‘Guardians of the Galaxy’: Chris Pratt talks action hero transformation

April 25, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
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Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), left, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Marvel)

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Gamora (Zoe Saldana), left, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). (Marvel)

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Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in a scene from "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

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Gamora (Zoe Saldana), left, Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). (Marvel)

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Actor Chris Pratt photographed at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills hotel in March. Pratt plays a charming trouble-maker in Marvel's new space action comedy "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times).

Chris Pratt might never have discovered his inner cosmic hero if he hadn’t played an earthbound warrior first.

The affable actor had been building a reputation for sweet-natured oafs and goofy child-men like his “Parks and Recreation” character, Andy Dwyer, when he was cast as a member of SEAL Team Six in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Oscar-nominated dramatization of the U.S. raid that claimed the life of Osama bin Laden.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I can be taken seriously as like a guy who’s one of the baddest dudes in the world,’ you know?”

He’s now about to play one of the baddest dudes in the universe.

The anti-hero Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).  (Marvel)

The antihero Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). (Marvel)

Pratt stars as Peter Quill, the sarcastic scofflaw also known as Star-Lord in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” due in theaters Aug. 1.

The film arrives as an oddball space-action adventure, with Quill on the run from a villain known as Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) after he comes into possession of a mysterious orb. Before long, Quill is allied with a rogues’ gallery that includes a talking raccoon, a sentient tree and a pair of green aliens — Gamora and Drax the Destroyer, played by Zoe Saldana and wrestler Dave Bautista, respectively.

The Guardians first appeared in “Marvel Super-Heroes” No. 18 in 1969, and in the early 1990s, the team headlined their own comic series that ran for 62 issues. But for the new movie, writer-director James Gunn took a fresh approach to the characters and the mythology, fashioning a story that, like the other Marvel films, stands on its own but also connects to the studio’s other franchises, including “The Avengers.”

Pratt first became aware of the interstellar adventurers during his youth. In 1991, at age 12, he won $300 in a Bingo tournament he’d attended with his mom and spent the money entirely on comic books, bringing home a collection of “Ghost Rider,” “Batman,” “New Amazing Spider-Man,” “Spawn” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“I had no overhead at 12, so 300 bucks was all disposable income,” he said. “In our household we were big into arts and creating things, drawings. And so we would trace and copy and draw pictures. Our walls were covered with comic book murals. I would try to copy these exceptional artists who could just draw male and female figures and the outfits and the hair and the guns and the wild worlds.”

Drinking black coffee poolside at a Los Angeles hotel, Pratt, 34, wore a lightweight leather jacket over his own chiseled superhero frame, modeled in part on those comics’ heroes. His physique, sculpted during six months of intensive training, has not only reshaped his 6-foot frame, it’s refocused his career.

Pratt began acting on television, appearing on such series as “Everwood” and “The O.C.,” then graduating to movies such as “Jennifer’s Body” and “Take Me Home Tonight.” He met his wife, Anna Faris, on the set of that comedy, and he worked with her again on 2011′s “What’s Your Number?” — which featured two other actors destined to become Marvel heroes, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” stars Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. (He also gave voice to the sweet-natured Emmet in February’s hit “The Lego Movie.”)

Pratt plays Peter Quill in "Guardians of the Galaxy." (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times).

Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

It was as Andy Dwyer — the shoeshiner/failed musician turned aspiring police officer in Pawnee, Ind. — that Pratt was best known. The actor said there were certain perks to playing the disheveled underachiever on the show.

“You know, drinking and eating whatever I wanted and partying and having fun,” Pratt said. “I thought this isn’t a bad niche. … If I can get consistent work as this bumbling kind of fat guy who says funny things and falls down on rollerblades and gets really sweaty, why not?”

Once his “Zero Dark Thirty” experience convinced Pratt that perhaps he should break out of the Andy mold, he began looking for an action comedy but couldn’t picture himself as either the traditional weakling or the unflinching tough guy. In Peter Quill, he found the right mix of swagger and sentiment.

Although he had some concerns about Pratt’s weight, “Guardians’” director James Gunn said once he watched the actor’s audition, he couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role.

“I’m not kidding, maybe 30 seconds he was doing his character, I knew he was the guy,” Gunn said. “I liked his performance so much that even if he stayed chubby I knew that we’d have to go with it; it would just have to be a new take on a superhero who was a little bit heftier … because his characterization was so great.”

“Guardians” shot in London in late summer and early fall 2013, and Pratt said the most difficult aspect of preparing for the production was shedding the weight and gaining the muscle required.

He changed his diet, quit drinking and would work out for hours in his home gym, listening to some of the songs featured in the movie — including Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.” (He famously tweeted a shirtless selfie to show off the results.)

In the end, Pratt, who will remain in action mode for his next film, “Jurassic World,” said the exertion was worth it.

“I was shooting on a set that they built that probably cost more than my house,” Pratt said. “And I was the guy on it, walking around with cameras following me. I’m like an action figure for some of the scenes. I’m just like walking through the scene or running through the scene or fighting or jumping or beeping or shooting. It was unbelievable.”

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


7 Responses to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’: Chris Pratt talks action hero transformation

  1. AverageMovieGoers says:

    Great article! I love Pratt, and he's gonna be a role model to shed some weight and achieve your dream. I hope he stays slim for the rest of his life unlike some other comedic actors though, he's cute when he's chubby but he's damn HOT without the flabs now :D

  2. @Alex909 says:

    Guardians filmed last year, in 2013 not 2012, Just a heads up if you want to fix that :)

  3. Jack Faris says:

    Chris is not just an extraordinary actor. He is a wonderful father and great son-in-law.

  4. robert jackson says:

    Who cares about The Galaxy? We will all be dead and gone soon. This BS has made Captain America into a second-class superhero, a garbageman, not good enough for the Big Time. I say Baloney! Cap is struggling to save the world from the archvillains Vlad the Impaler and Ming the Merciless, while everybody focuses on these fantasies of some future in a thousand years.

  5. robert jackson says:

    One always wants to be sure one's comments are properly approved by the authorities before they are allowed online, in the interests of free speech, right?

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