Movies & TV

Why Zack Snyder Chose Dave Bautista to be His Lead in Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead drops on Netflix on May 21.

Most of us know Dave Bautista from his lovable goofball role as Drax in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy series. Fans of the WWE, of course, know him as Batista, the “Animal” who dominated the squared circle for the better part of the last decade.

But when Zack Snyder approached him to take the lead role in his long-gestating Army of the Dead, the actor (who has Filipino and Greek heritage) initially demurred.

“Dave and I have been talking for years about trying to make a movie together and I asked him about this,” Snyder told regional media in a press conference held over Zoom. “He wasn't sure, he was like, 'Yeah, I don't really want to do another action thing.'”

But Snyder insisted that he read the script.

“After he read it, he called me and he goes, I didn't realize that I had this emotional journey to go through.”

Looks like Bautista was already owning the role from the get-go.

Army of the Dead is the filmmaker’s return to the zombie genre after making Dawn of the Dead back in 2004. But it comes with its own genre twist: it’s a heist movie, with Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward leading a bunch of mercs deep into the heart of Las Vegas to recover $50 million from a casino vault before the army nukes the city to dust.


But “Scott's journey is really an emotional journey,” Snyder explained. With a build like that, Dave Bautista’s got the zombie-dispatching part down pat. “I'm gonna take it for granted that you can kill zombies. These things aren't gonna be the hard part.”

However, Snyder continued, “With Dave, there's this vulnerability. He plays this really broken character that wants to reconnect with his daughter. That part of it, he does an amazing job. That was why I chose him.”

Snyder also warmed up some rusty cinematic muscles while doing this film — flexing skills he hadn’t used since he started doing more and more blockbusters like Justice League. He’s not only Army’s director, he also parked himself behind the camera as its director of photography.

“Doing these giant superhero movies, you get further and further away from the camera, and for me, just shooting the movie and operating is just a reconnection and joyous experience,” he said.

Netflix will release the film on May 21. However, on May 14, you can watch an interactive experience on the streaming platform’s YouTube channel to unlock the flick’s first 15 minutes.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by editors.

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