Of all the former professional wrestlers turned movie stars, nobody has ever put together a collection of films quite as different as Dave Bautista. He's done the big action movies that you'd expect somebody from that world to do, but he's also done family comedies, serious dramatic roles, and everything in between. Bautista is clearly on a different career trajectory then others who have been in a similar position, and the future Dune actor says that's ultimately why he made the decision to star in Zach Snyder's Army of the Dead rather than take an ensemble role in The Suicide Squad.
Dave Bautista played Drax in the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and clearly has a strong relationship with writer/director James Gunn, and so it was little surprise when Bautista's name came up in connection with Gunn's other comic book movie, the forthcoming The Suicide Squad. However, Bautista ended up turning down the role for a part in the new Netflix zombie movie. Bautista had previously said that he made the choice because he liked the script and he was looking for a more dramatic role, but Big Dave recently told Digital Spy that the movie was simply the right career move. According to Bautista...
I had The Suicide Squad where I got to work with my boy again, even though it's a smaller role, and then I had Army of the Dead on which I get to work with Zack, I get to build a relationship with Netflix, I get a lead role in a great film – and I get paid a lot more money. I had to call James, and I told him, 'It breaks my heart, because as a friend, I want to be there with you, but professionally, this is the smart decision for me.’
Hollywood, like so many other industries, is one built on relationships, and Dave Bautista is, at this point, well aware of this. While The Suicide Squad was ultimately the "bigger" movie overall, his role in it would have been smaller and it would have paid less. It would have let him work with James Gunn again, which he clearly would have loved, but working with James Gunn doesn't get him a relationship he doesn't already have.
Army of the Dead, on the other hand, lets him work with a director who is, following the release of his own big comic book project, possibly as big as he's ever been professionally. It gives Bautista an opportunity to work with Netflix and possibly make some connections there he doesn't have. And also, he makes more money, which isn't anything to sneeze at either.
And Dave Bautista certainly didn't burn any bridges when he made the decision he did. According to him, James Gunn completely understood why he made that call, and praised him for making the right call. And James Gunn and Dave Bautista will be able to work together again, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is set to go in front of cameras later this year. Army of the Dead hits Netflix May 21.