Dave Bautista is on a roll. The former wrestler has carved out a niche in the film industry – if you need a soulful, funny performer who also looks like he can crush your skull with a single hand, he’s your man. And while he’ll soon be matching wits with Daniel Craig in Knives Out 2 and conquering planets in Dune, it’s tough to talk to Bautista without bringing up the character that made his newfound acting career possible: Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I recently spoke with Bautista about his work in Zack Snyder’s ultra-gory horror heist movie Army of the Dead, in which he plays the the stoic leader of a band of zombie-killing mercs, but eventually, our conversation turned back to Drax. It had to. After all, he’s previously said that this will be his final time playing the literal-minded alien warrior. And he’s said that Marvel dropped the ball with one aspect of the character that he wishes was further explored.

But he has a solution to that problem: wait a few years, recast Drax, and go on that journey with a new actor.

In conversation, Bautista is thoughtful and soft-spoken, but also honest. When asked about the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and his work with writer/director James Gunn, he’s respectful…but also upfront that Drax’s transition toward being a comedic character took the “destroyer” out of Drax the Destroyer:

“It’s weird, because sometimes you’ll hear me say, ‘I wish they dove into the Destroyer side,’ which originally I thought they were going to do in Guardians 2. Because the Marvel Universe still hasn’t seen Drax the Destroyer. But he tapped into the comedic side, and that’s what people fell in love with, so we just dove into it more. I was just very fortunate to be in that kind of perfect storm of having this huge film and having this great, rich character and having James Gunn write and direct for this character.”

But when asked if he hopes the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will rectify this and allow this side of Drax to thrive, he’s hesitant. “You know, I have to be honest with you,” he says. “The honest answer is no. I think people are in love with the characters the way they are, and I just want to conclude this journey.”

So Bautista has a solution that he thinks will honor the character – revisit the character down the road, recast Drax with another actor, and make a movie that’s all about this unexplored angle:

 But you know what I really wish for? I really hope that going forward they will reboot Drax, and I think Drax the Destroyer could be a standalone film. I think it could be something new and something different. Drax has such a great story, and I think time would have to go by and people would have to be willing to accept a new story, a new character, a new Drax the Destroyer. But I hope someday that they just recast it and reboot just Drax the Destroyer and focus on that story, because it’s a great story. I mean, there’s so much emotion there, so much rage. I still think there could be moments of humor: it’s just funny that Drax takes everything literally. [laughs] But also I think the films can’t be too dark in tone. They have to have moments of levity, and I think Drax would be that perfect character. I hope they reboot him someday.

Right now, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Drax, but Bautista seems aware that the Marvel characters are often bigger than their actors. If James Bond and Captain Kirk can be recast, why not Drax? He seems happy to have played a part in bringing the character to life, and is more than happy for Drax to live beyond him:

Obviously, I can take credit for my performance. [Laughs] But James writes for Drax – he just wouldn’t be the same character if James wasn’t writing for him. Even the stuff that I did in, like, Infinity War – all the Drax lines were written by James. Drax is James’ muse. I think James wants to amuse himself with Drax, so he writes this stuff that’s just brilliant. I’ll get Drax quotes back for the rest of my life. But I can’t take credit for any of that. But it did – I think through the first film, I was still finding the character. James was helping me find the character. And I think by the second film, we just knew who Drax was. James knew what my strengths were, and he wrote for those strengths.

Bautista can be seen next in Army of the Dead, which hits theaters on May 14, 2021 and streams on Netflix starting May 21, 2021.

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