On a recent afternoon on a Universal soundstage, Chris Pratt was regaling a group of journalists with a story about elk hunting. Suddenly, a gust of air blew through the room, toppling a giant fake plant onto a similarly giant speaker before both careened toward one unlucky reporter.
Everyone gasped but stayed in their seats. Everyone, except Pratt, who sprang from his chair with a gravely serious expression, ready to help however he could.
There wasn’t much that needed doing in this case. The shrub-speaker combination missed the reporter. But there was no missing the instinct.
The perennial goofball-turned-leading man wasn’t merely a hero on screen. Apparently, he has the right stuff in reality, too.
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“That’s who he is. He takes responsibility for the well-being of those around him,” said Pratt’s Jurassic World co-star Bryce Dallas Howard.
On set, things were no different.
“He gets funnier and more charming as things get more difficult. It comes from a place of genuinely wanting to make it fun for everyone else,” said director Colin Trevorrow.
Even after crashing his motorcycle on the Jurassic set, Pratt insisted on reassuring the cast and crew that the show would go on.
“That one really jolted me,” he recalled in an interview. Off camera, the bike locked up when he used the brakes in some mud. He was thrown 20 feet and had to dive roll over a prop gun strapped to his back.
“I was immediately swarmed by everyone,” he said. “When you’re on a movie and that much money is on the line, should your star get hurt … I’m like, ‘Listen, dudes, you’ve got to back the (expletive) off for a second. Am I fine? How could I possibly know that? Give me a day and I’ll tell you. It seems OK right now.’”
‘Guardian’ of the box-office
Howard, through her own career and by proxy of lineage (her dad is Ron Howard), has been around the biggest names in the business for her entire life, and dislikes the overused and undervalued phrase “movie star.” She prefers terms like “recognizable” and “well-known” and believes that there have only been maybe 15 true movie stars in the history of cinema.
Pratt, however, makes the cut.
A few years ago, things looked very different for Pratt. He had a steady gig as the affable Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation and would pop up in movies here and there, but usually as a goofy sidekick. Then everything changed in 2014.
With leading roles in both The Lego Movie and the little-known, high-stakes Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy, the year was almost a test. Could he carry a film? Would audiences respond?
The answer was an unequivocal yes. Guardians became the third-highest-earning movie of the year, and The Lego Movie was the fifth. Both are getting sequels.
The ‘Jurassic’ test
Now, Pratt has another trial looming: Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the “Jurassic Park” series that Steven Spielberg launched in 1993, out Friday.
Pratt plays Owen Grady, a military man turned Velociraptor trainer at an amusement park that devolves into dino chaos. If his Guardians character, Peter Quill, was Han Solo, Owen Grady is Indiana Jones — a little more serious, a little less rakish and definitely not silly.
As he delves into higher-profile projects, Pratt is only concerned about making movies that don’t just “aim for the middle.” He wants audiences to truly feel like profits aren’t the sole, or most important, objective. Also, even in these leading roles, he doesn’t give himself credit for a film’s success.
Fame and stardom can be ephemeral, too, and Pratt likes to keep things light and sincere. He recently posted a humorous “apology” on his Facebook page “for whatever it is I accidentally end up saying during the forthcoming Jurassic World press tour.” He was keenly aware of the various “gates” and “scandals” mined out of recent Avengers interviews and others.
“It was a fun way for me to poke fun at the PC police, but also, truly to preemptively apologize in the likelihood that I would say something inappropriate,” he said.
He also stole his Owen costume from set, telling Howard that he’d like to wear it to hospitals to visit kids in character.
There are the usual downsides of increased fame, but Pratt, who’s married to actress Anna Faris, knew the score going in.
“I don’t much like the elements that pertain to my private life and my personal space being diminished, but with that there’s a trade. I’m now on a short list to have access to amazing filmmakers and material,” he said. “I’m just hoping I never get caught complaining about it.”
MORE: Check out interactive dinosaur graphic at http://media.star-telegram.com/static/labs/DinosTX/index.html