God of the galaxy: Chris Pratt discusses reinvention
Google his name, and two search items follow: 'workout' and 'before and after'.
It's an arguable breakdown of Chris Pratt's career.
Pre-gym membership, he was the lovable schlub, a clumpy klutz best known for his charmingly rotund turn as Parks and Recreation's Andy Dwyer, not to mention supporting roles on The OC and Everwood.
Post-gym membership, he's a granite jawed, musclebound sex god with a killer grin and leads Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and forthcoming threequel, Jurassic World. There's even talk of a Knight Rider reboot.
"It's the sad reality of realising, and I've always tried to fight against this, your physical appearance plays a great deal in the roles you get," he explains, all tight sweater and pleasing bone structure when we meet at London's Corinthia Hotel.
"For me, 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 of getting out of LA, taking my son and wife and living in the country somewhere."
Raised in the timbered surrounds of Washington State, Pratt's success is a product of our selfie ravaged era.
Training for a role as a navy seal ops in Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-clincher Zero Dark Thirty, older brother Cully persuaded the 6'2 star to capture his astonishing 70lbs weight loss for a forthcoming appearance on Ellen.
The result went viral. His podgy 250lbs frame had transformed into a hulking, eight-packed object of desire. In a pair of hugging tighty whities, no less.
"It was douchey and embarrassing but without it, who knows," Chris shrugs.
Guardians director James Gunn had already auditioned a selection of Hollywood's hottest - rumours include Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Paul and Joseph Gordon Levitt - but none possessed Peter Quill aka Star Lord's wry, sexual grit and 'adorkable' humour.
Casting agent, Sarah Finn - who cast all the Marvel movies since Iron Man - insisted he give Pratt a test. Gunn didn't want the 'fat guy from Parks and Rec'. Until he saw the selfie.
"I tested a couple of times, it was a process that dragged out for several weeks," Chris tells me during our first meeting last year on the colossal set of the Marvel epic at Shepperton Studios.
"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!"
The actor won the part but on one condition. "They held up the selfie from Dark Thirty and said, 'you're too fat for Star Lord [tipping the scales at nearly 285lbs for his role in Vince Vaughn's Delivery Man]. 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."
Ridiculously enjoyable, Guardians is the first of its kind from the Marvel stable - a sci-fi swashbuckler drenched in breathy action with a pulsating montage of vibrant set pieces, all served on a platter of cleverly scripted jokes and gags - an element some might say that was absent from some Marvel outings.
Married to Anna Faris, gurning Scary Movie star and mother of their two year-old Jack, Pratt is casting genius as Star Lord. Abducted from earth as a child by space bandits, he now scavenges for buried treasure across the galaxies.
Discovering an all-powerful orb, he joins up with a motley crew - deadly assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), humanoid tree stump, Groot (evocative vocals by Vin Diesel) and vengeance seeking colossus, Drax the Destroyer (former WWF star, Dave Bautista).
Together, they take on metal plated baddie, Ronan (Lee Pace) in a fight to prevent the orb from falling into the wrong hands.
With an even blend of hulking machismo and gaffe-prone misfortune, Chris is identifiable yet aspirational. It's the breakout performance of the summer blockbuster season.
"Peter's not really a superhero, just somebody who rises to the occasion.
"He's a kid who had something very traumatic happen to him and instead of shutting himself off, he learns to dance, becomes an adventurer.
"It's a nice message for kids and adults because in life, you have to do that."
In an echoing, dusty hangar at Shepperton Studios, INSIDER watched nine takes of Pratt's Quill and Saldana's Gamora 'rouse the masses' in a bid to take on their arch nemesis.
Between shots, the actor happily listed off a dream gastronomic splurge once production was wrapped, including Taco Bell, oatmeal pancakes and norimaki sushi.
But Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World consequently put paid to that plan. "I had a couple of bites," he mocks, back in the Corinthia Hotel suite. "What are you going to do; choose Taco Bell over Jurassic Park?"
Wrapped three weeks ago in New Orleans, the 'threequel' to Spielberg's 1994 prehistoric masterpiece will hit cinemas next summer.
"It's going to be so good. The director's a giant fan and I'm precious with Jurassic Park so I did not want this f**ked up.
The new film works off the basis that John Hammond's dinosaur park is twenty years up and running - and facing patron fatigue. New thrills need to be introduced. Naturally chaos ensues.
Raven-haired Wicklowian, Katie McGrath also features - and according to Pratt, memorably so. "I can't wait for you to see her story in this movie, it's like unforgettable."
Chris is disgustingly likeable. He's a disarming presence with screen god measurability. Gracious without the bullsh*t.
"This industry breeds self-involvement. But I've a brother who will find me and fart on me if I start pulling that crap."
With two comedians living together, we imagine an omnipresence of laughter in the Faris-Pratt household - or is it a case that the funny is reserved for business?
"We joke a lot. Usually I'm the one who's getting the laughs but she'll bust me out constantly. It's a competition we have."
Previously a fan of Anna's gross-out gags in the ludicrously successful Scary Movie franchise, the handsome pairing discovered a peculiar mutual interest when they first met on set of chaotic mess, Take Me Home Tonight.
It makes a visit to their €2.5million Hollywood hills abode sound rather rattling.
"Both of us loved collecting dead insects," he deadpans. "It doesn't get more meant to be than that.
"We merged our collections together. They're works of art. Some people have this idea of these refried roaches just tossed all over the house. My son walking around, haphazardly picking them up."
The offspring of a Hollywood power couple, Jack is still wholly unaware of his glitzy background.
"He sees his mom on the TV and it melts his mind. He sits there, crying, 'Mama!….Mamaaaaaa,' while frantically flailing. I haven't got the same reaction yet.
"Though Vin Diesel was talking to me yesterday saying, 'your boy's going to be able to go to school and say, 'my dad is Star Lord.' That made me feel pretty cool."
Body travails aside, and whether Chris keeps the buff bod or not, it would be prudent to bet he's going to be sticking around in Tinseltown.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens today