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SYFY WIRE Knives Out

Who's the best wrestler-turned-actor? Rian Johnson says the only correct answer is Dave Bautista

Dave Bautista, who steals scenes in 'Glass Onion,' is Rian Johnson's favorite wrestler/actor for a reason.

By Matthew Jackson
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

The best wrestlers give you more than astonishing feats of athleticism in the ring. They're gifted character creators, people who can work a microphone and cut convincing promos while also imbuing their actual physical matches with a certain sense of emotion and meaning. It's no wonder, then, that some wrestlers have proven adept at making the leap to film and TV acting, from Rowdy Roddy Piper to Dwayne Johnson to John Cena. But for Rian Johnson, there's one who stands out above the rest.

Speaking to The Atlantic about his new whodunit Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Johnson told interviewer David Sims that he "absolutely 100 percent agree[s]" that one of the film's stars, Dave Bautista, is the "greatest wrestler-to-actor ever," as Sims put it. Johnson also noted that Bautista was the best surprise of the casting process for Glass Onion, which follows several influential people as they head to the home of an eccentric billionaire (Edward Norton) for a sort of friends reunion weekend. Johnson knew from the beginning that he wanted an "all-star" feel to his cast, but he didn't see someone like Bautista as a contender ... at first.

"When I was writing [his character, a men’s-rights streamer named Duke Cody], I was picturing a scrawny dude who’s trying to overcompensate," Johnson said. "When Bautista was brought up, I was instantly so smitten by the idea. I’ve been a very big fan of his dramatic chops as an actor."

Bautista rose to prominence in the WWE as Batista "The Animal," and was one of the company's most prominent champions in his era. When he made the leap to the big screen for acting gigs, he broke big with projects like Guardians of the Galaxy and Blade Runner 2049, and now ranks as an in-demand star capable of stealing scenes from the likes of Norton, Kate Hudson, and even Daniel Craig. 

"I think somebody like [Paul Thomas Anderson] is going to give him a real part and is gonna look like a genius," Johnson said. "As a person, Bautista is genuinely, immediately vulnerable when you meet him, and that’s what I was excited about. This is someone who has the physical trappings of someone who would play it big, but he actually brings sensitivity to the role."

Bautista's mixture of strength and sensitivity continues to land him major roles. He'll next appear in M. Night Shyamalan's Knock at the Cabin as a reluctant warrior trying to save the world through a bizarre kind of brutality, then follow that up with the final film in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. As for Johnson, while a third Knives Out film is in the works, he'll next pop up over on Peacock, where his mystery series Poker Face is set to premiere in 2023.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is now streaming on Netflix.

If you still enjoy watching your favorite wrestlers inside the ring, there are plenty of WWE events streaming on Peacock, including the upcoming Royal Rumble on Jan. 28, the Elimination Chamber on Feb. 18, and WrestleMania on April 1 and 2.