By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—In just a few years, Chris Pratt has gone from a supporting actor on a TV comedy series (he played wannabe police officer Andy Dwyer for seven seasons on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”) to landing supporting roles in Hollywood films including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her” and “Delivery Man.” In the past couple of years, he has moved up to leading man status, voicing the main character in “The Lego Movie,” which was followed by his star-turn as Star-Lord/Peter Quill in “Guardians” last year. (A sequel to the latter is in the works.)
With “Jurassic World,” the long-awaited fourth installment of the popular Universal Pictures franchise that started with 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” he is now a full-fledged action hero.
As Owen, he is an ex-military animal trainer at a Costa Rican theme park where visitors can see live dinosaurs in the wild recreated from DNA. Owen’s specialty is the raptors, which are small but quite deadly creatures. The species’ trainability and killing potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by a few higher ups at the park that see their potential for military use. Owen, of course, is initially unaware of this as are some of the other park officials, including its workaholic operations manager Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard).
When a top-secret highly intelligent research experiment at the park’s remote lab breaks out of her containment area, all heck breaks loose, and it’s up to Owen, Claire and a handful of other park employees try to hunt down the dangerous and deadly hybrid dinosaur before it gains access to thousands of innocent visitors. Pandemonium ensues.
Pratt goes all Indiana Jones in his attempt to find and kill the deadly abomination before she hurts any more people. He also is protective of Claire, whom he has an undeniable attraction, and her two young nephews, who happen to be visiting the island park that day.
The actor, who is married to actress Anna Faris, with whom he has a toddler son, spoke about preparing to join such a high-profile franchise, fighting dinosaurs, and what’s ahead.
Q: You are known as an outdoorsman. Can you talk about your experience with animals in the wild that you may have been able to bring to the character of Owen, who has an affinity for wild animals?
Platt: It’s funny. I was on an elk hunt maybe eight or nine years ago. I was on this hunt with two other guys. It was an autumn time of year and leaves had fallen and were crunchy on the ground so two less feet in the woods was better. So, I’m walking around camp and these little grouse—dumb little birds are there so I’m gonna shoot these little grouse with my small .22—and I look up on the hill and see this giant something. The sun was coming up behind the hill so I couldn’t see but there was this giant beast that I assumed was a monster bull elk. I radio my friends and say, “I think there’s a huge elk here. You guys should come back.” I look up and I don’t see him. I’m looking through binoculars and can’t see him. I’m wearing slippers, pajamas and I had my little .22 and I hear this (he makes a noise like an elk breathing hard). I drop my binoculars and standing not 10 feet from me is a big mature bull moose.
Moose are incredibly dangerous. They kill more people in North America than bears and wolves combined. They are over 1,000 pounds. I’m thinking “Oh, I’m gonna die right now.” It’s looking at me and (he indicates pawing the ground) and I don’t look at it in the eyes and take a step back and it takes a step toward me. It’s a standoff between me and this giant beast, and I take another step back and it takes another step toward me and I can still smell this creature. There was steam coming out of its nose because it was so cold and I have this little tiny gun. What am I going to do if it attacks me? Stick this little tiny gun it its eye or something? There’s no way this gun is going to kill a moose, just make it mad. Finally, I take one more step back and it takes three steps at me and I think I nearly fainted. Then it just turns and walks off into the wild.
So, in this movie, when I’m doing the scene with the raptors, I told this story to Colin (Trevorrow, the director). I said, “There’s something really scary about having something standing in front of you and you step back and few inches and it comes at you.” So that suspense and build up was informed a little bit by that experience I had in the wild. By the way, all my answers will be just as long.
Q: Did you do a backstory in creating your character?
Pratt: I did some work in terms of creating the techniques that this guy would use if this were a real character, a real opening at a park. First of all, who would this guy be? When Colin first pitched me the idea, I was all over the place in terms of how I would bring it. “Oh, so he’s kind of like the Crocodile Hunter? Should I do an Australian accent?” He was like, “I don’t know. Maybe not.” I just want this to be real, no matter who the character is, I want it to seem real. We need to create an organic relationship between man and beast that’s going to strike some emotional chord in people.
Hopefully, people will (care) about this relationship between a guy and his dinosaur, which is a tough thing to try to accomplish, especially when the dinosaur is a CG, animated character. It’s sometimes tough to create a relationship between a man and an animated character.
So moving forward with the idea, I did some research. I got to hang out with some pretty awesome animal trainers. There was one guy, Randy Miller. He has a company called Predators in Action, which is a company that trains vicious cats, bears, tigers, lions and animals like that to do simulated animal attacks in movies. I hung out with him for a day. All of that stuff was part of the research that I did.
Q: Your character was a reluctant hero like Peter Quill in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” How did you approach making them different?
Pratt: I always saw it as a character that was different from Peter Quill. A huge part of that was Colin’s vision. He always mentioned to me that he had this term called “the third rail,” in which if I started being goofy or acting like dip or going to my normal comedic bag of tricks, some of which I used in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and certainly the character of Andy Dwyer in “Parks and Recreation” is a full embodiment of that type of clowning around, that comedic shtick that I’m known for, if I did anything like that on this film, that was my third rail.
I knew if I wanted to have any fun on this, it would be in my repartee with Claire (Howard’s character), relishing an opportunity to (verbally) spar with her and get her goat a little bit. That’s where I could have fun but, for the most part, it was deadly serious and a bit of darkness.
We decided that for my backstory, (Owen) is probably a guy who trained dolphins for the Navy and saw what type of treatment those animals received. It’s not great for the animal. All that stuff was interesting, fun character work and made me want to be someone who is different. I love Peter Quill and I love Andy and I look forward to playing Peter Quill again. It’s super fun but this was something a little different for me.
Q: Which dinosaur was the scariest and which one could you outrun in heels like Bryce Dallas Howard does in the film?
Pratt: Well, I guess Indominus Rex was a mean dinosaur but he had a tough upbringing. You have to feel a little bit bad for him. Could I outrun him in heels? Most likely no, I could not although I did run in heels yesterday for the first time. I wore high heels on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” I kind of liked the way it felt to walk in them and I surprised myself at my ability to run. It’s kind of like tippy-toe running. I would not be able to outrun Indominus Rex but with enough practice, I might be able to make it 40-50 feet before I was killed.
Q: Would you return to TV? What’s your career plan right now?
Pratt: The platform for entertainment is shifting so rapidly right now. It’s really changing. My favorite stuff to watch is TV, other than this terrific show on CBS called “Mom” (starring Faris), which is my favorite show on the air. It’s truly remarkable, just the tones they hit emotionally, comedically, and the lead actress is stunning. I would like to have a baby with her. I would definitely not rule out doing television in the future because I think it’s a great medium for telling stories and it can be practically very nice for a family man to have nine months out of the year where you are in the city and close to your home.