By his own admission, Dave Bautista has always been something of a late bloomer when it comes to the two careers he’s best known for. He was a few months shy of 31 when he made his professional wrestling debut, and well into his 40s when he decided to step away from the squared circle and pursue his Hollywood dreams.
Bautista quit WWE in 2010 when he was one of the biggest and most popular stars in the company, but it wasn’t until March 2013 when he was announced to be playing Drax the Destroyer in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which would ultimately be the role that kick started his ascent up the industry ladder.
Prior to that, his most high profile outing came in Vin Diesel’s sci-fi sequel Riddick, with his filmography to that point largely comprised of VOD actioners like Wrong Side of Town, House of the Rising Sun and The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. Top names in WWE can typically expect to take home millions of dollars per year, but in a new interview Bautista admitted that the long gap between his exit and scoring a plum gig in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t been great for him financially.
“For people to really understand how much my life has changed, they would have to understand where I came from, what I went through when I was in wrestling, what I left behind to take a chance on going into acting. And when I got the role of Drax in Guardians, I barely worked in three years. So I’d really left wrestling behind and I could have gone back with my tail between my legs, but I still would have been just stuck in a place that I never would have gone any further, but I just took a chance. And then when I got cast, not only because I was broke, everything changed. When I say broke, my house was foreclosed, I had nothing, man. I sold all my stuff. I sold everything that I made from when I was wrestling. I had issues with the IRS. I was just lost in everything.”
These days, Bautista is a well-known face among general audiences, having shown up in a number of critically and commercially successful projects outside Guardians of the Galaxy, including Denis Villenueve duo Blade Runner 2049 and Dune, James Bond blockbuster Spectre and Army of the Dead, while he’s just wrapped shooting on Netflix’s hotly-anticipated sequel to Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. It was a massive gamble on his part, but it’s all worked out in the end.