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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Chris Pratt's journey from from lovable slouch to Hollywood’s leading man

The second instalment of the Jurassic World trilogy hits cinemas this week, and the actor is now a big beast in his own right

Chris Pratt shares the promotional limelight with T-Rex at London Bridge Getty
Chris Pratt shares the promotional limelight with T-Rex at London Bridge Getty

Chris Pratt has no filter. Seriously, just watch a selection of his interviews on YouTube and within minutes you’ll be holding your breath in anticipation of what he might just say next. Right now, for example, the 38-year-old actor is in full-on movie promotion mode for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but it doesn’t take long for him to reveal, “I would love it if Patrick Swayze’s She’s like The Wind played every time I walked into a room.” This man can take you off-script – fast.

“I try not to live with regrets,” he says. “I love what I do, and I like it when the person interviewing me wants to have fun.

It’s a refreshing attitude for a modern-day movie star to have, and make no mistake about it, Pratt is firmly in the leading man category. Even if that career arc might have seemed unlikely as recently as five years ago.

Colin Trevorrow was quick to reveal as much following the hit reboot of the franchise in 2015. “We had no idea he’d become as big a star as he has,” says the writer and executive producer of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

“I just cast a bunch of character actors, as all Jurassic Park movies have, and somehow we ended up with a movie star.”

Click to play the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:

A successful career in Hollywood is all about slender margins. It’s a right-place-right-time kind of industry and it only takes a couple of bad decisions to kill a career. What rarely happens, however, is that an actor breaks free of industry typecasting.

Five years ago, Pratt was the lovable, overweight slouch Andy Dwyer in NBC comedy Parks and Recreation. You would watch him in interviews and see him joke on social media, and he was just this genuine, funny guy who posted a lot about eating carbs (“I post as if only my buddies can see it. It’s important that people see the real you, not what your social media manager thinks you should post”). But people struggled to see where Andy Dwyer finished and Pratt began. And for people, read casting directors.

Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation:

Although he’d had movie roles where he’d really had to shed the pounds – he was a member of Seal Team Six in Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Zero Dark Thirty and played baseball player Scott Hatteburg in 2011’s Moneyball – they just hadn’t stuck. So when it came to Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie that would ultimately signal the start of his A-list career, nobody was really too keen on him.

Pratt was concerned that leading man status had passed him by after missing out in a number of auditions (Star Trek and Avatar) and failing to get a callback for this one, too. The director of Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn, had privately labelled him as “that chubby guy falling around in Parks and Recreation”, and everybody else thought the whole thing was lining up to become Marvel’s first flop.

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As it turned out, Pratt managed to eventually audition for Gunn – who realised he had his leading man within about 30 seconds – and the movie went on to become the highest grossing superhero flick of 2014; a success largely based on Pratt’s likability in the role. Again, it helped that he truly identified with the character, well, culturally at least.

“I would love to bring back the 80’s,” he says about the movie’s Awesome Mix Tape Vol:1 soundtrack. “People talk about the 60’s and the 70’s, but for me it’s all about the 80’s. The music, the clothes, the hairstyles, everything. On paper, so much of that decade is cheesy, but for me it was just cool.”

Click to play a trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:

Galactic success broadened Pratt’s shoulders, and a year later he was tasked with saving an ailing dinosaur franchise, as navy veteran and Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady in Jurassic World. Following the original Jurassic Park movie in 1990, its two sequels had been sluggish and poorly received. This, the first movie in a new trilogy, had been stuck in the planning stages since 2004. Once again, Pratt proved that his name was rapidly turning into a box office guarantee, with the movie going on to gross US$1.6 billion worldwide and leading us to the second installment that will hit UAE cinemas on June 7.

So, after two movies taking on everything that the prehistoric world could throw at him, what has he learned? “I know that the theory is you’re not supposed to make any sudden movements if a dinosaur attacks,” he says. “But hey, you aren’t going to out-run a Velociraptor. I know that absolutely no real dinosaurs were harmed during the making of this movie, and I know that, even if you have 10 guys operating an animatronic dinosaur puppet, it will still be hard to hold back the tears when it dies in your arms during filming. Seriously.”

As for the future, it’s clear that anything is possible, but he would like to ditch his Guardians’ character Star Lord – just for the day – to impress his five-year-old son, Jack. “He said to me, ‘Star Lord is cool, dad, but I prefer Spider-Man, I hope you understand’. If he saw me as Spider-Man, he would literally think it was the best thing ever. After that, I don’t know, maybe I’ll come to Abu Dhabi. I know lots of films are being shot there now and I’d love to see it for myself.”

Chris Pratt as Star Lord:

One thing is for certain, whatever he does, Pratt is determined he won’t be settling for second best.

“Don’t have a Plan B. That’s my genuine life advice. It’s something I hear a lot, ‘What’s your Plan B?’ To me, that just indicates you don’t truly believe in your Plan A. Keep believing, don’t give up, you will crack it. It doesn’t seem too long ago that I didn’t know if I would have somewhere to sleep each night – now I’ve had all these amazing film roles. Just keep going, you’ll get there.”

It’s solid advice from one of Hollywood’s most successful nice guys. Good to see that they aren’t quite extinct just yet.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will open in UAE cinemas from June 7

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