from humor to hero
Chris Pratt has been leading a charmed life of late, as the Parks and Recreation heartthrob was turned into an instant movie star as space adventurer Peter Quill in last summer’s surprise mega-hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. This summer he takes charge of another film franchise in Jurassic World, the latest installment in the massively popular story of dinosaurs running amok after being bio-engineered back to life.
Pratt plays Owen, an ex-military man turned researcher/game warden who is studying the behavioral patterns of those deadly velociraptors that terrorized the original inhabitants of Jurassic Park in the classic 1993 Steven Spielberg film. Over two decades later, scientist John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) dream has finally been realized with the operation of a supposedly safe and secure dinosaur park that is attracting 20,000 visitors per day. Of course, things go very wrong again, after an experiment to produce a new genetic dinosaur hybrid sees humans once again on the run from their prehistoric predators.
“I’m so happy to be part of this film,” Pratt says. “The original Jurassic Park was one of the most influential movies of my childhood and it’s so surreal that I’m getting to be part of this historic franchise.”
“My character is in some ways a cross between like Sam Neill’s (Dr. Grant) and Jeff Goldblum’s (Dr. Malcolm) characters, but I saw Owen as more of a John Wayne-type figure. He’s pretty no-nonsense, and although there’s some humorous moments, there’s not much to laugh about when people are getting eaten and I have to save thousands of lives.”
The handsome 6’2” Pratt has previously enjoyed notable roles in Moneyball (2011), The Five-Year Engagement (2012) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), while also enjoying a healthy public following as the dorky Andy Dwyer on the cult TV series, Parks and Recreation.
The 35-year-old Pratt lives in Los Angeles with actress Anna Faris (Scary Movie), 37, whom he married in 2009 after they met on the set of the comedy film, Take Me Home Tonight. They are parents to a two-year-old son, Jack.
On December 5th, Pratt addressed a March of Dimes – Celebrations of Babies charity event in Beverly Hills, where he recalled how his son was born 9 weeks premature in August, 2012, and spent over a month in an incubator.
“He was [born] three pounds, 12 ounces. Anna got to hold him for a moment and then it was off to the NICU – the neonatal intensive care unit. That’s a decent-size bass—very small for a human… My little boy was laying cross my neck and chest feeling my heartbeat and feeling my love, and I played him country music and I sang to him and I made him promises about just what kind of dad I wanted to be. Our Jack went from a small helpless little squirt to [become] a strong, happy, funny, and vocal boy.”
SMARTY: Chris, this has been a stunning year for you…
PRATT: It’s been beyond anything I had a reasonable right to dream about. I’ve gone from being a guy living out of a van in Hawaii with not a cent to my name and no real idea about what I was going to do with my life to becoming a movie star with a beautiful wife and child. I’m a very happy guy.
SMARTY: Is it strange to suddenly be the toast of Hollywood and dealing with all the attention?
PRATT: I sometimes worry that it might make me be less open and enthusiastic when it comes to meeting people or doing interviews. I don’t want to change who I am to present a different kind of image of myself. Even though things are going very well now, I don’t want to become the kind of guy who takes himself so seriously, simply because he’s suddenly found some success. I want to be able to enjoy the kinds of opportunities that have opened up to me lately and take that as far as I can. I love being able to reach a big audience with a film like Guardians and with Jurassic World.
SMARTY: What’s changed in your life?
PRATT: (Laughs) Everything is a lot more fun, not just in terms of taking out the doubt and worry about work, but you have a lot more freedom to pursue projects you badly want to do! For a guy like me, who was doing summer theater for next to no money, and now being able to earn big pay checks—it’s an incredible ride. It also gives me the ability to work on many different kinds of films down the road and not have to worry about the financial side of things.
SMARTY: What can you tell us about Jurassic World? How different is your character, Owen, from Guardian’s gung-ho adventurer, Peter Quill?
PRATT: They’re completely different. Owen is very serious; very dedicated. He’s someone you would want to have around when things get rough and you need a guy to take charge of things, even though he likes to keep to himself.
SMARTY: Is it exciting to be part of another potential film franchise?
PRATT: It’s a great script and I also think it says a lot that (original director) Steven Spielberg is giving director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) the chance to tell a new chapter in the story. Colin had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do and it’s very exciting. It’s an honor to get the chance to carry on a franchise that a lot of kids, like me, grew up loving.
SMARTY: Were you the kind of kid who had a very active fantasy life?
PRATT: I grew up spend a lot of time drawing comic book characters and creating these huge comic book murals on the walls. I had a big imagination and I would often lose myself for hours at a time reading comics or pretending to be all kinds of heroic characters, like Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Comic books and big action films were part of my world as a kid and they were very inspiring and they were what made me want to become an actor and be part of that make-believe process where you get to reinvent yourself all the time.
SMARTY: Is it important for you to play iconic heroes for the younger generation?
PRATT: Oh my gosh—that, to me, is the greatest part of all this… I love the fact that Peter Quill (his character in Guardians of the Galaxy) is kind of a role model for kids who like to dream big and want to accomplish great things in their lives. If I hadn’t become an actor, I probably would have become a policeman or a detective. My brother’s a cop, so I identify with characters that have a sense of duty.
SMARTY: Was getting into shape for films like Zero Dark Thirty and Guardians a huge personal achievement for you?
PRATT: I had to change my whole way of thinking. I had gotten into a frame of mind on Parks and Recreation where I saw my character as someone who would just let himself go and party. I had gotten used to the idea of making a living as an actor by playing the fat friend who makes you laugh. That works for some roles, but you begin to realize how many parts you will never be able to get because you’re out of shape. But at some point I saw that, if I wanted to have a serious career and play serious characters, I needed to get into shape and look after my body. I’ve had to work very hard and maintain a good training regimen for the last year and a half and I have no intention of ever letting myself slide again. I’m eating good food, I’ve cut back on drinking (alcohol), and I have a different mindset now. It’s a matter of having discipline and knowing how much better you feel and the impression you create when you’re physically fit. It would also be hell to have to lose that weight again. I never want to go back to being the fat guy! (Laughing grimly)
SMARTY: You and your wife, Anna Faris, are parents to a baby boy, Jack. How did you deal with his premature birth and having to spend so much time with him at the hospital?
PRATT: The toughest part was watching him in the intensive care unit and hooked up to IVs and seeing his heart rate being monitored. We could only hold him for certain limited amounts of time, but that was also beautiful to hear his breathing and feel his heart beating… But it was scary for both of us. We prayed a lot, that he would come through it healthy, and he did! He turned out to be a real fighter and now he’s so active you could never imagine he was once so frail and small.
SMARTY: What has becoming a father meant to you?
PRATT: I’ve done all kinds of cool stuff as an actor. I’ve gotten to jump out of helicopters and do daring stunts and play baseball in a professional stadium, but none of them mean anything compared to being somebody’s daddy.