Jurassic World star Chris Pratt has come along way from Parks and Recreation
Chris Pratt is doing his best to remain ordinary while occupying an echoing room in the exhaustingly luxurious Hôtel Le Bristol on one of Paris’s swankiest streets. He’s pulling it off very effectively. That’s the thing about the only A-lister aside from Boris Karloff (once William Henry Pratt) to begin life with that unlikely surname.
He is the cinematic Everyman of our age. First properly registering as the lovable Andy Dwyer, portly aspirant rock god, in the much-loved Indianan sitcom
Parks and Recreations, he surprised even fans by breaking movies in the enormously successful Guardians of the
Galaxy. Now, Pratt bears the responsibility of headlining the much-anticipated fourth film in the Jurassic Park sequence.
“The first film was part of my childhood,” he says. “So this was an honour. I didn’t want to put my name on something that doesn’t work. Look, Steven Spielberg will be fine. He’ll be okay whatever. But I need it to work for me. I care about the franchise. I don’t want to just pimp it out.”
Jurassic World, directed by up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow, features my new pal as a tough but charming animal expert who – in between romantic bickering – helps Bryce Dallas Howard’s company girl to control a genetically modified super-dinosaur. The film is going to be huge. Did he have to audition? “Well, I probably would have because nobody expected
Guardians to be so big. But Colin contacted me and said: ‘What do you think about doing this movie?’”
As he goes on to explain, there was more to it than that. But Pratt has such sincere charm, it’s easy to imagine Trevorrow showing such enthusiasm.
I wonder if the myth concerning Pratt’s discovery can be true. It is said that the actor Rae Dawn Chong spotted him waiting tables at a shrimp place in Maui. Then living out of a van, Pratt, born to working-class parents from Minnesota, was transported to LA and a part in Chong’s directorial debut Cursed Part 3. It’s like Lana Turner being spotted in that milk bar.
“That’s all true,” he chortles. “I was living in Hawaii. I was chilling and having fun. I knew I would be an actor. I just didn’t know how. I did bits for friends and I did have some confidence in myself. She walked in and I went over and said: ‘You’re a movie star.’ She said: ‘Are you an actor?’ I said: ‘Fuck yeah! Put me in your movie.’”
The story has its poignant elements. When Chong revealed the film would be shot in LA, Pratt began humming and hawing. He couldn’t get time off work. He couldn’t afford the airfare.
“She laughed and said: ‘Sweetie, we will fly you there.’”
Its sounds as if he was terminally naive in those days. “Oh, I was, yeah.” Then just 20, Pratt had concentrated on wrestling when at high school. Later, he did a bit of dinner theatre around Seattle and mastered “a few song and dance numbers”. Once in LA, he found a job in a Beverly Hills restaurant, bought a car for $700 and began auditioning like a maniac. Most profiles note that he read for the leads in both Star Trek and Avatar, but Pratt stresses that he was one among dozens in that position.
“Yeah, it’s funny that those are the ones that get singled out,” he says. “I auditioned for everything. Your agent gets you auditions even for things you have no chance of getting, so that casting directors can see you. You are carpet-bombing. I auditioned for African-American roles. Everything.” For female roles? “Oh yeah,” he says. “I’d be in
“I auditioned for everything. Your agent gets you auditions even for things you have no chance of getting, so that casting directors can see you. You are carpet-bombing. I auditioned for African-American roles. Everything”
there and say: ‘The part is ‘Jessie’. I thought . . .’ They’d say: ‘Oh, go ahead.’ Sometimes, they’d end up saying: ‘Hey, that was an interesting take. Nice to meet you.’ You get very good at auditioning, but have no idea what to do on set. You finally get on set and you have no fucking idea. Ha Ha!”
Pratt had put in the hours before Parks and Recreation kicked him up a notch. He had regular roles in the series Everwood and The OC. You can catch him in movies such as Bride Wars and Wanted. But the NBC sitcom, featuring Amy Poehler as the perky Leslie Knope, found a way of exploiting his everyday lovability to the fullest extent.
It took a while. The first season was not a hit. Andy Dwyer, amiable, lovelorn shoeshine man, was originally supposed to be a minor character.
“It was weird. In hindsight it looks clear,” he says. “At the time I was like, I really hope they bring me back for a second season. People were saying you are great on that show, but I knew that was hyperbole. I am not the reason they watch the show.”
Part of the show’s peculiar appeal is that it features almost entirely decent people. That’s rare in a situation comedy. Even frequent antagonist Ron Swanson, gun-loving libertarian, is, at heart, the kindest of men.
“That’s right. The show runners and writers are all decent people who are not assholes and that’s why there are no asshole voices. That’s interesting.”
As the sixth season was shooting, Pratt found himself propelled into the behemoth that was Guardians of the Galaxy. The weight dropped off his frame as he prepared to play Peter Quill, quip-heavy star warrior, in what unexpectedly became one of the year’s biggest hits. In fact, Pratt was returning to the size he had been before Parks came along. The notion that he should fatten up caused much jollity at home. Pratt has been married to the supremely funny Anna Faris since 2009.
“We thought Andy could be funny and fat as long as the show runs,” he says. “I thought, I want to do it fatter. I told my wife and she said: ‘That’s great!’ She fattened me up. She loved that. She is a great cook and would make me apple strudel for breakfast. We’d have pizza and pasta. We’d drink fabulous wine and beer.”
What a drag when he had to lose it all.
“It was a drag for all of us. Yeah. Absolutely. Ha ha!”
Tell me please that he and Anna have as much fun at home as we fans imagine.
“Oh yeah. We laugh a lot. We laugh a lot.”
Pratt is currently shooting Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven alongside such stars as Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Peter Sarsgaard.
“It’s a reimagining. I guess my part is closer to Steve McQueen’s or Toshiro Mifune [in Akiro Kurasawa’s The Seven Samurai] than anyone. It’s quite dark. But these are real people.”
Of course they are. That is what Chris Pratt does. He’s an ordinary fellow. He’s a nice fellow. By all accounts, Boris Karloff was lovely as well.
Jurassic World opens next week
“I did have some confidence in myself.”
Above right: Pratt in the upcoming Jurassic World