Chris Pratt stars as Owen the raptor trainer in Jurassic World, opening this Friday. (Universal Pictures)
Chris Pratt first grabbed our attention in the cult and critically adored TV shows, “Everwood” and “Parks and Recreation.” He’s not just a cult favorite anymore. In 2014, he starred in two of the biggest movies of the year, The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy. It seems as if he will be starring in one of the biggest movies of 2015 as well, Jurassic World. Box office prognosticators are predicting a Jurassic-size box office opening weekend of over $100 million. To put that in perspective, Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron are the only two films in 2015 to open with over $100 million so far.
Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a new, fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World. In order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction – the genetically modified and enhanced Indominus Rex – is created to revive visitors’ interest. This backfires horribly, of course. Pratt plays Owen, the raptor trainer, who, after all hell breaks loose, must partner with Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to save her nephews.
Pratt recently discussed his real-world Jurassic moment, running in heels and his blockbuster-to-be, Jurassic World.
Living Out Loud-Los Angeles: You’re an outdoorsman. How did your experience in the wild affect your experience while making Jurassic World?
Chris Pratt: I love this story because it’s true and it’s one of those stories that I will tell forever and ever. I was on an elk hunt maybe eight or nine years ago. I was at the camp [one] morning [by myself]. I look up on the hill, and I see a giant something. It was a silhouette of a giant beast that I assumed was a monster bull elk. I run back to the tent and I say to my buddies Ian and Mike on the radio, ‘I’m going to take a closer look at this elk.’ I go back and look up, but don’t see him. Meanwhile, I’m wearing slippers and pajamas and my one shot baby .22. Then I hear [a loud, deep breath] behind me. I drop my binoculars and turn around and, not 10 feet from me, is a big, mature, full-grown moose.
Moose are incredibly dangerous. They kill more people in North America than bears and wolves combined. They are very, very dangerous animals in the wild. This thing is monstrous, probably over a thousand pounds. I’m thinking, ‘I’m gonna die right now.’ It’s looking at me and [stomping its hoof]. I don’t look it in the eyes because I think I had heard that you [shouldn’t] look them in the eyes. I take a step back, and it takes a step towards me; it’s a standoff between me and this giant beast.
I take another step back, and it takes another step towards me. I can still smell this creature. It’s so vivid in my brain. I see the steam coming out of its nose because it’s so cold. I have this little tiny gun, and I’m thinking, ‘What am I going to do if it attacks me? I just have to try to stick this little gun somewhere, like in its eye or something, because this little gun won’t kill a moose.’ So I take another step back and instead of taking a step, it takes three steps right at me. I think I nearly fainted, and it just turned around and walked off.
When I was doing the scene with raptors, I told [the moose] story. There’s something really scary about having something in front of you and you taking a step and it taking a step. [Making Jurassic World] and taking that suspense informed my experience that I’ve had in the wild.
And all of these answers are going to be just as long [laughs].
LOL-LA: In the trailer, we see you working with the raptors. Did you create a back story? Did you have a name for the raptors?
CP: No, I didn’t. I did some work in creating the techniques that this guy would use like he’s a real person at an opening at [an amusement] park. First, [I thought], who would this guy be? I was all over the place. “Should he be the Crocodile Hunter? Should I use an Australian accent?’ [Director Colin Trevorrow] was like, ‘No, maybe not. I want this to be real. No matter who the character is, I want this to seem real and create an organic relationship between man and beast that’s going to strike an emotional chord.’ The dinosaur is a CGI character, so it’s tough to create an emotional relationship between a man and an animated character.
Moving forward with this idea, I did some research. I was able to hang out with some pretty awesome animal trainers. There’s one guy named Randy Miller who owns a company called Predators in Action which trains bears, lions, tigers, things like that to do simulated animal attacks in movies. His tigers were in Gladiator. His bear was in Semi-Pro. I went to his ranch and hung out with him. I was able to see him interact with these animals, and that was the basis between having the clicker and the posture I adopted and all of that stuff.
LOL-LA: You play a bad ass in this movie after playing another bad ass [in Guardians of the Galaxy]. How did you try to make this character different than Peter Quill from Guardians?
CP: A lot of this was Colin’s vision. He had a term called the ‘third rail.’ On the subway track, there’s a third rail that will kill you if you touch it. If I started being goofy, acting like a dipshit or going to my normal comedic bag of tricks – some of which I used in Guardians of the Galaxy, and of course Andy Dwyer in ‘Parks and Recreation’ is the full embodiment of that clowning around – if I used any of that, that was my third rail. If I was going to have any fun with this, it was going to be in my repartee with Claire (Howard).
For the most part, it was deadly serious. In the back story, we figured he was a guy who trained dolphins for the Navy. He saw what kind of treatment those kinds of animals receive, and it’s not always very good. We decided that in the years he’s been working for [Jurassic World], this isn’t his first set of raptors. Some of the raptors didn’t make it through the first set of training. Some of these animals died on his watch, killed each other on his watch. Certain [training] techniques didn’t work. We’ve come a long way, and a lot of these animals paid the sacrifice for the work that we’ve done.
There’s not a lot of room for goofing around when you play that guy – a [Navy veteran] who’s been in combat, who’s chosen to live on an island and move away from the world.
LOL-LA: Throughout the film, I kept envisioning Zero Dark Thirty. The bad dinosaur was Osama bin Laden, Bryce Dallas Howard was Jessica Chastain’s character and you were one of the Navy Seals. My question, though, is which dinosaur was the biggest asshole?
CP: I’d have to say Indominus Rex. He’s just a mean dinosaur. Like most assholes, he had a tough upbringing. You kind of feel a little bad for him.
LOL-LA: Could you outrun that dinosaur in heels, like Bryce Dallas Howard had to?
CP: Likely no, I could not. Although, I wore high heels yesterday, for the first time, on the James Corden show. A) I liked the way it felt to work in them. I just did. And B) I surprised myself with my ability to run. It’s like tippy-toe running. I would not be able to outrun Indominus Rex, but with enough practice, I might be able to make it 40 or 50 feet before I was killed.
LOL-LA: Did you ever think you would have three franchises to your name?
CP: I always knew it [laughs]. I was always like, ‘Well, as soon as I have three franchises to my name …’ No, I never could have known. No way. That’s pretty rarefied space to be in. I am feeling very blessed and overcome with joy. But, I never thought I would have three franchises.
LOL-LA: Would you return to TV, or are you focused on films now?
CP: I think the platform for entertainment is shifting so rapidly, it’s really changing. … Other than this terrific show on CBS called ‘Mom,’ which I think is the best show on the air, it’s truly remarkable. I could go on and on, just the tones they hit emotionally, comedically, and the lead actress [his wife, Anna Faris] is stunning [laughs]. I would like to have a baby with her.
TV is extraordinary right now. There are so many different media outlets outside of the major networks, and what’s so great about TV is that you can get an opportunity to tell really rich stories over the course of so many hours. It’s like a novel.
Film is cool because now I have two hours for this cool ride. It’s typically three acts: beginning middle, end. You go on an adventure, and by the end, it’s all cleaned up. If you have a franchise, maybe you have three chapters of a great, great story.
In TV, you can really get into not only great characters, but also the relationships. All the back stories and all of the relationships you have with every person in your life and how those people have relationships with each other, it’s just more dense and there’s more time to tell stories. I would definitely not rule out doing television in the future because I think it’s a great medium for telling stories, and also practically, it’s very nice for a family man to have nine months out of the year where you are close to the city, close to your home.
When I did ‘Parks and Rec’ it took me seven minutes to get to work which was amazing. Nine months out of the year, I would work right down the road, come home for dinner every night, spend weekends at home. When making a movie, you can be halfway around the world for six months, so there are amazing benefits to doing TV with a platform to be creative.
LOL-LA: The final battle scene/monster party was awesome. How did you shoot it?
CP: Wait, what are you talking about? Oh, I thought you were talking about the ‘Parks and Rec’ finale [laughs]. Monster party? Yes, wasn’t that awesome? Talk about going out on a bang, unreal. That’s like a whole new gear. Making that is not nearly as fun as watching it. You have a lot of small pieces, essentially the way that it works is kind of neat. Some of you might know this, but for those who don’t, I think it’s pretty cool, by the time we’re filming that sequence we’re actually re-filming it. Directors will go into an editing room and cut together the movie and all their footage and go, ‘Oh man, I wish we would’ve done this, this and this,’ but it’s already too late, the movie is in the can.
What they do with a movie like this, which is the same thing they did on Guardians of the Galaxy, is they essentially direct and create an animated version. There’s a cartoon version of this movie, it’s not great but it’s essentially a moving storyboard, every little piece in this cartoon version. In a way, it’s like when you put together a thousand-piece puzzle. You have to look at the front of the box and you have to look at the picture, so this animatronic works as the picture on the front of the box. By the time we’re shooting this sequence, and trust me, it’s even more boring to shoot than it is to hear me talk about it, you’re looking at the animatronic, going ‘OK, this is going to play for this piece.’
The camera moves from up here to down there, and you know there are going to be two dinosaurs there, and I’m just running by and ‘OK, action.’ You look at it, go, ‘That’s probably going to fit,’ and go onto the next piece. So depending on what the setup was or the day was, sometimes you’re doing really cool stuff. Sometimes you’re interacting with the other actors. Sometimes you’re having this really intense interaction with what will be the raptors and sometimes you’re just a prop, moving left to right, running up and stopping, firing a gun and doing a dive roll. Sometimes, though, you’re just very much a prop.
Jurassic World releases in theaters June 12.