Chris Pratt Interview, Jurassic World
Chris Pratt is one of Hollywood’s busiest actors these days with starring roles in three major franchises: as Peter Quill in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the voice of Emmet Brickowski in “The LEGO Movie,” and most recently, Owen in “Jurassic World,” the fourth film in the Jurassic Park series. Pratt plays an ex-military expert in animal behavior working as a velociraptor trainer at a secluded research base on the periphery of the dinosaur theme park. Events spiral out of control when the park’s attempt to jumpstart lagging visitor attendance backfires and its dangerous new hybrid dinosaur, Indominus Rex, escapes.
At the film’s recent press day, Pratt talked about how his experience as an outdoorsman informed his approach to the character, his terrifying real-life encounter in the wild with a monster bull elk, how he hung out with some awesome animal trainers like Randy Miller to learn their techniques and use them in the creation of his character, how he treats each badass role differently, director Colin Trevorrow’s advice about avoiding the third rail, why he couldn’t outrun Indominus Rex in high heels like co-star Bryce Dallas Howard, his career plans at the moment, and why he won’t rule out a return to television.
Check it all out in the interview below:
QUESTION: You’re known as an outdoorsman. You hunt and fish and go off on your own a lot in your downtime which is rare these days. Can you talk a little about your experience in dealing with animals in the wild that you may have been able to bring to your character?
CHRIS PRATT: It’s funny. I was just talking about this. This is cool. This is a good story. I love this story because it’s true, and it’s one of those stories that I’ll tell forever. I’m glad I can tell it to you guys, because if I wasn’t at a press conference, I’d just be telling it to my buddies and this is way better. I was on an elk hunt about maybe 8 or 9 years ago. This is all leading towards something, I promise. I had shot an elk the first day so my tag was filled, and I was on this hunt with these other two guys, Mike and Ian, and they were out in the morning. They didn’t have me come with them because it was a dry time of year. The aspen leaves had fallen. It was crunchy on the ground, so two less feet in the woods was better because it’s so loud. So, a long story short, I was at camp that morning. I wasn’t with them. I’m walking around camp. They have these things called grouse. They’re dumb little birds. They’re like a cross between corn and an animal. I feel like God put them here like, “Even the dummies got to eat. I’ll give you grouse.” And so, I was out going to shoot these little grouse with a tiny little single-shot 22, a tiny little gun that’s basically a BB gun. I’m out looking for grouse. I look up on the hill. I see a giant something. The sun is coming up behind this hill so I couldn’t really see, but there was a silhouette of a giant beast that I assumed was a monster bull elk. I go back quickly to the tent and I say to Ian and Mike over the radios, “Hey, there’s something here. I think it’s a huge elk. Stand by. I’m going to go get a better look. You might need to come back this way because one of you guys should shoot this big elk.” And so, I come back and I look up and I don’t see him. Now I’m looking through my binoculars and I don’t see this animal. I can’t find him. Meanwhile, I’m wearing slippers, pajamas, and I have my little single shot baby gun 22. Then I hear this “hrrooonnh” and I drop my binoculars and not standing 10 feet from me is a big, mature bull moose. The moose are incredibly dangerous. They kill more people in North America than bears and wolves all combined. They’re very, very dangerous animals in the wild. They’re huge too. Over a thousand pounds. This thing is monstrous. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh I’m gonna die right now.” It’s looking at me and it’s rutting it’s foot into the ground. I didn’t look at him in the eyes because I’d heard maybe you don’t look them in the eyes. I take a step back. And as I take a step back, it takes a step towards me. It’s a standoff between me and this giant beast. I take another step back and it takes another step towards me. I can still smell this creature it’s so vivid in my brain. There’s steam coming out of its nose that you could see because it’s so cold. I have this little tiny gun and I’m thinking to myself, “What am I going to do? If it attacks me, I just have to try to stick this little gun somewhere like its eye or something to try and shoot it because there’s no way this gun is going to kill a moose. It’s just going to make it mad.” Finally, I take one more step, and instead of taking one step, it takes three steps right at me. I think I nearly fainted. And then, it just turned away not two feet from me. It didn’t care who I was and walked off into the wild. So, did anything in the wild ever inform me on this movie? When I’m doing that scene with the raptors, I told this story to Colin and I said, “There’s something really scary about having something standing in front of you, and you step back a few inches, and then it comes at you a few inches.” That suspense and then building that up was informed a little bit by that experience that I had in the wild.
Q: When the trailer came out, my friend and I got really excited because we saw you with the raptors and said, “It’s Chris Pratt in Raptor Power Force!” Did you do any backstory work and did you call your pack of raptors anything as a collective?
PRATT: Oh, like did I have my own team name? No, I didn’t. Oh, I think Raptor Power Force. I’m going to use that. I did some work in terms of creating the techniques this guy would use if this was a real character, if this was a real opening at a park. I thought like, first of all, who would this guy be, because 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?” And 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 be real. 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 give a shit 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 character. It’s an animated character. It’s sometimes tough to create a real 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, his name is Randy Miller. He has a company called Predators in Action, which is a company that trains vicious cats, bears, tigers and lions and things like that to do simulated animal attacks in movies. His tigers were in “Gladiator,” and he had the bear that was in “Semi-Pro,” and he does a bunch of commercials with pumas and stuff like that. He’s got all kinds of amazing animals. I went to his ranch, hung out with him, spent the day seeing him interact with these animals, and that was a big part of creating my character, having that clicker and the posture that I adopted. All that stuff was part of the research that I did.
Q: Your character was the ultimate badass. Coming off playing another badass role in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” how did you make this role different?
PRATT: I do approach it as a different character. I always thought and approached it as being a character that was just different from Peter Quill. A huge part of that was just our director, Colin Trevorrow’s vision. He had always mentioned to me that he had this term called the third rail. I didn’t grow up in a city with a subway, but apparently with a subway there are three rails. If you touch one, it will kill you. So, that was the third rail for me. He had this third rail, which is essentially if I start being goofy or acting like a dipshit or go into 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 Rec” is a full embodiment of that type of clowning around and that comedic shtick that I’m known for. If I did any of that on this, that was my third rail. So, if I wanted to have any fun with this, it was going to all be in my repartee with Claire and my relishing an opportunity to spar with her or kind of get her goat a little bit. That’s where I could have fun. But, for the most part, it was deadly serious and then there was a bit of a darkness. This was a guy who’s been through something. It goes back to who would this guy be. Who would he be if this were really a job opening and they needed a person to fill this position. We all came together and decided that the backstory is he’s a guy who probably trained dolphins for the Navy, saw what type of treatment those animals received, and it’s always not great for the animal. We decided that the likelihood is in the years that he’s been working for the park this isn’t his first set of raptors and that raptors didn’t make it through some of the training. These animals died on his watch. They killed each other on his watch. Certain techniques that we tried didn’t work. So, we’ve come a long way and a lot of these animals have paid the sacrifice for the work that I’m doing for this company. That’s pretty serious. There’s not a lot of room for goofing around when you play that guy, a guy who’s been through combat. He’s a combat veteran who lives on an island. There’s a bit of a darkness. He’s chosen to move away from the world and live on the dark side of an island. All of that stuff was interesting, fun character work and it made me want to be someone who was 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 just a little different for me.
Q: I love the Dog Whisperer thing that you got into with the dinosaurs. I also kept envisioning throughout the film “Zero Dark Thirty” in a way. The bad dinosaur was Osama bin Laden, Bryce Dallas Howard was Jessica Chastain, and you were the Navy Seals. That’s what I kept seeing.
PRATT: That’s good. That’s really good.
Q: Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole?
PRATT: Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole? I guess Indominus Rex was a pretty big asshole, just a mean dinosaur. Like most assholes, he had a tough upbringing. We’ve got to feel a little bit bad for him.
Q: Could you outrun him in heels like Bryce Dallas Howard does?
PRATT: Likely no, I could not. Although I did run yesterday in heels for the first time. I wore high heels yesterday for the first time on the James Corden Show, and A, I kind of liked the way it felt to walk in them. I just did. And B, I surprised myself with 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 or 50 feet before I was killed.
Q: I love movie sequels and franchises. Did you ever think you would have three franchises to your name?
PRATT: Always knew it. I was always like, “Well, as soon as I have three franchises to my name…” (laughs) No, I never could have known. No way. That’s pretty rare and it’s a pretty rarified space to be in. So yes, I’m feeling very blessed and overcome with joy. I never thought that I’d have three, but I have a feeling we’re going to be talking a lot to each other over the next couple decades.
Q: The finale was awesome. How did you shoot that monster party? Was it on green screen? Were you on the set?
PRATT: Wasn’t that awesome? Talk about going out on a bang. That’s like unreal. That’s like a whole new gear. Making that is not nearly as fun as watching it. It’s a lot of small pieces. You have an art director. The way that it works, which is kind of neat, is by the time we’re filming that sequence, we’re actually refilming it. Directors will go into an edit room and they’ll cut their movie, and they’ll see all their footage and they’re like, “Oh man, I wish we would have done this, this and this, but it’s too late because the movie is already in the can and the actors are gone.” So, what they do with a movie like this is the same thing they did with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” They essentially direct and create an animated version of the movie. So, there’s a cartoon version of this movie. It’s not great but it’s essentially a moving storyboard of every shot, every little piece, and it’s this cartoon version. In a way, it’s like when you put together a 1000-piece puzzle, you have to look at the front of the box. You have to look at the picture because you’re like, “This piece, where’s that going to go? Ah, somewhere up here.” This animatic works as the picture on the front of the box. By the time we’re shooting this sequence, and trust me, it’s even more boring to shoot than it is to hear me talk about it, you’re basically looking at the animatic and you’re like, “Okay, this is going to play for this piece and it’s a camera move from up here down to here where you know there are going to be two dinosaurs there and I’m just running by.” And they’re like, “Okay. Action!” You look at it and you go, “That’s probably going to fit.” And then, you go on to the next piece. And so, depending on what the set-up was and what day it is, sometimes you’re getting to do really cool stuff and sometimes you’re having some great interaction with the other actors, sometimes you’re having a really intense interaction with what will be the raptors, and then sometimes you’re just a prop and you’re moving from left to right, or you’re running up and stopping, firing a gun, and then doing a dive roll this way. Sometimes you’re just very much a prop and sometimes you’re doing acting.
Q: “Parks and Recreation” is such a great show. Would you return to TV or are you going to focus more on movies now? What’s your career plan right now?
PRATT: The platform for entertainment is shifting so rapidly right now. It’s really changing. It’s kind of like my favorite stuff to watch is TV. Other than this terrific show on CBS called “Mom,” which is my favorite show on the air. It’s truly remarkable. I could go on and on about just the tones they hit emotionally, comedically, and the lead actress is stunning. I would like to have a baby with her. TV is extraordinary right now. There are so many different media outlets outside of just the major networks. And what’s neat about TV is you get an opportunity to tell really rich stories over the course of 20 hours. It’s like the novel of this type of medium. Film is cool because it’s an hour and a half to two hours. It’s a great ride. It’s typically three acts – beginning, middle and end. It’s going on an adventure and by the end it’s all cleaned up. Maybe in a franchise you’ll have three chapters of a great story, but in TV you can get really deep not only into the characters but his relationships and all the backstories and all the relationships that you have with every person in your life and how those people have relationships with each other. It’s just more dense and you have more time to tell stories. 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 also be practically very nice for a family man to have 9 months out of the year where you’re in the city, where you’re close to your home. When I did “Parks and Rec,” it took me 7 minutes to get to work. It’s kind of amazing. That’s 9 months out of the year that I would work right down the road and I’d be home for dinner every night. I had my weekends at home. It was nice. With moviemaking, you can be halfway around the world for six months. So there are amazing benefits to doing TV, and with the platform change and the way it is, I would never ever rule out doing TV again.
“Jurassic World” opens in theaters June 12th.