Dave Bautista: I do all my own stunts
Dave Bautista steps up as an action hero in thriller Final Score, which sees a group of criminals take control of a packed football stadium. As Georgia Humphreys finds out, the wrestler turned actor just hopes viewers don't take the story too seriously
Being as muscular as Dave Bautista isn't always easy. Sure, the former professional wrestler has successfully made his mark on Hollywood - in upcoming action thriller Final Score, he's bagged himself the lead role.
But there are some characters the 49-year-old is just not right for. "Sometimes it hurts, because I've stepped into auditions for roles where I'm just too big... it doesn't work," confides the Washington DC-born star, who, during his time in WWE, was a six-time world champion.
"I even notice it sometimes that my size is distracting. I don't train to be this way. It's just something that's a side-effect of who I am."
Since retiring from the world of wrestling to focus on his acting career in mid-2010, Bautista has become most famous for playing Drax the Destroyer in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Other memorable acting credits include James Bond feature Spectre, plus action film Heist, opposite Robert De Niro and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
In Final Score, he portrays Michael Knox, an ex-soldier tasked with saving 35,000 football fans after a group of heavily armed criminals take control of a stadium while West Ham United are playing Russian powerhouses Dynamo FCC.
And the fight is a personal one for Knox - he has taken Danni, the teenage daughter of his best friend, who died in action while serving in his unit, to the game.
"I was looking for more leading roles," says Bautista. "It's easy for me to step into the role of villain and I wanted to play the hero for a change so people could see me in a different light - I'm still trying to prove myself as an actor."
What else about this role ticked all the boxes?
"I thought it was an interesting premise," he stresses. "We like to compare it to Die Hard in a football stadium, and I kind of own that - I'm proud of that."
Plus, it was a "character that wasn't completely invincible, that had a heart".
He goes on: "And I thought the relationship between Mike and Danni was just a good relationship, a pure relationship that I could really get into and not just play a one-dimensional action hero."
A big part of the story is this idea of a relatable foreign threat.
But this is a "popcorn film", suggests Bautista - and he hopes viewers don't take it too seriously. "It's a fun film, it's not a documentary," quips the actor.
"I hope they don't pick it apart too much. Don't overthink it and ask yourselves questions about this and that.
"Just have fun with the action and the story and the relationships."
With a stellar cast including Pierce Brosnan, it's certainly an adrenaline-filled watch - and there are fight scenes aplenty.
Bautista - once a mixed martial artist and bodybuilder - was more than happy to have a go at these himself.
After all, being physical is, he says, "part of his own character", and something that he couldn't live without.
"I get beat up a little bit (in Final Score), but I can't say I do all my own stunts," he says.
"I do most of my own fighting because it's something I'm comfortable with, something I feel like I'm good at.
"But I have a really qualified stunt double - we've done 12, 13 films together.
"If it requires jumping off the top of a football stadium, then that's something I'm just not happy to do."
"I'm more than happy to ask him (the stunt double), 'Hey Rob, would you mind jumping off this building for me?'"
Filming at Upton Park, West Ham United's former ground, came about after producer Marc Goldberg, a fan of the club, learned the side would be moving to the Olympic Stadium.
At this point, there wasn't even an idea for a story, but knowing they had access to an arena - and that they would be able to blow parts of it up - the concept of Final Score was born.
"We had the run of the stadium, and it was a bittersweet thing because you could tell they were getting ready to demolish it," recalls Bautista, who was originally in line to play Arkady, the brutal general behind the terrorist plot.
"Every day was an adventure in film making and we had to be really creative. We were under a crunch because obviously they were going to demolish the stadium, but the script wasn't originally written for me, so every day we were trying to figure things out.
"We also had to play with the dimensions of the stadium as well, so it was really a tricky thing, but it was a learning experience."
One thing Bautista hasn't been able to master, however, is his British accent (in Final Score he plays an American).
"It's horrible. It's hard. Guy Ritchie knows that I'm a huge fan. I'm dying to work with him.
"He was doing King Arthur, and he asked me if I could do a British accent, and I said, 'Not convincingly'.
"He said that he really felt strongly about having an all-European cast. He was like, 'Sorry mate!'"
As for watching the beautiful game himself, the star was meant to go to a match during filming, but he tore his hamstring and was unable to attend.
But the weekend after we chat in a London hotel, he's off to watch West Ham play Wolves in the Premier League.
"I'm pretty excited about it, because we are going to actually sit in the stands - we won't be in the box," says the father-of-two.
"I have a few family and friends who have travelled over with me, so we will all go to our first football game."
It's good to know filming Final Score hasn't put him off.
Final Score is in cinemas now