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M. Night Shyamalan Feels Like People Have Underestimated Dave Bautista - Exclusive

For his new movie "Knock at the Cabin," director and co-screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan went with an unconventional choice for a pivotal lead in the film: Dave Bautista, the former professional wrestler turned actor who is best known for playing Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bautista has been acting since 2006 and has earned critical and audience approval for roles in films like "Blade Runner 2049," "Dune," and "Glass Onion," as well as his multiple stints as the powerful yet very literal-minded Drax in six MCU films (plus one holiday special). While he's even had main roles in comedies and — as you might expect — action pictures, he's never quite had a chance to show off his acting chops as a dramatic lead with lots of dialogue.

That's all changed with "Knock at the Cabin." In the film (adapted from the novel "The Cabin at the End of the World," by Paul Tremblay), Bautista plays Leonard, leader of a group that invades a secluded cabin and tells the family there — two men and their adopted daughter — that they must choose to kill one member of their family to prevent the end of the world.

Leonard is a mass of contradictions: He's physically intimidating but soft-spoken, intelligent, and calm. Yet he's tormented by the visions he claims to have and eerily capable of abrupt violence. It's a complicated role, and reviews are already saying that Bautista knocks it out of the park (via Rotten Tomatoes). "I thought he was in the right place in his life to commit in the way that I ask actors to commit to my movies, and I was right," says M. Night Shyamalan about Dave Bautista in our exclusive interview. "He's a rare, rare individual, and I'm super lucky."

M. Night Shyamalan had complete confidence in Dave Bautista

M. Night Shyamalan says that he cast Dave Bautista as Leonard after spotting him in "Blade Runner 2049," where he played the small but striking role of a doomed, world-weary replicant named Sapper Morton. The part showed a different side of Bautista and displayed a deeper acting ability that had arguably not been exposed even in the "Guardians" movies, and especially not in previous, mostly action-heavy roles which traded off his fame as a wrestler.

"I saw him in 'Blade Runner 2049,' and I thought there was something extraordinary about this individual," says Shyamalan, who adds that he thinks Bautista's talent had not been fully developed or utilized earlier in his career.

"Sometimes the system doesn't allow [people] to do the thing that makes them really, really special," explains Shyamalan, "and sometimes with very talented people, they've used their other muscles to be successful in the system, and they feel weirdly not seen. And Dave would be an example of someone that has achieved so much in one area of entertainment, but inside he wanted to be a different thing."

Shyamalan adds that Bautista's background as a wrestler rather than an actor didn't make him worry whether he could handle what Shyamalan required of him. "I think he [was] scared [about] whether he could make this turn, and I wasn't," the director says. "I saw in him a man of great ethics and artistic merit, and all of his achievements in this other field, frankly, were irrelevant to me, completely irrelevant. They were neither good nor bad to me. They're unimportant to why I was casting him in this movie."

"Knock at the Cabin" is playing in theaters everywhere now.