and his daughter."

"So I looked at it like that and I focused on that, and I had the conversation with Zack about diving in deeper to this character and making it even richer and making him even more emotional and giving him even more depth," Bautista said. "Zack said he would allow me the freedom to do that, and he actually welcomed it, which is why he wanted me to play the role. I was like, 'Man, sign me up because that's what I'm after.'"

Bautista reunites with Gunn for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, set for release in theaters on May 5, 2023. Snyder's Army of the Dead is now streaming on Netflix.