Rian Johnson Thinks Dave Bautista Is The Greatest Wrestler-Turned-Actor, And Here's Why He's Right

Many, many wrestlers have attempted to transition into acting over the years. This has come with mixed results, ranging from disastrous to impressive. Heck, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is arguably the biggest, most recognizable star on the planet. Then, we have guys like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin who have little to show beyond direct-to-video fares, such as "Hunt to Kill." But, in the eyes of director Rian Johnson, one wrestler-turned-actor stands tall above the rest: Dave Bautista.

Johnson recently worked with Bautista in "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," which is now streaming on Netflix (read our review here). In a recent interview with The Atlantic, the filmmaker explained that he originally hadn't thought of a guy like Bautista for the role of right-wing video game streamer, Duke Cody. "When I was writing [his character], I was picturing a scrawny dude who's trying to overcompensate. When Bautista was brought up, I was instantly so smitten by the idea. I've been a very big fan of his dramatic chops as an actor," Johnson said. When the interviewer said that Bautista is the best actor to come from the world of wrestling, Johnson then agreed.

"I absolutely 100 percent agree. And I think somebody like [Paul Thomas Anderson] is going to give him a real part and is gonna look like a genius. As a person, Bautista is genuinely, immediately vulnerable when you meet him, and that's what I was excited about. This is someone who has the physical trappings of someone who would play it big, but he actually brings sensitivity to the role."

The resume speaks for itself

While difficult to quantify "best" in this arena, it is tough to argue with Rian Johnson's thinking here. Is The Rock arguably more successful? There is an argument to be made there. But in terms of raw acting talent and range, there doesn't appear to be anyone remotely close. (Though John Cena is making a pretty compelling case for himself as well, it should be said.) Looking over Dave Bautista's resume, it's growing more and more impressive, with a mixed bag of projects that any actor would be happy to have.

Bautista seemingly approached his acting career with no ego, starting out small, like an appearance on "Chuck" or with a role in "The Scorpion King 3." But fame came calling when he played Drax in "Guardians of the Galaxy," a role that yes, used his size, but also proved the man had copious amounts of charm. Drax is funny, dry, charismatic, and lovable. We don't get that out of many superheroes — particularly ones who were on the D-list before becoming a part of a major franchise.

From there, Bautista continued to make interesting, diverse choices. From his silent role as the henchman Mr. Hinx in "Spectre" to his compelling bit-part in "Blade Runner 2049," this is a man that made the most out of everything he said yes to. Rather than take the bigger, flashier part, he took the more interesting parts that allowed him to flex his skills and showcase his range.

His willingness to take risks

Mr. Hinx, in particular, is a fascinating example of Dave Bautista setting ego aside. After a hit like "Guardians of the Galaxy," so many other figures from the world of wrestling would want screen time, lines, and spotlight. Instead, he wanted to do something interesting. As an actor, he proved that he could lead a studio comedy alongside a downright bonafide comedian in "Stuber," which co-starred Kumail Nanjiani. He went toe-to-toe with some of the finest actors as part of an ensemble in the underseen "Hotel Artemis." Heck, he even made a sweet PG, family-friendly action flick with "My Spy." The man has range and is not afraid to take risks.

Yes, we've absolutely seen Bautista do what is perhaps expected of a wrestler-turned-actor as well, but even then, he does it on a high level. Just look at "Army of the Dead," the zombie heist flick that saw him bring his A-game when, perhaps, an argument could be made that he didn't have to, in a movie with so much going on. He did it anyway, and the movie is better off for it. With his time as Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to a close with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," the door is wide open for even more from him in the future. In the rearview, he's got a multi-billion-dollar franchise to go along with his smaller successes.

Soon, we'll get to see what he can do in the hands of M. Night Shyamalan with "Knock at the Cabin," as well as a return to another sci-fi franchise with "Dune: Part Two" out in 2023 as well. So yeah, Johnson has a point.

"Knives Out: Glass Onion" is streaming now on Netflix.