There’s so much going on with Chris Pratt right now, from The Lego Movie through Guardians of the Galaxy and on to the last season of Parks and Recreation and next summer’s Jurassic World. When we sat down together at the Guardians junket last week, we somehow managed to squish it all into the allocated fifteen minutes or so.
So here’s what Pratt had to say, starting with the big picture. He’s a very, very busy boy.
Chris Pratt: This whole year has been a big whirlwind. I’ve never done press like this before, such a big push. Even with The Lego Movie, where we did a three day junket at Lego Land, that was pretty cool. But there’s a similar vibe with this movie and Lego Movie, I can tell. I’ve done junkets before, but this time it’s been similar to Lego Movie because I’ve really got the sense that people like this film a lot, that it’s new and interesting, neat and not like anything they’ve seen before. Other junkets... it was work for us and also for the people interviewing us. I’ve been a salesperson, I know it’s all about the product. But it’s easy to be enthusiastic when you believe in the product, and either way you’ve got to sell yourself when the film is not good.
There’s not many people I can seek advice from. There aren’t many people in this situation, but my manager Julie has helped me keep my creative compass. If it weren’t for her I’d have said yes to some terrible projects and there’s no way I’d be in the situation where I am now. My career is the result of really thoughtful management, and it’s not just me making these decisions.
My friend Travis Osborne collected Guardians of the Galaxy right around the time I was collecting Punisher and his brother was collecting Wolverine. Around ’91, I think. It was a different version of Guardians back then, and there was no Star-Lord. There was Yondu and Charlie-27. I never really read the stories, but I drew pictures of them. I drew murals on my walls of Punisher 2099 and had Wolverine fighting Sabretooth on my wall. My brother had The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn on his walls.
Going into this I thought I’d encounter fanatic fans who knew every deep corner of the universe and the trivia, and would bully me around, but nobody has done that. Fans are just happy to share the information that they have.
This is Marvel launching Guardians of the Galaxy yet again but in a new medium. Different comic books can tell different versions of a story, or have the same title but have different characters. That’s like what we’re doing here, and it’s kind of nice. We’re allowed to just make a good movie and not feel we have to follow all the rules of the previous things that have come out, make sure we fit the mythology as people already knew it. We’re getting to tell people who our Guardians of the Galaxy are.
Working with a director like James, you just have to trust him. You give him enough rope to hang himself. I give him the tools to kill me but trust that instead, he carves me into a beautiful sculpture. If he had a vendetta this movie could come out and tank my career. But we trust that we both want to do the same thing: make a great movie.
The opening scene is really dramatic, kind of deep and interesting. The origins of comic book heroes are usually steeped in drama and this is no exception, but immediately after that, you see that this kid is okay. “Hey, that was dramatic, I get it. But we’re doing something a little different here. Come with me, let’s listen to some music, do a little dancing, and you’re going to be alright.”
The scenes that I enjoyed the most would depend on the day. Some times it was just physical, and you were just a prop; sprinting and running and fighting, ducking, diving and dodging, being cool, shooting and blasting. It was like you’re playing, as a kid. And that’s really cool to do but if you had to do that on a day-to-day basis it would be incredibly exhausting. Then there’s days where you do a lot of dialogue, creating these dramatic moments between the actors, even characters who aren’t even there, and exploring the different ways to create the shots over and over again. Those were fun too, but when you have to act every day, it becomes mentally exhausting. So this film was a really nice mix. Just when I got tired of acting, I’d go play; then when I got tired of playing, I could go back to acting. I probably liked the big roundtable scenes the most, like the 12% scene. That was an entire day, fourteen hours of delivering a speech, my opportunity to give a speech like William Wallace would, rallying the troops. “I will motivate you! None of you want to go fight by now, but by the end of this speech you will totally want to go fight!” I got to have that in my own way by saying “Do you know what I see? Losers.”
I would say that 80% of what Bradley Cooper did in his voice, his cadence and performance was informed by Sean Gunn’s performance. Bradley definitely added a lot of his own stuff, like when he’s in the prison, “Hey! This guy here is my booty,” a lot of that is stuff Sean wasn’t doing. Then the 12% scene, “Bunch of idiots standing around in a circle,” that was a Sean Gunn improv. The heart of the character, the emotional stuff - the most pivotal emotional scene for Rocket, in my opinion, when they’re waiting for The Collector and he has his Quasimodo movement - and Sean was producing real tears. The animators took so much from both of what Bradley and Sean did but Rocket existed before Bradley lent us his voice. The combination really works perfectly.
In Jurassic World, the character is unlike any other one I’ve played and he’s not like Peter Quill. There’s not much humour, I think he’s a little more John Wayne than Marty McFly. He’s deadly serious. There are comedic elements in the film, just not coming from my character. Jake Johnson has a funny role and there’s that release valve of comedy throughout the course of the movie. It’s similar to the original Jurassic Park in that way, how you had Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight. There’s humour but then, from page 25 on, there’s not that much to laugh about. I’m watching people get eaten and I’m trying to save the lives of thousands of people.
Working on Parks and Recreation has been creatively and comedically the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had and it remains that way. It is, bar none, the greatest gig. I was e-mailing them all today and telling them how much I was looking forward to getting back. It’s home to me, and not only because it’s seven minutes from my front door to the gate of the studio where we shoot, but it’s comfortable, I know everybody there, I love everybody on the cast and I get to do something that, up until I played Peter Quill, the one thing that just catered to me. In TV it’s great because every week they’re writing a new episode and to do the best for the show, they will take my comedic sensibility and put it in their Harvard think tank. Drop it in the top and it comes out as a script. It’s a great gig.
Bert Macklin doesn’t watch movies so he wouldn’t watch Guardians, just surveillance videotapes, that’s it. Andy Dwyer would lose his mind, though. He’d see it in 3D.
Thanks again to Pratt for taking the time, and having the good humour, to get stuck into all of this stuff with me. Guardians of the Galaxy is in cinemas now, The Lego Movie is on DVD and Blu-ray, Jurassic World is going through that lengthy process of getting all dinosaured up and Parks and Rec will start shooting its final season very soon indeed.