Dave Bautista has gone from a wrestling star to an action cinema mainstay, bringing his instantly recognizable hulking physique roles in tentpole movies like Dune and Guardians of the Galaxy. But things very nearly turned out quite differently. In a recent conversation with Dan Solomon, head of the Olympia bodybuilding organization, Bautista recalled how getting into the gym changed the trajectory of his career—and his entire life.
“Bodybuilding saved my life because I was really a f***ed up kid,” he tells Solomon in the video below. “I was in a lot of trouble, getting in the worst kind of trouble and hanging out with the worst kinds of people. I just didn’t have anywhere to channel all my anger and aggression. And when I found a gym, it became therapeutic for me.”
“I loved wrestling, I really loved training,” he continued. “So I started training for years and then when I got out of high school, all I wanted to do was be a bodybuilder… For years and years and years I just paused that [because] I didn’t have what it took to be a professional bodybuilder. But I loved training so much that I turned it into professional wrestling… I started to take my body I had from bodybuilding and my athletic ability from wrestling, and turned that into a career, which led into film… That’s where it all started for me.”
Bautista has spoken previously about how his relationship with working out is as much about the mental benefits as it is the physical. Sure, he trains hard and eats every four hours to maintain the muscle mass that moviegoers have come to associate with characters like Drax the Destroyer in Marvel’s Guardians (a role he will be stepping away from next year). But as he told Men’s Health in his cover story last year, the gym is first and foremost about continuing to explore his love of fitness.
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“I think a lot of people think I’m just a meathead and that I live my life lifting weights,” he said. “And I actually don’t. I do live my life training, but I think people think that I train because I want to look like a bodybuilder or a big musclehead. And it’s not at all the case… Me looking the way I do is really just kind of a by-product of that. I’m not consumed about like, ‘Oh, I can bench, like, 500 pounds; I can deadlift 800 pounds.’ I’m not that guy at all. I’d rather watch someone else deadlift than do it myself. I’d rather be boxing or doing some type of interesting cardio like cycling. I’d rather be working with a trainer and keeping it fresh.”
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