Dave Bautista is obsessed with acting — and his vintage Green Hornet lunchbox – CNET

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Bautista at the Guardians of the Galaxy London premiere on July 25, 2014.

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This story is part of I'm So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

Dave Bautista's acting career over the past 14 years has been so varied that many people might not know he first made a name for himself as a  professional wrestler. And it's not just a bit part: He's a six-time World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion. But it was small roles in action movies including The Scorpion King 3, The Man with the Iron Firsts and 2013's Riddick that led to what turned out to be a break out part as Drax the Destroyer in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers superhero franchises. 

In the past two years, he's taken on comedic roles -- playing the straight man in 2019's Stuber with comedian Kumail Nanjiani and as the lead in the action comedy My Spy, which was released on Amazon Prime in June.  

But it's his dramatic work that's worth special attention and what he says he's most proud of. In Blade Runner 2049, Bautista plays Sapper Morton, a complicated, aging replicant whose backstory is told in a Blade Runner prequel, the six-minute short film 2048: Nowhere to Run. And in Season 4 of the HBO series Room 104, he tells the story of an ex-wrestler named Raw Dog Avalanche with a tortured past who comes to terms with his childhood drama. He brought so much emotion to the role that Mark Duplass, co-creator of the series, told CNET's Patrick Holland that Bautista gave "one of the most beautiful performances we've had on the show."

"That's the kind of stuff that makes me emotional," Bautista said during our conversation for I'm So Obsessed. As he read the script, "I was blown away. It was just so deep. I also looked at it as a huge opportunity for me to really stretch myself as an actor and prove myself as an actor.  Because that's really what I want -- I want to be respected as an actor."

"I love dramatic acting and when I think about myself as an actor and who I aspire to be, it's a dramatic actor," he adds. "I want that level of respect." 

But that's not to say Bautista still isn't up for trying out all sorts of roles -- and having fun. He stars in Denis Villeneuve's new adaption of the sci-fi classic Dune, playing Rabban Harkonnen, the brutish nephew of villain Baron Harkonnen who wants to take down the house of Atreides. Dune is set to be released Dec. 18. And he takes on the lead in the upcoming Army of the Dead, which he describes as an American zombie heist action film. He also says he's looking forward to bringing Drax back to the screen in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3, which is in development. "Drax is always a lot of fun. You're going to see more of that and I have a lot more interaction with him and Mantis. And that's probably about all I can say without getting in serious trouble."

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We also talked about his obsession with acting, about how he's been working out and staying in shape during COVID-19 quarantines and about the 200 vintage metal lunchboxes he's collected -- including his absolute favorite, a 1967 Green Hornet lunchbox featuring his personal hero, Bruce Lee.  "I love Bruce -- what he did for film and what he stood for in film. He was so far ahead of his time. I'm half Filipino, which a lot of people don't know... He meant so much to me as a kid -- he was like the first superhero to me." 

I ask him if he uses the lunchbox to, you know, carry his lunch. "Oh God, no!" he says, laughing. "I don't even like people to touch it because I'm afraid it'll get scratched or get banged up... I'm really particular about preserving the condition of these lunch boxes."

Listen to my entire conversation with Bautista on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, my co-host Patrick Holland and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

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