Chris Pratt is slowing down.
The chauffeured car he’s in, a perk (or just a sad byproduct, depending on when you ask him) of the months-long press tour for Jurassic World, is pulling up towards his house somewhere in the hills. It’s obvious his heart is already there. He’s thinking about all the things awaiting him: his wife, his son, his chance to turn off, to be himself.
Phone reception starts to die at almost exactly the moment his enthusiasm starts to wain. (Not in a negative way. In a totally understandable way. He’d just taped an episode of Ellen. Ellen is exhausting.)
So Chris Pratt is cutting out, right when he’s about to get to the good stuff, or at any rate, stuff: hunting, fishing, his admiration for the sportsman’s glories of the great Canadian outdoors.
But Chris Pratt is also just slowing down, period. He’s 35 now. Not old by human standards, but Palaeolithic by Hollywood’s.
He’s been at this a while, and he’s getting wiser, more introspective, a little more reticent to say “yes” to anything. And this is an odd thing for Chris Pratt. Because his career was built by going fast, by taking risks, by being a human pinball machine bouncing off the walls of any room he entered, never mind all the bouncing—place to place, job to job, dream to dream—he did to get there.
He ricocheted to where he is right now at a lightning pace, becoming one of the most successful and sought-after actors in Hollywood almost over night. Slowing down doesn’t just seem out of character. It seems downright insane.
Pratt was discovered in Hawaii, where he’d gone after dropping out of school and ditching a series of dead-end jobs in America’s bleak and alienating Heartland.
He was waiting tables at a Bubba Gump Shrimp, delivering Fisherman’s Catch platters with an alarming amount of charm—so much so he got “noticed,” as they say in Hollywood origin stories, by the film director Rae Dawn Chong (Tommy Chong’s daughter, if you’re into weird trivia like that). She cast him in her upcoming horror flick on the spot. He was in LA two days later.
The movie bombed (shocker), but Pratt kept acting. It didn’t take long for him to land a regular gig on a new series, Everwood, which would air for four seasons on The WB.
Because his career was built by going fast, by taking risks, by being a human pinball bouncing off the walls of any room he entered
There are a couple of old interviews from that time kicking around the Internet, if you look for them. (“Goddamn, everything lives forever now,” he says when I tell him this. “You have to be so careful. Oh well, or just not care.”) It’s worth it, because Young Chris Pratt is a lot like Old Chris Pratt. It’s a textbook lesson in foreshadowing.
Young Chris Pratt has a great jawline. It’s square and chiseled, unobscured by even a hint of excess weight or unkempt stubble. It’s very much unlike his jawline for most of his career. Which is to say, it’s very much like his jawline today, only set off by a mop of unreasonably shaggy blond hair and too-long sideburns. He looks like a high school football player. Or maybe lacrosse.
Then, of course, you notice how charming he is, how confident, how totally excited he is just to be sitting in front of the intern that got sent to talk to this guy she’d never heard of (though you can hear her, laughing on the other side of the camera, charmed by Young Chris Pratt because, honestly, the guy is plain old charming no matter what age you catch him at).
He tells some self-deprecating jokes. He does a bad Michael Jackson impression. He hams it up, and lays down some Young Person wisdom: “I want to never take life too seriously. And I want to always have fun. And I want to always make decisions that allow me to do that. I want to be a free spirit.”
“Fuckin’ tequila man. [Plane emoji. Hammer emoji. Unhappy queasy face emoji].”
Fuckin’ tequila man.✈️🔨😩
— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) April 24, 2015
Chris Pratt is hungover and tweeting, a mere two days after our conversation about not drinking so much anymore because, it’s true what they say, getting old makes it so much harder than it used to be.
“I don’t drink as much, I don’t smoke as much pot, I knuckle down,” he says. “I have fun when I want to have fun, I do, but I have to get up in the morning and I have to be there and I have to be always of a clear enough head to take care of shit if the shit goes wrong.”
There’s his body to consider, now toned and solid and incessantly talked-about. There’s his wife, the comic actress Anna Faris, and his two-year-old son asleep at home, far away from wherever that plane emoji brought him to talk to journalists to promote the biggest blockbuster movie of the summer. Fuckin’ tequila, man. Fuckin’ life.
Pratt is known for his youthful exuberance. Or at least, he was before he became an action hero. If you were familiar with Pratt before last year, when he starred in The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy (two of the highest-grossing movies not just of 2014, but of all time), chances are you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation, the critically adored, almost entirely ignored NBC sitcom that ended its seven-season run in February.
The story goes that Pratt was never supposed to be a series regular. He came in to read for the part of Andy Dwyer, City Hall shoe shine boy and one-episode love interest for Rashida Jones’s character—and blew everyone away. And the kicker? He didn’t really even read, so much as bounce around in the audition room, unrehearsed, becoming the character on the spot.
He got the job, he stuck around, he became central to the show, getting top billing along with his comedy royalty co-stars Amy Pohler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari and Rob Lowe. Pratt’s Andy Dwyer is a lovable goofball, a clumsy, prat-falling ignoramus who’s more puppy than man. You can trace a direct line from Andy Dwyer to Pratt’s early childhood heroes: Jim Carrey, Will Ferrel, Adam Sandler.
So then what? Well, you don’t get famous as a puppy in Hollywood. Not real famous. Not can’t-go-to-the-airport-comfortably famous. Look at all those guys Pratt looked up to early on: Carrey, Ferrel, Sandler, they all played against type at some point. They all took on projects they liked just because they liked them, even if there wasn’t a laugh anywhere in sight.
For Pratt, that role was as a Navy SEAL in Zero Dark Thirty. That’s when things changed. Partly, yes, because he’s great in his short time onscreen. And partly because he posted a picture on Instagram of his newly sculpted abs, which went completely viral. Here, all of a sudden, was a guy who could be a movie star.
From Zero Dark Thirty, it’s a short jump to Guardians of the Galaxy, a comic book movie with a plot that makes absolutely no sense in the retelling, but that features Pratt as the universe-saving hero, complete with leather jacket and expertly tussled hair. To put things in perspective: Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper are also in the movie, the former as a mutated tree, the latter as a talking racoon.
And now, in his next move towards complete box-office domination and bona fide action hero status, Pratt is starring in Jurassic World, the much-anticipated follow-up to the ’90s dinosaur franchise.
“I saw the first one in the movie theatre opening weekend,” says Pratt. “It was the first major event movie that I remember ever seeing. I’d seen all the trailers leading up to it. I was a big fan of dinosaurs just being a kid, but also a big fan of Steven Spielberg’s work…he’s truly an icon and to be able to work with him is just such a treat. I’m a major fan and now I guess a peer, so that’s pretty exciting.”
It’s exciting, and it’s true. A year ago, no one could’ve uttered that sentence—least of all Pratt himself—but Chris Pratt is Steven Spielberg’s peer, and that’s the kind of unpredictable development that makes the movies awesome.
It’s also the reason Pratt is slowing down. Or at least, being more cautious. His career is hurtling forward at a surreal pace—the kind of pace he knows he has to watch, lest it hurtle away from him entirely. We’ve all heard that story before, too.
“I definitely know that I’ve hit pay dirt and this pay dirt probably has to finance this entire trip getting here and potentially the entire trip of getting home,” he says, “so I’m not off popping Cristal or doing it that way. I understand how things work and shit. If you choose to look at how much has happened in the last year, I know how fast things change. You’re only as good as whatever the last thing you put out is. Eventually, it’ll all hit some big bomb and everyone will shy away from you and then I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
“But it’s a good moment now.”
It sure is. He’s working. He’s got projects lined up. Every tabloid says he’s going to be the next Indiana Jones, when they make that next inevitable Indiana Jones sequel without Harrison Ford. And he’s ready for what happens next—any of it—because he’s taking it all in slowly. He’s learning as he goes. He’s playing the long game. And he knows, now that he’s done a couple of these big time movies, what’s at stake.
Consider his summation of Jurassic World’s central theme: “Any time you play with the natural order of things for your own profit or your own entertainment, it comes back to literally bite you in the butt.” Ain’t that the truth.