Journey to the Star-Lord: How Chris Pratt Became a Movie Star
Marvel has been known for surprises when it comes to casting its lead actors. There was the fallen ’80s idol (Robert Downey Jr.), the virtually unknown Australian (Chris Hemsworth), and the guy who’d already played another superhero (Chris Evans). But they all seem like safe choices compared to the decision to give the main role in this week’s Guardians Of the Galaxy to Chris Pratt.
The 35-year-old actor has won plenty of fans thanks to his TV work (most notably on Parks and Recreation), but has basically never led a movie before, let alone one of this size. As Guardians director James Gunn admitted on SiriusXM, when the idea of Pratt was first floated his reaction was, “The chubby guy from Parks and Rec?! That’s stupid!” But Pratt won Gunn over, and looks to be winning over plenty more too: He’s had stellar reviews for Guardians Of The Galaxy so far, and he’s still enjoying the afterglow from this year’s animated blockbuster The Lego Movie in which he voiced the hapless hero. With his lead role in next year’s Jurassic World, many are tipping him to be Hollywood’s next superstar. But how on earth (or even on Xandar) did he go from schlubby character actor to buff leading man? We took a look at his career so far for some clues.
The Early Years
Raised in Lake Stevens, Washington, Pratt dropped out of college a semester in, and after making a living as a coupon salesman and even a stripper, ended up happily homeless in Maui, sleeping in a tent on the beach. (“It’s a pretty awesome place to be homeless,” he told The Independent. “We just drank and smoked weed and worked minimal hours, just enough to cover gas, food, and fishing supplies.”) But when he served Commando star Rae Dawn Chong while working as a waiter in a branch of Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, she cast him in a short horror movie she was directing called Cursed Part 3, flying him to L.A. for filming.
Pratt stayed in California, and within two years, had landed a regular TV gig on The WB’s teen soap Everwood, playing the older brother of Emily VanCamp’s character. It came to an end after four seasons, but Pratt didn’t skip a beat, joining the final season of The O.C. as a bohemian activist unimaginatively named Che. Both shows were inherently dramatic, but Pratt knew he had comedic instincts, tellling The AV Club “I always thought when I was doing more melodramatic stuff like Everwood that the directors were constantly reeling me in and stopping me from being funny.” His first few movie roles scratched that itch a little more: He appeared in Amy Sedaris’ Strangers With Candy (2005) and was Anne Hathaway’s fiancé in the rom-com Bride Wars (2009). In the same year as the latter, he also took his only lead role prior to Guardians, in the sex comedy Deep In The Valley, co-starring — of all people — Kim Kardashian.
The Parks and Recreation peak