Dave Bautista’s Incredible Drax Transformation

Dave Bautista’s Incredible Drax Transformation

Retired pro wrestler Dave Bautista’s body
has always been his instrument, but just how do the special-effect magicians of Marvel
transform a titan of the ring into an extraterrestrial soldier of fortune? The answer involves a lot more dental fakery,
time in the sauna, and prosthetic sheeting than you might guess. Any artist will tell you that practice is
key to mastery. “Do it again!” “I can’t!” “You do it again!” But if the artist’s canvas is a person who
has to eat, sleep, and live life outside the makeup chair, the best way to practice is
to make a model and go to town on it. That goes for Bautista’s transformation into
Drax, which begins with a model of his body, which includes his head, face, arms, and torso
down to his hips. From this, the makeup team creates a clear
plastic mold with holes to indicate where Drax’s many tattoos and scars must be placed. The plastic mold is placed on Bautista at
the start of his makeup session, and a type of rice-paper-based special effects makeup
known as “skin Illustrator” is airbrushed through the holes. The result is a map of where Drax’s tattoos
should be placed with an impressive level of precision, allowing the artists to access
a portable, easily replicated starting point. This level of precision is essential to maintain
continuity with a visually complex character like Drax. You may think it’s easy to remember what color
Drax is, but it’s honestly pretty complicated. Compare how he looks in the sterile light
of a spaceship to the warmer sunlight of Ego’s home in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As it turns out, his hard-to-pin-down coloration
is very much by design. Bautista’s body paint odyssey begins with
a base coat of grey. Then, as makeup effects designer David White
told Business Insider in 2014, “We added thin layers of browns, reds, and
greens within the base grey to break up the tone and make it come alive before the final
color sweep.” The green, brown, and red worked into his
alien complexion are subtle, but present. Infinity War and Endgame, which placed Drax
beside far more human characters than ever before, made the artistry behind his design
truly pop. The intricacy of Drax’s tattoos presents a
challenge: They’re not quite like traditional tattoos, as they’re raised and a fairly consistent
shade of red. Yet neither are they as random as battle damage,
or as uniform as purposeful body modification, like Killmonger’s extensive scars. They are, like Drax, entirely unique and entirely
alien. To create them, the makeup artists use 18
prosthetic pieces placed onto the areas previously mapped out using Skin Illustrator and the
plastic mold. Once applied, makeup is used to blend the
prosthetics into Drax’s skin, and a fan brush is raked across his body, turning the raised
tissue of the prosthetics red. Few aspects of the outrageous look of the
Guardians cast have presented the special effects team with more challenges than Drax’s
unique tattoos — and, ultimately, pushed them into ever-more impressive levels of innovation. After the makeup is fully applied, one of
the most difficult special effects problems rears its ugly head: how do you keep the makeup
looking great for hours of shooting, through hot lights, unpredictable weather, bathroom
breaks and meals? Prosthetic makeup department head for Legacy
Effects Brian Sipe explained the challenge to the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Local
706 website: “Our enemy is heat and sweat, and we had heat
from the lights, body heat from the actor, and the muggy Atlanta heat and humidity.” Bautista is brush sealed with a mixture of
chemical and medical adhesive. Though this is notoriously intense way of
finishing off one’s look, it’s Hollywood’s first choice, as it truly keeps even the most
elaborate looks from smudging. It’s the details that truly make a character
design sing. Without her antennae and blank black eyes,
Mantis wouldn’t ride the line between adorable and just-a-tiny-bit-creepy so well. Without her pink highlights and facial grooves,
Gamora might bring to mind asparagus rather than a fearsome alien warrior. So it goes with Drax, whose finishing touches
have nothing to do with tattoos or blue body paint. Do you remember Drax’s teeth? Probably not. But special care goes into making sure they
look believably gross, as a bereaved warrior’s teeth would likely be. Bautista’s teeth are too even and well-maintained
to fit the bill, so a custom set of dentures transforms his pearly whites into dingy greys. Drax’s eyes are just as impressive as the
rest of him — and just as work-intensive. Tailor-made contact lenses transform Bautista’s
dark brown eyes into Drax’s ice blue ones. They’re the sort of unearthly shade you only
really see in television or movies; a blue so bright and cold it brings neon lights and
phosphorescent algae to mind. In addition to this unusual color, the iris
is encircled with a thin band of blood red. These shades bring Drax’s gaze to the fore
of the screen, echoing the blue, grey, and red color scheme of the rest of his body while
signaling to the viewer that there are buried layers to the hulking brute. After Drax has kicked butt, taken names, chopped
a few aliens into pieces, and dropped a few devastatingly blunt quips, comes the final
task, and it’s a doozy: excavating Dave Bautista from the many blended, airbrushed, glued,
and sealed layers that make him into Drax the Destroyer. On first Guardians of the Galaxy, the makeup
up team scrubbed it all off him with brute force. As Bautista told CinemaBlend, two days of
this treatment made his skin, quote, “like hamburger,” and a better method was sought. The answer was found in a portable sauna. “I get in the sauna for about 20 minutes by
myself, and then about three guys join me, and they start scrubbing this makeup off me.” At the end of a day of shooting, Bautista
sits in the sauna, raising his core body temperature and building up sweat, which loosens the makeup’s
hold on his skin. With the help of steam-pumping hoses, shaving
cream, hot towels, and a silicone-based makeup remover known as 244 Fluid, Bautista is freed
from Drax’s shell. The routine for making Bautista into Drax
has changed pretty dramatically over the years. Initially, on the set of the first Guardians
movie, turning Bautista into Drax took a tedious five hours during which he had to stand as
still as possible. Taking the makeup off was another two-hour
journey unto itself. “They have these two sticks that they have,
and they have tennis balls on top of them, and that’s what I grab and perch my arms up
on.” The Guardians sequel saw a dramatic streamlining
of the process. His prosthetic tattoos were reduced in number
from 27 to 18. The sauna was introduced, and removal fell
to 70 minutes. Bautista told ScreenRant on the set of Vol.
2., “It’s so easy, you wouldn’t believe it. I’m not kidding. It takes like an hour and a half now. The last one, they got it down to four hours
and everyone was celebrating. This, literally they attack me with paint
rollers all over. And it looks better too. It looks way better.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about Marvel
movies are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

Author: Kevin Mason

22 thoughts on “Dave Bautista’s Incredible Drax Transformation

  1. Every time I scroll thru my feed and see any avengers related video before seeing the channel, my head just says “…Looper…”

    I look down … it’s a looper video lol

  2. Dave sure has done a great job in moving into acting. Really enjoy watching him. Don't know if he remembers me but I use to do security in Winnipeg and met a lot of the wrestlers. They are all a great bunch Of guys

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