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Animal Instinct: Bautista is On Another Level

The Bond Villain, WWE star, and martial artist is ready for any challenge.

November M&F Cover Star Dave Bautista Ties the Knot!

At 6'4" and 265 pounds, Dave Bautista seems like an unlikely choice to play Hamlet. The mural of tattoos down his barn-door-size back and the road map of veins running through his shoulders and arms suggest a dude who can bench-press more than four plates, win six world titles in WWE, and beat a man into submission inside a mixed-martial-arts cage. And, of course, Bautista has done all of the above. But if you think the man known to sports-entertainment fans as “the Animal” can’t put a beating on somebody and then entertain you with a sonnet, then you’re selling Bautista short.

Don’t do that again.

The villain of James Bond film, Spectre, now has movie stardom in his sights and a stage production of Shakespeare on his bucket list.

An Unlikely Thespian

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It’s especially funny to think of Bautista’s long-term ambition in contrast to his humble upbringing, which was as far from puffy shirts, frilly necklines, and Elizabethan English as one could get. Raised in a tough section of Washington, D.C., Bautista sought protection through weight training. He bulked up to 370 pounds and worked as a bouncer until, at age 30, he decided to take a shot at sports entertainment. Despite a successful run in WWE, Bautista was unhappy with the direction the business was headed (away from the “Attitude Era” to a more family-friendly product) and, in 2010, left to pursue acting.

“I did some work on a film for a friend,” he says, “and I realized what a horrible actor I was.” The movie, Wrong Side of Town, was directed by one of Bautista’s buddies, who thought he had the look to pull off the character of a Navy SEAL badass. “I was so embarrassed, but it made me want to do it again and do it better.”

SEE ALSO: Behind the Scenes at Bautista's M&F Cover Shoot

He hired an acting coach and hit the streets of Hollywood, eager to establish a full-time film career. “I had a lot of trouble when I started out acting because I’m very self conscious and a naturally shy person. But [my coach] said, ‘If you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything,’ so we read scenes from Measure for Measure and The Taming of the Shrew. Stage acting in itself terrifies me, and Shakespeare’s dialogue is so tricky. To me, doing it onstage would be the ultimate challenge.”

The other challenge besides shyness, of course, was having the body of a mythic warrior, which didn’t automatically suit him to Shakespearean roles or anything else—except generic tough-guy and villain parts in B movies.

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