Army of the Dead star and WWE champion Dave Bautista says producers told him he was told he was "too big" to play a zombie on The Walking Dead. The six-foot, six-inch tall Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers star leads the Zack Snyder-directed zombie movie Army of the Dead, where Bautista plays "dry-witted and thoughtful" mercenary Scott Ward. Bautista initially passed on starring in the zombie heist movie set against the backdrop of a dead-infested Las Vegas — he sought out "juicy [dramatic roles]" after Blade Runner 2049 — but Bautista once pined after a different kind of role on The Walking Dead:
"I'm a zombie fan. I tried to get on Walking Dead for years. I said I would come and play a zombie for free, but they said, 'You're too big!'" Bautista told Empire Magazine. On enlisting for Army of the Dead, Bautista added, "For me, there had to be something special about a zombie film for me to sign up. What sets us apart is the heist. But there's a whole bunch of different layers to this film."
Bautista previously told Entertainment Weekly he initially "wasn't interested" in Snyder's next zombie movie after 2004's Dawn of the Dead, saying he "had this chip on my shoulder and was looking for juicy [dramatic roles]. Then I read the script and it was a lot deeper and had more layers than I thought. And also, to be quite frank, I wanted to work with Zack."
That meant passing up a role in DC Films' super-criminal ensemble The Suicide Squad, which would have reunited Bautista with his Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn.
Army of the Dead is a "full-blown, balls-to-the-wall zombie heist movie, so it's genre-on-genre in a great way," 300 and Justice League filmmaker Snyder previously told EW of his hearty heist movie. "So you expect pure zombie mayhem, and you get that, 100 percent. But also you get these really amazing characters on a fantastic journey. It's going to surprise people that there's a lot of warmth and real emotion with these great characters."
The Walking Dead is now filming its eleventh and final season, with production getting underway just last week in the zombie drama's longtime home state of Georgia. The franchise's first spin-off movie, which will release in theaters via Universal Pictures, will film this spring-summer with Andrew Lincoln returning as Rick Grimes after his Season 9 departure from the television series.
Army of the Dead premieres later this year on Netflix. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD.