The Secrets Behind Dave Bautista's Transformation Into Drax

Drax the Destroyer, created by comic book writer Jim Starlin, first appeared in the 55th issue of "The Invincible Iron Man" in February 1973, and would immediately go on to be a supporting character in the space-bound "Captain Marvel" book series. In the lore of the comics, Drax was a human soul that had been implanted into the body of an enormously powerful, green-skinned alien bruiser, specially constructed to fight the Mad Titan Thanos. Over the years, Drax would do battle with his daughter, a powerful psychic named Moondragon. In the process, he would lose his intelligence, but would still go on to carry one of the all-powerful Infinity Gems as a member of the Infinity Watch. Many years later, he would be inducted into the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The version of Drax seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite different. First played by actor Dave Bautista in the 2014 film "Guardians of the Galaxy," Drax is a eucalyptus-skinned space alien, his body etched with raised red markings, who seeks to kill the tyrant responsible for the death of his family. He is intelligent, but his species was unfamiliar with the concept of metaphor, leading to a series of comedic misunderstandings. For example, when a teammate mentions that their comment might "go over Drax's head," he replies "Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it."

Although threatening, the MCU version of Drax eventually becomes a lovable dope who would eventually kidnap Kevin Bacon as a Christmas present. Drax was rarely seen wearing a shirt, and the process to apply makeup to Bautista's face and body initially took five hours to complete. 

The process

According to a 2014 article in Business Insider, Dave Bautista's various body prosthetics consisted of 18 separate latex "scars" that would be applied by makeup artist David White. White said that of all the "Guardians of the Galaxy" actors, Bautista spent the most amount of time on set. At first, his makeup took five hours, but the process was eventually streamlined down to four. 

In order to sculpt the scar prosthetics, White and his makeup team began by taking a mold of Bautista's head and torso. The plastic torso would then be outfitted with an additional clear shell that snapped around it perfectly. That clear shell, called a Vac forma, was perforated at the various points on Bautista's body where his prosthetics were to be glued. 

The perforations served essentially as a stencil. Bautista would be painted his trademark shade of xanadu blue-green — thick, as to cover the actor's real-life tattoos — and the Vac forma would be placed over his body. The perforations in the Vac forma would then be painted over, effectively mapping out the exact location of Drax's scars on the actor's torso. Makeup artists would paint Bautista with a gentle adhesive and stick the scars on his body, transferring them gently from pieces of paper. The Vac forma stencils assured they would be in the exact same spot each time. There are videos online depicting the entire process in just over two minutes. One can't help but admire Bautista's stamina for standing in one spot for several hours while the technicians did their work. 

The final step was to spray Bautista down with a special fixative, assuring the makeup would stay in place. The day of shooting could then begin. 

Bautista's workout

Becoming Drax, however, was more than just makeup. Like many actors in superhero roles, Dave Bautista had to bulk up to play the part. Just after filming "Avengers: Infinity War," Bautista was interviewed by Men's Journal Magazine, and he revealed his regiment in working with a personal trainer. Previously a professional wrestler, Bautista was no stranger to working out and training, but playing Drax required more than his usual routine. A superhero physique, he explained, was different from that of a typical wrestler or athlete. Wrestlers get big and strong. Superheroes, in contrast, need to have very particular bodily dimensions. Bautista said:

"I wanted to not only look big, but I wanted to look toned — I wanted to look like a superhero. That big figure, small waist look. We focused on making my muscles look more rounded, my waist more tapered, my back wider, and my thighs more developed. We went back towards a real bodybuilding style, but not with heavy weights — we focused more on power training." 

The power training in question was a hybrid between athletic lifting and bodybuilding lifting. Bautista was insistent on keeping some athleticism involved so that he could move more freely during his action scenes. Bodybuilders, he implies, don't have a great range of movement. He also learned, in working with a professional trainer, that his previous, wrestling workout regimen, wasn't ideal for his sport. The trainer corrected him, he went on intense, three-day lifting sprees, and bulked up in a matter of weeks. 

Bautista is scheduled to play Drax one more time in "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3," due in theaters in May of 2023. One can only imagine the actor's relief in not ever having to go through the grueling physical process ever again.