Chris Pratt: from ‘monkeyboy’ to hunky action hero

 

Pre-gym membership, Chris Pratt was the lovable schlub, a clumpy slacker best known for his likeably rotund turn as Parks and Rec’s Andy Dwyer, not to mention slovenly support on The OC and Mormon-tinged drama, Everwood.

Post-gym membership, he’s a granite jawed, muscle-bound sex god with a killer grin and leading roles in franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. There’s even talk of a Knight Rider reboot. Or even taking over the role of Indiana Jones!

“It’s the sad reality of realizing, and I’ve always tried to fight against this, your physical appearance plays a great deal in the roles you get,” he explains over the phone from his L.A. base.

Raised in timbered Washington State, Chris’ success is the stuff of Tinseltown scripters. At 19, while working at a Bubba Gump in Maui and living in a tent between parked cars, the young actor was offered a small part in Rae Dawn Chong’s Cursed Part 3, a horror comedy spoof. He went on to enjoy moderate small screen triumph in Everwood and The OC and landed supporting film roles in Wanted and Take Me Home Tonight, where he met wife Anna Faris.

He then turned his attention to trying to play the leading man, auditioning unsuccessfully for Star Trek and Avatar before returning to the small screen again in Parks and Rec. 

However, it was Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty that changed everything — in particular, one hulking, tighty-whitey-sporting selfie that caught the gaze of Marvel Studios producers looking for a show-stopping Star Lord for Guardians of the Galaxy. A freshly bulked-up Pratt won the part and charmed audiences around the globe to a fearsome tally of just under $750 million at the box office. A movie star was born.

Living in LA with Faris and their 2-year-old Jack, he’s now is taking his newstatus to even higher levels in Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, the long awaited follow-up to Spielberg’s 1994 prehistoric masterpiece Jurassic Park.

Alongside a cast including Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer and Jake Johnson, World works off the basis that John Hammond’s dinosaur park is 20 years up and running — and facing patron fatigue. New thrills need to be introduced.

Naturally chaos ensues.

Promoting the new release, the Jurassic “superfan” talks of his excitement for the blockbuster, his astonishing career surge, life at the Faris/Pratt household, the origin behind his nickname, “Monkeyboy,” and why his body is his fortune.

Jurassic Park was one of the defining films of my childhood — and every othermember of my generation — so it’s safe to say this is one movie that many are looking forward to. Dude, I was the exact same. Jurassic Park is one of those films that feels like a milestone. Like it’s marked your journey into manhood. It’s one of the most influential movies in my life. I was a huge fan. And it’s going to be so good. The director’s a giant fan and I’m precious of Jurassic Park so I didn’t want this f**ked up.

So to be a part of it, the lead … I know, it’s weird. Now I don’t just feel like a fan of the franchise. I feel like a peer of the artistic creators, which is really strange and surreal to think of.

How did you even land such an insanely contested role? Bradley Cooper was up for this, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Paul …

All those guys? God, I didn’t even know that. Well let me just pat my back here. (laughs) 

I mean, I got the call that Colin wanted to sit down with me and you know, we just started getting real giddy about the idea. Really excited. And the longer we talked and the longer we sat there, I thought, “Holy shit, I actually think I could get this! They want you to do this movie.” And Colin felt like the right guy for it. As I said, Jurassic Park was so special to me, I wanted it done right. And he’s got a great vision for the movie.

Were you worried by the poor quality of the previous film? The last one wasn’t great. It was rushed, contrived a little bit. Kinda like, “We need to get Sam Neill back to the island. How? I dunno, just get him back to the island.”

Tell me about the film’s plot. It’s been 22 years since the first movie (premiered), 16 years since No. 3 came out. (This film) is new and cutting-edge and has a point of view of our society that has changed since the original. 

The park is up and running — 20,000 people a day. John Hammond’s dream came true and everything he dreamed of and more is there. But it’s been open long enough that people are no longer intrigued. It’s a sign of the times. Blasé attitude. Not impressed. So then they create this new attraction that will hopefully generate some new interest in the park.

And things go horribly wrong? And things go horribly wrong. As an audience member, you’ll see (the park). And then you’ll see it getting torn down.

Tell me about your character Owen Brady? He’s a a dinosaur behaviorist, specializing in veliciraptors. He studies them and has a good relationship with these animals. He’s like the Velociraptor Whisperer, if you will.

I read where you said he was like a mix of Sam Neill’s Alan Grant and Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm? Yeah, he does have a little of both. He’s got a little bit of the Goldblum cynicism but also the Sam Neill excitement at the wonder of it all, so it’s a combination. It’s a pretty apt description. I stand by that.

With this and the humungous success of Guardians, your career is unrecognizable. How do you get your head around it? I don’t. (laughs) I had an idea of what my niche was as an actor and I didn’t think it was right for me. I was the big comedy guy, the fat friend, sidekick and I was working. I didn’t want to fix it if it wasn’t broken. But it didn’t seem right. Then Zero Dark Thirty came out and I suddenly saw myself as this believable badass.

You were training for Zero Dark Thirty when you put out that Instagram selfie with you in the white pants. I’d lost 70 pounds and my older brother Cully persuaded me to do it. It was douchy and embarrassing but without it, who knows?

Well, you probably wouldn’t have gotten Guardians of the Galaxy without it. Probably. No, actually, definitely. I remember testing a couple of times, it was a process that dragged out for several weeks. And then I get a call asking me to come back to (head of Marvel) Kevin Feige’s office. I’m all the way out in Manhattan Beach, that’s like a 45 minute drive. If they were bringing me in to tell me I didn’t get it, I would’ve been like, ‘F**k you!’ But instead, they held up the selfie from Dark Thirty and said, “You’re too fat for Star Lord. How long will it take you to look like this?” They gave me five and a half months. I did what I had to do.

Obviously you look ripped, but does it all feel unnatural for you? Don’t you want to just pig out … or at least eat normally? Yea, I don’t think so, I like feeling this way, the roles have opened up. It’s my time to do that. I’m 35. I’ve a 2-year-old son at home. I’d like to be able to retire and spend time with my family, and it’s the sad reality of realizing that trying to tighten it up and look as good as I possibly can, for the next few years, is the best way for me to achieve the type of success I need to live my dream, getting out of Hollywood, taking my son and wife and living in the country somewhere. As long as you’re cognizant of the fact that so many Hollywood people turn into assholes, the system is kind of designed to make you self-involved.

Could you see that happening to yourself? My brother said to me if I get “too Hollywood,” he will find me and fart on me or something. (laughs)

Do you feel like you’re at your peak now? I don’t think you ever want to let your guard down. You don’t ever want to feel like you’ve peaked. I don’t ever want to be in that position, thinking “Maybe you can, maybe you should, maybe I will — when it’s all settled down.” It’s a tricky thing.

What does Anna make of this new chapter in your career? Has much changed? I mean, maybe I’m a little more away from home but as far as my life with them goes, nothing has changed.

Aside from your hunky frame … She preferred me soft anyway (laughs]).

Were you both fans of each other before you got together? She didn’t know who I was but I knew who she was. I was a huge fan of the Wayans brothers, back in the day. In Living Color was my jam. And then I saw Scary Movie in the theater and definitely thought she was hilarious.

Were you nervous when you starred together in Take Me Home Tonight? To be honest, I didn’t actually know what her name was, but when I booked this film, and saw she was in it, I was like, “Oh that’s amazing, that’s the girl from Scary Movie. I can’t wait to meet her.”

I imagine there’s a lot of laughter in the Faris/Pratt household? We laugh a lot. She on a daily basis will say something that no one else will ever think to say. Usually I’m the one who’s getting the laughs, she’ll bust me out constantly. It’s a little bit of a competition we have.

Don’t you share some strange passions — taxidermy being one of them? We’re both fascinated by natural history. We have a lot of fossils, dead bugs, and preserved animal taxidermy. We’re going to be like hoarders, buried under all this natural history. And we have lots of roaches in our house. They’re like pieces of art, and have them hung all over the house. 

And that’s something you both liked, before you got together? It’s unusual, so clearly we were meant to be. When we found out that was something we shared, we merged them together on the one wall, so come birthday times and gift time, we get all these wonderful presents of dead bugs. It’s something we both think is cool. Maybe one day, we’ll just have a house dedicated solely to insects.

Does your son Jack “get” what mom and dad do? He seems to freak out when he sees his mom on TV. He’ll cry, “Mama, Mama, mama,” You see his brain melting. I don’t quite get the same reaction.

Let’s talk future projects. I actually don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.

What about Indiana Jones? I wish! 

So it’s happening? Not as far as I’m aware.

What about Knight Rider? Not that I know of. I loved that show as a kid and a remake, it would only work if it was super funny.

And the Guardians sequel is obviously on the way. That is happening but not for a while. But it made a shitload of money, pretty much guaranteed it was going to happen.

Lastly, explain to me why your nickname’s “Monkeyboy”? I was obsessed with monkeys. It became my nickname in high school. Every Monday I would do a comic strip of monkeys and that’s how it first started, and every time I would see a stuffed monkey, I would buy it. Even when I was a salesman, everyone had a nickname and I became Monkeyboy and it sort of stuck. Some of my closest friends still call me that. They say, ‘Monkeyboy done alright.’

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