An Unlikely Hero
Chris Pratt had to find the strength within himself to transform from sidekick to major star.
by Evan Jameson

There’s a common denominator in Chris Pratt’s rise from pudgy funny man to power-packed superhero, and it’s not a set of weights.
The 43-year-old star of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World franchises admits he always had it in himself to ascend to the heights of the major players in Hollywood, both in terms of film choices and physique—the only thing holding him back was his own self-confidence.
He has been on quite a roll ever since finding that faith in himself, emerging from a key supporting actor in acclaimed films like Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty to a star in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and someone who can carry an action film.
The freedom and fearlessness with which he now pursues his projects extends into animated adventure as well, as he proved with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, a hit at the box office earlier this year.
A creative gift to his daughters Eloise and Lyla, who he shares with wife and author Katherine Schwarzenegger—he also has a son, Jack, with ex-wife Anna Faris—or a foray instead into his childhood memory bank?
As it turns out, it’s a bit of both. Pratt spoke with us about the film, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the final entry in the trilogy that put him on the map. As he told Fandango in an interview earlier this year, the success of Guardians is particularly meaningful to him, since it was his first leading role and many critics were predicting it to be a flop, only for it to become one of Marvel’s most beloved franchises.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was recently released and has become another successful installment of the franchise. Prior to getting the Star Lord role, did any of the auditions that didn’t pan out really affect you in any way?

I think that the one that really stuck with me most was Star Trek. I remember that in the description this character has “it.” We can’t put our finger on it, but it’s the “it” factor. When I walked into that room, I didn’t feel like I had that at all.

Neither did they! I mean, I walked in and I was like, “Hi, I’m Chris” and they were like, “OK, hey.” Not very upbeat or bothered that I was there. The cameras were rolling, and they never looked at me, the camera saw me and I’m sure that they probably never gave that tape to anybody. That did sting a little bit.
Yet in the middle of voicing The Lego Movie, that two-year process, I got cast in Guardians of the Galaxy. I went through this body transformation, this career transformation and it was all very public.
It was interesting to see how this ordinary, optimistic, lovable guy gets the opportunity to do something really great and is accepted as a hero. I felt like that’s what was happening in my life.

They say that voiceover work is one of the easiest gigs when you’re an actor. Did you find it so for The Super Mario Bros. Movie?
I think you’d be a liar if you said it wasn’t the easiest way to pull off a movie. I mean, there’s little interaction with anyone else, you can work the schedule much more to your own requirements, and you don’t even need to dress for the occasion.

What I would say is there’s a different sort of intensity to the whole thing. You’re not waiting for the crew to set up, you’re not doing make-up, you’re not traveling to various different locations—it’s just you in a recording studio. But that brings about its own pressure. You can’t really lean on anyone else, you can’t feed off others, and that can actually be quite tricky.
All actors need a sounding board and people around them to bring the best out of them, so in this scenario it’s down to you to bring the best out of yourself.
Did you do that?
You tell me [laughs]!

Obviously, Super Mario Bros. transcends generations, so was this a treat for you, or for your children?
I think at this point it was as much a treat for me, and actually a privilege to be voicing Mario. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than to actually be a character we all grew up with, and who really helped kick off a gaming generation that has grown and grown way above what anyone might have imagined.

Were you a fan as a kid?
Ah c’mon, I mean we all were. It defined a generation and that’s an incredible thing to think about. I will admit I never foresaw a situation when I was a kid where I would come back and be this guy … as a 43-year-old man. I mean, that’s where this gets weird.

This seems like another nice diversion for you.
I want to keep reinventing, is the truth. I think we all do. When I look at older stuff I’ve done, like Parks and Rec, whatever, I do not recognize that guy. I can’t see myself. It’s really surreal. It’s like I’ve aged backwards, I’ve Benjamin Buttoned [laughs].

I don’t know who that guy is, and I don’t want to go back there because I wasn’t healthy, I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t exercising like I should. I never felt it happening, I never felt bigger, it only hits me now when I look back.
Your body transformation in recent years has certainly made headlines, but you’ve also had times when you’ve moved away from being ripped. It seems that you are comfortable with yourself these days no matter what shape you’re in.
In many ways, the work taken to shed 80 pounds in moving from comedies The Five-Year Engagement and Delivery Man into the action genre for The Guardians of the Galaxy, was the big shift.

Once I did that, I don’t think I was ever going to put that back on. When you have the momentum of losing a lot of weight, it carries you through into a continual process of slimming or narrowing down; whereas when you start from a point of relative fitness and are needing to trim small percentages, that’s when a lot of the real effort comes in, and you may have days when you feel you are getting nowhere at all, or even running in reverse.
And you’ve always been quite open about your relationship with image and food.
I think you have to be balanced and honest. It’s OK to say you like eating. We seem to be obsessing, as a society, with the notion that food is an extreme or an evil, when in reality it’s an absolute necessity to us.

I’m happy to admit I miss happy moments that I had with really great food that I don’t have. I even have sad moments now because I’m hungry and I don’t like that. I don’t like having to think, “Now, what will that do to my body?” That’s not fun. It can’t and shouldn’t ever be about how you look. How depressing would that be? It’s about sound body, sound mind, keeping healthy as you can, because we’ve only one body, that’s it.
Of course, personally, getting fit has been the key to getting better roles and also just feeling better in general. Once I started getting better scripts and I started playing in big films I just saw how important it was to stay in shape, go to the gym, eat healthy and change my lifestyle.
Did you ever worry that you weren’t going to get cast in roles other than the nerd or sidekick kind of character?
Somehow I always had this inner feeling that one day I was going to get to be able to play lead roles and be part of big films. I never gave up on myself and I always had faith that one way or another I was going to succeed at a higher level even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

When you think about how your career has skyrocketed in the past few years, do you ever shake your head in disbelief especially with your starring in multiple film franchises?
I feel blessed every day. I have a beautiful wife and three amazing children and I’m getting the kinds of opportunities that I never could have expected earlier in my career. Getting to be part of film franchises is a pretty rarified space to be in and that’s why I’ve been working so hard the last few years.

Has being a father changed you in any significant ways?
It makes you more responsible. I take my role as a partner and father very seriously and I am very dedicated to seeing to it that my children grow up happily and in a loving and caring environment.

What’s your greatest challenge as a dad?
Knowing when to switch off; when to let go; knowing that I want to turn down a script and do very simple, very normal things. To enjoy the long evenings at the farm, to spend time with my family without the phone ringing. … Basically, to be a dad in the most invested way I can, not a movie star!

And if there’s one thing my kids taught me, and should teach any dad out there, it’s to be healthy and to stay healthy, alive, active for them. If you can’t do it for them, who can you do it for?
Would you have been happy with being the “lovable schlub” for another 10 years in your career?
Completely, yeah. I thought for a while that that would be my niche and I thought that there was nobody else really doing that, all of the vanity is taken out of it. Obviously, this reality is better though.
Photo by DFree /
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, July 2023.