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SYFY WIRE The Walking Dead

'Army of the Dead' was Dave Bautista's way into the zombie genre after 'The Walking Dead' rejected him

By Josh Weiss
Army of the Dead

Dave Bautista turned down a role in The Suicide Squad to star in Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead because he really, really wanted to be a part of the zombie genre. As it turns out, the wrestler-turned-actor's affinity for the undead runs as deep as a freshly dug recently torn up by a reanimated corpse. Speaking with Empire for the magazine's April 2021 issue (now on sale), the Guardians of the Galaxy veteran said that he tried for years to secure a role on AMC's The Walking Dead, but was rejected for a very specific reason. 

"I said I would come and play a zombie for free, but they said, 'You're too big!'" Bautista recalled, adding that he wouldn't just join any ghoul-related project. "For me, there had to be something special about a zombie film for me to sign up," he added. "There's a whole bunch of different layers to this film."

Army of the Dead, which premieres on Netflix later this year, is as special as they come. Set six years after a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, the film centers around a group of mercenaries (led by Bautista's "Scott") who enter the flesh-eating dead zone that is now Sin City in an effort to heist a fortune out of a casino vault. Time is against them because the government plans to blow the entire hedonistic strip — now walled off from the rest of the country — off the map with a nuclear bomb.

Army of the Dead

The movie also marks a return to form for Snyder, who made his feature debut in 2004 with a remake of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. His zombie homecoming has almost two years of filmmaking experience. "Dawn is a deconstruction, and this movie feels like a double deconstruction," Snyder explained to Empire.  "It's just unapologetic, unabashed madness."

Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana De La Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Richard Cetrone, Michael Cassidy co-star alongside Bautista.

Army of the Dead shambles onto Netflix sometime this summer and will be followed by a prequel film (helmed by Schweighöfer) and anime series