From Comedic Sidekick to Star-Lord: Interview with Chris Pratt on Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Chris Pratt admits he carved a niche for himself playing the comedic sidekick in film and television roles.  He was content until he starred as a Navy Seal in the acclaimed film “Zero Dark Thirty.”  “After I did ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ I changed my mind about the kinds of characters I would like to play,” says Pratt, “so my manager got me an audition for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’  In the process of the audition, something clicked and both James Gunn [director] and I felt like it was going to be right.”  Continue reading for the full Q&A with Chris Pratt on Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.  Click here for even more images, clips, trailers, and news for the film opening August 1, 2014.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

From Walt Disney Studios Press Materials

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2008 comic coverQ:        What was your initial exposure to the Marvel Universe?  Were you a fan growing up?

A:         My first exposure to the Marvel world was through comic books as a kid. I bought a bunch of comic books but they were pretty expensive so I didn’t have a huge, extensive collection. But I did collect some “Infinity Gauntlet” stuff, in fact some “Guardians of the Galaxy,” some Punisher and “Punisher 2099” and some “Spiderman.”

I was an artist and painted murals on my wall that had some comic book heroes in them. I still have books and books full of comic-book drawings and stuff that I liked to do as a kid. So, I was definitely a fan, but more of the artwork than the stories. Just the look of the Super Heroes was something I really liked and was something I was into at the time.

Q:        Most people involved hadn’t heard of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but you were aware, correct?

A:         Yes, I had heard of them. It’s just a coincidental thing that in the short time that I was collecting comic books, my friend Travis got into “Guardians” and his brother got into some incarnation of “Wolverine.” At the time it was in the ’90s and they both came out around the same time. I bought a couple “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but by the time I started collecting the #1s had already come out and they were on like #20 or #30 or whatever, so I started trying to get my own #1s. I have “Bartman”#1 and #1 of “Ghostrider” but I think my nephews may have them now.

Q:        What is it that attracted you to this film?

A:         What attracted me to this role was really James Gunn, the director. We were sort of circling around each other for a little while. I had carved myself out a niche as an actor as the sidekick and I thought that was an avenue to have a career and I could just keep doing those more comedic roles, so I didn’t audition. After I did “Zero Dark Thirty” I changed my mind about the kinds of characters I would like to play, so my manager got me an audition. In the process of the audition, something clicked and both James and I felt like it was going to be right.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

L to R: Director James Gunn on set with Michael Rooker (Yondu) and actor Sean Gunn. Photo by Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        What was your initial reaction when reading the script?

A:         I didn’t get to read the script until after I signed on to do the movie, so my initial response was relief that it was even better than I could’ve imagined. This script in particular is especially funny and that’s just James Gunn’s voice. He’s a funny dude in real life.

Q:        Take us through your character.

A:         When we first meet Peter Quill, he’s a 9-year-old kid watching his mother die of cancer. She’s all he’s got because he never knew his father. Peter is a kid who has been told his whole life that he needs to toughen up because he’s got a big heart. After his mother dies, he is sucked away into space and raised by Yondu, who also tells him that he has to toughen up. So he’s been living his whole life trying to pretend like he’s tougher than he is. But he gets free rein in space. He gets his own ship; he gets to eat whatever candy he wants. There are no rules and he enjoys that, but there’s something missing in his life. He misses his family and he misses his community. Through the course of the movie he has to learn to actually care about something and learn that there’s more to life than just taking exactly what you want.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Q:        Do you think your character is the eye of the audience in that he is the only human in the story? What was it you connected with in terms of fleshing out the character?

A:         I think it’s safe to say that the story is told from his perspective but it’s not his story only; it’s definitely an ensemble. You do get to see his origin, which is different than the other characters. You learn about where the other characters come from but you don’t get to see it the way you do with Peter. He is the only human in this crazy collection of worlds.

With fleshing the character out, I just wanted to always think about the wounds that he’s had but then just bury them deep down inside and have fun. I think that’s what he’s trying to do— just have fun out in space. He’s more show than go; he wants to show people how tough he is and he wants to show people that he’s not just a kid and that he’s got this dangerous side. He wants to be Star-Lord, but he really isn’t; he’s just a kid trapped in space.

Q:        The fact that the characters aren’t well known must give you some freedom to work with, right?

A:         Definitely. I feel like I have freedom to do whatever I want within the confines of the screenplay and the direction that’s given by James Gunn. That’s really helpful for me as an actor, just to be able to play it similar to how I would be if I were that character.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

L to R: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        Do you feel that bringing a whole new set of characters to the screen will be special to the audience?

A:         Yes, but I also have a hunch that we’re doing something that’s never been done before. There have never been all these elements in one movie, from comedy to real drama to cutting-edge technology with the greatest, most imaginative worlds I’ve ever seen created in a movie. If there’s just a harmony that comes together, then we’re doing something that’s groundbreaking.

Q:        Introduce the arc of the Guardians of the Galaxy as a group.

A:         The Guardians of the Galaxy start out having these individual goals for what they want, and later on they come together as a team to protect innocent people rather than just make money or just get revenge or just run away. They find that there’s something worth fighting for that’s bigger than them and that’s the lesson that they all learn. Peter Quill wants freedom; he wants to be able to just go out into space and listen to his music and forget about life and bury who he is and just escape into the world. Gamora wants to escape Ronan. She also wants to be strong, but she has a different definition of what strength is. Drax wants to have revenge for losing his family. Rocket and Groot want money and that’s it; they think that the universe is mean and heartless, and everyone’s got dead people in their life so ‘suck it up, let’s get paid and screw everybody else.’ But in the end we decide to essentially sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of other people, and that’s something that’s really the journey of the group.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

L to R: Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        Talk about the different planets and races we’re exploring in this film.

A:         There are so many worlds that we explore in this movie and they’re all vastly different from one another. You’ve got Xandar, which is this sort of Utopian society. Everyone is really smart and thoughtful and progressive and clean living. There are influences of Dubai in there and you get the sense that they are manufactured cities. There’s this giant Xandar shopping district where we hang out. There are a lot of different alien races; people who are completely pink and yellow and blue.

We also have the Kyln prison, which is an amazing set. With 160 extras, it’s like you’re in a South American prison; it’s dark and dank and you can almost smell how nasty it is when you’re there; it’s scary and it’s a rough place to be. And then you’ve got the Dark Aster, our bad guy’s giant spaceship. It’s like a scrap yard; everything seems like it’s dripping and drenched in oil. There are tons of other environments as well, like Knowhere [a mining planet] and the Boot of Jemiah [a bar on Knowhere].

Q:        What was your initial reaction to your character Peter Quill’s ship, the Milano?

A:         Quill’s ship, the Milano, is so badass; it’s like the baddest set I’ve ever been on. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. I’ve been in awe this whole time. Inside of it, I felt like I was in a ride at a theme park that was made just for me to ride. Can you imagine? People would wait in line all day to just get a glimpse of that thing, and I get to pretend that it’s mine. It was pretty amazing.

Q:        Is your character sort of stuck in the ’80s?

A:         Peter Quill is a product of the ’80s, so when he left Earth he was stunted in his pop- culture references of Kevin Bacon, “Footloose,” John Stamos and things like that. Like the people in my generation, because I grew up the same era as Peter Quill, I think all that stuff is really funny and makes a lot of sense. But the soundtrack is great because it’s songs that are from the ’70s.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy

Awesome Mix Vol. 1 ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        Does the music playing on set help your performance at all?

A:         From the point of view of an actor, having the music on standby and understanding what’s going to be playing while you perform is really helpful because it takes the pressure off and allows you to fit in and be yourself and be present in the moment.

Q:        Talk about Lee Pace as Ronan. Is he a pretty badass villain to be going up against?

A:         Ronan is a hardcore dude to be going up against, that’s for sure and Lee Pace is an exceptional actor. He’s really great. It’s awesome to watch him work. He’s a Juilliard-trained professional; he knows exactly what he’s doing. Lee is going to work as much as he wants to for as long as he wants to and will have an amazing career because he’s so good. He’s got a lot of fans already, but he’s going to have even more after this movie.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Ronan (Lee Pace) Photo by Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        What’s it been like working with Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the whole team?

A:         This has been a great cast to work with. I feel like I’ve learned something new every day about how to do this job. I’m still essentially pretty new at this and working with a cast like this, veteran actors like Benicio Del Toro and Glenn Close and John C. Reilly, I pick up on the differences in their styles and what they do and how they breathe their own presence into these roles and their processes.

It’s really amazing. Then you see someone like Dave Bautista, who is pretty new to acting in films, but he’s got something that is so good. He’s got such special moments in this, and he has this physicality that defies the gentle person that he is on the inside and that is really compelling to watch. And Zoe Saldana is just a pro; she nails it. It’s been great working with everybody.

Q:        Talk about your outfit. Does it make you feel a little more badass when you’re in full Star-Lord gear?

A:         Between the combination of the hair and the makeup and the wardrobe there’s something that happens. I’ll sit in the chair for an hour while they’re doing all the makeup and darkening this and they’re fixing that and blow drying this. All of the sudden, I’ll just look up and look in the mirror and I’ll catch Peter Quill looking back at me.

I really feel like the character is born in the hair and makeup trailer. Then all of the sudden I feel like I’m talking differently, I’m walking differently and my confidence goes up to a level that’s probably unnatural for anybody. Then I put on the costume and my walk changes. Peter is confident and cocky but hopefully not in an ugly arrogant way. There’s enough charm to it to where you could forgive a character for being that way. But it all starts with my hair, my makeup and my wardrobe, and when I put the combination of those things together, I just can’t help but walk, talk and act differently.

Q:        Is your wardrobe comfortable to wear?

A:         It’s comfortable but it’s heavy. The long leather jacket that I wear is almost always soaked with water. It probably weighs like 45 pounds. So when I’m in all the clothes—the leather, the plastic, the metal—it’s all pretty heavy. By the end of the day I get a little sore. But any discomfort I feel is immediately replaced by a greater amount of swagger.

Q:        Talk to us about your physical transformation for this role. 

A:         I started working out nine months ago, and it took about 5 ½ months to get to where I needed to be. We collaborated on the things that I like to do in terms of getting in shape and then I met some of their trainers and their nutritionists. The big thing for me was getting the right nourishment and the right diet. With this team, I was eating exactly the right stuff and taking all the right supplements and vitamins and doing it right. I was really closely monitored. They just said, “Eat when we tell you to eat and work out when we tell you to work out,” and I just completely put myself into their hands and did exactly what they asked me to do and more.

I have a work ethic that was probably born in the wrestling room that I grew up in, being a wrestler, and we were always cutting weight and working really hard. I took that work ethic with me and for five months I literally worked my ass off. I was working out four hours a day.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy

Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) Photo credit Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        Do you like doing the stunts?

A:         I do but I’m not doing all my own stunts. There’s a great stunt crew here and a great stunt team that I have that do the majority of the really hard stunts for me. There used to be a lot of machismo and bravado in my choices regarding stunts—I wanted to do them myself—but the truth is you just can’t afford to shut down production if you get hurt. At some point you have to put your ego aside and let a stuntman do it.

Q:        Does your character use only guns throughout the film?

 A:        Yes, he uses guns throughout. Peter Quill’s not a Super Hero. He can’t fly or shoot lasers out of his butt or whatever. He’s just a guy who uses his cunning and his charm to get himself out of situations. Despite being a fit figure, he shoots guns and that’s pretty much it.

Q:        What was it like to shoot the fight sequence between Quill and Gamora?

A:         That was pretty intense. We trained for the Quill and Gamora fight in the Xandar shopping district probably about a month, maybe six weeks. Once a day we would go in with stunt people and work out the whole system, but it would keep evolving and changing. We’d shoot it and then shoot little rehearsal passes of it in the stunt room and send it off to production and they’d trim it down and add things and take things away. But I’ll tell you, Zoe is strong because she’s a ballet dancer. Her kicks caught me a couple of times. We both would walk away with bumps and bruises. It was pretty intense.

Q:        What’s it been like to work with James Gunn?

A:         I think Marvel is so lucky to have James on this project and future projects. He was born to direct a Marvel movie. He’s a huge fan of all the comic books and he understands the logic of comic books. He’s not easily impressed, which is really important in a movie like this because the sets, the props and the costumes are so spectacular that it’s pretty easy to say, “That’s great, move on.” What’s great about him is that he understands the twisted logic of this type of movie. He’ll say, “You can’t do that, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical.” And I’ll think, “There’s a talking raccoon with a machine-gun. When did logic become important?”

But there is a certain structure of logic that you have to follow and rules to which you have to adhere for the fans. What’s lucky about James is that he is one of those guys who is a super-fan. He’s the kind of guy who can hold his own in any conversation with any super-fan about the origins of different characters and the versions and incarnations of these different Super Heroes; he knows all the rules. He’s also an exceptional storyteller with a great sense of humor.

James also understands pacing really well. This movie is fast-paced; it’s big and loud and in your face and he definitely leaves his mark on every scene.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Director James Gunn on set with actor Sean Gunn (Rocket Racoon performance capture). Photo by Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2014

 

Q:        How does this movie tie back to “Marvel’s The Avengers”?

A:         Thanos is at the end of Marvel’s The Avengers and so we understand that he’s looming in the Marvel universe and early on you get the sense that he’s going to be a big part of this movie, but he’s not the main bad guy in this movie. Ronan is his disciple and our main bad guy. All these worlds intertwine with one another.

Q:        Why do you think the audience keeps connecting with and enjoying these Marvel characters?

A:         What Marvel fans really enjoy about these characters is the same thing they’ve always enjoyed with the characters in the comic books, which is fantasy and this bigger-than-life reality with real stories being told. They’re timeless, classic stories and people really relate to that. It’s awesome that Marvel has gotten into the movie business because it’s a whole new medium in which to tell this incredibly vast library of stories.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Actor Chris Pratt attends Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” European premiere at Empire Leicester Square on July 24, 2014 in London England, James Gillham/StingMedia.co.uk

 

Q:        What’s it feel like to now be a part of this Marvel Cinematic Universe?

A:         I don’t know if I fully understand what it means to me yet to be part of this Marvel Cinematic Universe. I certainly won’t know until the movie is out and I see how people receive it. Being on set and filming a movie is old hat to me, but promoting a movie like this or seeing how people react to it or seeing how crowds react or seeing how I’m treated when I walk down the street after this movie comes out, is all new to me. Maybe nothing will change, or maybe it’ll be so different than I can’t even imagine it.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.