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Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista mesmerized by 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

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TORONTO - When watching himself on-screen, wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista usually engages in a thorough critique of his performance. But while viewing "Guardians of the Galaxy" for the first time, he got distracted.

"About 20 to 30 minutes into it I just lost sense that I was in it and got sucked into the film and started watching it as a fan," said Bautista about Marvel's latest space adventure, which opens Aug. 1.

The 45-year-old former WWE champion had parts in "Riddick" and "The Man With the Iron Fists" but landing the role of Drax the Destroyer was a major coup both for advancing his acting career and as a lifelong science-fiction fan.

"It's a bit surreal and overwhelming," said Bautista. "It's so much bigger than anything I set out to do, it's really starting to hit me how big it is."

Although Drax isn't a typical brute — his primal urge to avenge his family's death is coupled with a more sensitive side that's still grieving — it helps that Bautista stands 6-4 and is built like a tank. But the role still required a significant transformation to create Drax's raised body tattoos, which were designed to look like keloid scarring. The tattoos, which tell Drax's life story, required five makeup artists working for over four hours to get Bautista ready.

Watching how that translated on the big screen exceeded his expectations, which was just an added bonus to how much he enjoyed making the movie, said Bautista.

"I had such amazing co-stars, such a good script, a lot of good dialogue and such a fun director," said Bautista.

The film was the first project of this scale for director James Gunn, who wrote the script along with Nicole Perlman.

Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, a space outlaw who would like to be known as "Star-Lord." The star-studded cast also includes Zoe Saldana as green-skinned assassin Gamora, Bradley Cooper voicing the part of genetically enhanced raccoon Rocket and Vin Diesel voicing Groot, a tree-like creature. The characters are not as familiar as those in "The Avengers" — they are intended to be much more quirky and flawed, leaving the audience to question whether they're really superheroes at all.

The story begins as Peter steals a mysterious orb intending to sell it but runs into more trouble than expected when brutal Kree radical Ronan sends Gamora to retrieve it. Rocket and Groot throw a wrench in her plans when they try to capture Peter to collect a bounty put on his head and end up landing them all in prison, where they meet Drax. The rag-tag team sets off to uncover what power the orb holds after Gamora reveals Ronan is trading it in as part of a deal with supervillian Thanos.

Although the common superhero themes of loss and fearlessness bring the motley crew together, the characters were written and brought to life in a way that makes comedy central to the film. One of the reasons the jokes work so well is because many of them were improvised, Bautista said.

"A lot of the stuff that was thrown out there, James ended up loving and put it in the film," he said. "You can see that it really flows naturally and we have great chemistry."

Audiences can also look forward to watching Glenn Close as Nova Prime, protector of the planet Xandar, and Benicio Del Toro as the Collector, who also wants the orb. There's even an appearance by the master himself, Stan Lee, who also was an executive producer of the film.

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