The former wrestler had previously voiced his eagerness to reteam with Gunn in the DC Comics blockbuster, the first project he was hired for following his initial firing from Disney/Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" film in 2018, after controversial tweets he sent years ago resurfaced online.
Bautista, who plays Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, reveals he met with Gunn and was heavily involved in the early planning stages of the film, but he ended up turning down the opportunity in order to fulfil a career goal of working with Snyder on the zombie thriller, which was being developed for Netflix.
"James Gunn wrote a role for me in 'The Suicide Squad', which I was all fired up about, not only because he was making a huge comeback. He's come back with 'The Suicide Squad' and was rehired by Marvel, and has really been vindicated as far as that whole thing went [sic]," Bautista explained to Digital Spy, referencing the filmmaker's brief exit from the next "Guardians" movie.
"I was all up for it, and then I got 'Army of the Dead', which was not only a lead role for me, but also I really wanted to work with Zack Snyder," he shared. "I've been wanting to work with him for years."
Bautista was forced to choose between the two projects due to scheduling conflicts, and breaking the news to Gunn was tough.
"I had 'The Suicide Squad' where I got to work with my boy again, even though it's a smaller role, and then I had 'Army of the Dead' on which I get to work with Zack, I get to build a relationship with Netflix, I get a lead role in a great film - and I get paid a lot more money," he laughed.
"I had to call James, and I told him, 'It breaks my heart, because as a friend, I want to be there with you, but professionally, this is the smart decision for me.' "
However, Gunn was fully supportive of Bautista's decision, "He said, 'I completely get it. I'm proud of you that you're even in this position. I'm proud that I had something to do with you being in this position where you have to make these hard decisions.' "
Bautista and Gunn will instead reunite on the set of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3", which is set for release in 2023.