It's no spoiler to mention the fact that Chris Pratt's Jurassic World character is of the heroic variety. We bring this up because at the start of a press conference with the actor in Los Angeles over the weekend, a piece of the jungle-themed set started to fall toward a reporter and Pratt was the one and only person to jump up from his seat to try to grab the falling object and make sure everyone was okay.
Typical and genuine Pratt charm, that. Same goes for his long-winded re-telling of a story of how his experience with a real-life moose informed his performance with the Jurassic World's raptors. Pratt also chats about why he won't rule out out a return to TV and shares his genuine gratitude and surprise in being the star of three franchises (Guardians of the Galaxy, the LEGO Movies and likely the new Jurassic films).
You’re known as an outdoorsman. You go hunting and fishing in your downtime.
Can you talk about your experience in dealing with animals in the wild that you may have been able to bring to this character?
Yes. It’s funny I was just talking about this. This is cool. This is a good story. I love this story because it’s true and it’s one of those stories that I’ll tell forever and I’m glad that I can tell it to you guys because if I wasn’t at a press conference, I’d just be telling it to my buddies but this is way better. I was on an elk hunt about maybe 8 years ago/9 years ago. I had shot an elk the first day so my tag was filled. I was on this hunt with these other two guys, Mike and Ian, and they were out in the morning. They didn’t have me come with them because it was a dry time of the year. The Aspen leaves had fallen. It was crunchy on the ground so two less feet in the woods is better because it’s so loud. So a long story short, I was at camp that morning. Oh heads up!
[a plant from the backdrop of the room fell into a speaker and almost hit a journalist and Chris leapt from his seat to go and help save him].
Nice save (everyone applauds)!
Hey I almost got killed! The ghost of the elk came back! We all squared away on that? That won’t happen again right (looks around to take inventory of the remaining plants behind him). Just look around you. If there is anything that looks like it could fall and kill you, just be weary. Focus on an exit strategy now. So I wasn’t with them. I’m walking around the camp because they have these things called grouse, which are dumb little birds. They are like a cross between corn and like an animal. I feel like God put them here to be like, “Even the dummy’s gotta eat. I’ll give you grouse!” And so I was out going to shoot these little grouse with this tiny little single shot 22 – tiny little gun, basically a BB gun. So I’m out looking for grouse. I look up on the hill; I see a giant something. Like the sun is coming up behind this hill so I couldn’t really see but it was the Shallotte of a giant beast. I assumed it was a monster bull elk. I go back quickly to the tent and I say to Ian and Mike over the radios, “I think there’s something here. I think it’s a huge elk. Stand by. I’m going to go get a better look but you might need to come back this way because one of you should shoot this big elk.” So I come back and I look up and I don’t see him. And now I’m looking through my binoculars and I don’t see this animal. I can’t find it. Meanwhile, I’m wearing slippers, pajamas, and I have my little single shot baby gun 22. And then I hear this “pfff” and I drop my binoculars and not standing 10 feet from me is a big mature bull moose. And moose are incredibly dangerous. They kill more people in North America than bears and wolves all combined. I mean they are very, very dangerous animals in the wild. They are huge too! Over 1,000 pounds.
This thing is monstrous. And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh I’m going to die right now.” And so it’s looking at me and it’s like, “pff pff pff (simulates foot stomping noise).” It’s rubbing its foot into the ground. I just don’t look at it in the eyes. I don’t know why. Maybe I’d heard that you don’t look at them in the eyes or something. And I take back and as I take a step back, it takes a step towards me. And it’s a stand off between me and this giant beast. And I take another step back and it takes another step towards me. And I can still smell this creature. It’s so vivid in my brain. There’s steam coming out of its nose. You can see because it was so cold. And I have this little tiny gun. I’m thinking to myself, “What am I going to do? If it attacks me, I have to try and stick this little gun somewhere like its eye or something to try to shoot it because there is no way this gun is going to kill a moose. It’s just going to make it mad.” And finally I take one more step and instead of taking one step, it takes three steps at me like this (makes powerful step taking noise). And I think I nearly fainted and then it just turns off like this and it walks, not two feet from me – just doesn’t care who I was. It just walked off into the wild. And so did anything in the wild ever inform me in this movie? When I’m doing that scene with the raptors, I told this story to Colin. And I said, “There is something really scary about having something standing in front of you and if you take a step back a few inches and it comes at you a few inches.” That suspense and in building that up informed a little bit of the experience that I had in the wild.
Did you do any backstory work? Did you call the raptors anything as a collective?
Oh like did I have my own team name? No I didn’t.
It should be Raptor Power Force.
Yeah. I think Raptor Power Force. I’m going to use that. I did some work in terms of kind of creating the techniques that this guy would use, if this was a real character. If this was a real opening at a park. I thought, first of all who would this guy be? Because when Colin first pitched me the idea, I was all over the place in terms of how would I bring it? I was like, “Oh so he’s like the Crocodile Hunter? Should I do like an Australian accent?” and he’s like, “Ooh I don’t know. Maybe not.” He was like, “I just want this to be real, no matter who the character is. I want it to be real. I want it to seem real and we need to create an organic relationship between man and beast that is going to strike some emotional chord in people. “Hopefully people will give a shit about this relationship between a guy and his dinosaur, which is a tough thing to try to accomplish, especially when a dinosaur is a CG character. It’s an animated character. It’s sometimes tough to create a real relationship between a man and an animated character. So moving forward with the idea, I did some research. I got to hang out with some pretty awesome animal trainers. There was one guy, his name is Randy Miller, he has a company called Predators in Action, which is a company that trains vicious cats, bears – you know tigers and lions and things like that to do simulated animal attacks in movies. His tigers were in Gladiator. And he had the bear that was in Semi Pro. He does a bunch of commercials with pumas and stuff like that. He’s got all kinds of amazing animals. I went to his ranch, hung out with him, spent the day seeing him interact with these animals and this was a big part of creating – having that clicker and the posture that I adopted. All that stuff was part of the research that I did.
This character is the ultimate badass. Coming off of playing Star Lord in GOTG, how did you make this character different?
I do feel like this is a different character. I approached it as being and always saw it as a character who is just different from Peter Quill. A huge part of that was just our director Colin Trevorrow’s vision. He had this term called “the third rail.” I didn’t grow up in a city with a subway, but apparently in the subway, there are three rails and, if you touch one, it will kill you. That was the third rail, for me. If I started being goofy, or acting like a dip-shit, or going to my normal comedic bag of tricks – some of which I used in Guardians of the Galaxy, and certainly the character of Andy Dwyer from Parks & Rec is a full embodiment of that type of clowning around and that type of comedic schtick that I’m known for – that was my third rail. If I wanted to have any fun with this, it was all in my repartee with Claire, and my relishing an opportunity to spar with her and get her goat a little bit. That was how I could have fun, but for the most part, it was deadly serious. There was a bit of a darkness. This is a guy who’s been through something. It goes back to, who would this guy be, if this were really a job opening and they needed a person to fill this position?
We came together and decided that the backstory is that he’s a guy who probably trained dolphins for the Navy, and he saw what type of treatment those animals received, which is always not great for the animal. We decided that the likelihood is that, in the years that he’s been working for the park, this isn’t his first set of raptors. Raptors didn’t make it through some of the training. These animals died on his watch. They killed each other on his watch. Certain techniques that we tried didn’t work. We’ve come a long way and a lot of these animals have paid the sacrifice for the work that I’m doing for this company. That’s pretty serious. There’s not a lot of room for goofing around, when you play that guy. He’s a guy who’s been through combat. He’s a combat veteran with a bit of a darkness, who lives on an island. He’s chosen to move away from the world and live on the dark side of an island. All that stuff was interesting, fun character work and made me want to be someone who was different. I love Peter Quill, and I love Andy. I look forward to playing Peter Quill again. It’s super fun. But this was somebody who’s just a little different for me.
Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole?
Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole? I guess Indominus Rex was a pretty big asshole. Just mean. A mean dinosaur. But like most assholes, had a tough upbringing. You feel a little bit bad about that.
Could you outrun that dinosaur in heels, like Bryce Dallas Howard had to?
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.
Did you ever think you would have three franchises to your name?
I always knew it. 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.
Would you return to TV or are you focused on films now?
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 is stunning. 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 really rich, an opportunity to tell really rich stories over the course of so many hours, it's like a novel of this type of medium, film or television. 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 by the end it's all cleaned up and 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 I. 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. Movie making, you can be halfway around the world for six months so there are amazing benefits to doing TV and a platform to be creative.
The final battle scene was awesome (journo calls it a monster party). How did you shoot it?
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 edit 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 animatic 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 animatic, going "Okay, 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 Okay, action." You look at it and you go "That's probably going to fit" and you 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 you're just very much a prop.
Jurassic World is in theaters June 12, 2015.