Last July, while covering NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, I jumped at the chance to attend a press conference involving the race’s honorary pace car driver.
Just before noon I made my way to the bottom floor of the media center where the press conference room was and made myself comfortable.
My place of comfort happened to be in the seat directly behind said driver, Chris Pratt.
Pratt, giving an interview with SiriusXM radio’s NASCAR channel, was in Indianapolis to promote the release of Marvel’s highly risky, yet eventually second-highest grossing movie of 2014, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was less than a week away.
When he was done, Pratt disappeared out the door before the formal presser began.
Roughly an hour before the green flag dropped, the room was occupied by maybe 10 people, including photographers. One such photographer sitting in front of me paused to ask a very important question:
“Who is this guy?”
If what Deadline reports is even remotely true, he’s the guy who could replace Harrison Ford as one of the most iconic characters in cinema history:
Think about that for a second.
Whether it’s about the Super Bowl bet he made with fellow Marvel Studios star Chris Evans or the final season of Park and Recreation, “Guardians of the Galaxy” or riding a motorcycle flanked by raptors in the trailer for “Jurassic World,” everything seems to be coming up Pratt.
Everyone remembers 2009, right? Besides being the year I graduated high school, it was when “Parks and Recreation” debuted with a six-episode season on NBC.
It was also America’s introduction to Pratt’s Andy Dwyer, the lovable man-child living on his girlfriend’s couch with two broken legs.
After those six episodes, there was no indication or reason to believe Pratt would someday be the cast member “Parks and Rec” would have to create a story line set in London to accommodate and explain Pratt’s absence while filming “Guardians,” the highest grossing film of 2014 until last week.
It wasn’t a thankless role and Pratt did everything he could with what the writers gave him, but it never felt like a role with a lot of legs (pun intended).
Then Parks and Rec got better. A LOT better. So did Pratt’s character and filmography, with roles in “Moneyball” (2011), “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) and “The Five-Year Engagement.”
In 2014 alone, Pratt had his first starring role in “The Lego Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and supporting roles in “The Delivery Man” and “Her.”
Then a few weeks before the Brickyard, Pratt was cast in “Jurassic World,” the 2015 sequel to 1993’s “Jurassic Park.”
Now we live in world where Pratt is a legitimate and, in my opinion, almost a slam dunk choice, to be this:
But back in July, on the eve of his biggest role unleashed on the world and filming of the final season of “Park and Rec” beginning two weeks later, I was really curious to find out what that moment was like for Pratt.
Luckily Pratt’s answer was true his personality and reputation.
“It’s been great. It’s been surreal. It’s one of those things where as a young actor, moving to Hollywood you set your sights on a moment, you know? You’re always moving on to the next thing and this very much feels like a big moment,” Pratt said. “It’s also been a lot of work and I’ve been away from home a lot, so that’s been a little difficult. I’ve got a 2 year old at home, so there’s a little bit of that that creeps in every day. With the technology you have now I can still Skype him and FaceTime him and have a big presence in his life still.
“It’s been really good and being able to part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s a really big deal. Jurassic Park was one of my favorite movies growing up, so to be part of that is a really big deal to me.”
Pratt went one step further to emphasis how he was experiencing this “big moment” by using a word I wasn’t even sure was real at the time.
“I’ve been Googling synonyms for ‘surreal’ so I don’t keep saying that over and over and over again. It has been unreal and weird and phantasmagorical, I think that was one of them. So it’s been pretty phantasmagorical.”
No joke, phantasmagorical is a real word and I will try to use it as often as possible from now on.
The leading men of Peter Quill, his character in “Jurassic World” and now the possibility of cracking Indiana Jones’ whip are a far cry from Andy Dwyer and his alter ego, Bert Macklin.
Pratt was aware of this in July and gave insight into the differences in how secondary characters like Andy Dwyer are treated creatively compared to his leading man roles in film.
“The supporting characters, you can really do anything you want and when you’re leading, there’s these ropes, or guidelines inside of which you remain as the leader, kind of taking you through,” Pratt said.
“In a way, doing supporting roles is more fun, because you can just be a little wilder and crazier … you can just be colorful, you don’t really have to carry the story with you. But being the lead has a little more responsibility and is probably more rewarding once you see the final product, so it’s (been) a good chapter in what’s been a pretty great story for me from the time I was happy to audition for a Frisky’s Cat commercial all the way to now. I’ve been really excited not to be waiting tables, that’s basically been my victory.”
Pratt hasn’t been officially cast as Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr., and Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny says there’s nothing to be cast:
But even if that’s case, which it probably is, it’s an amazing scenario to contemplate. Just last July, Pratt was on a launching pad ready to rocket into the world’s consciousness. Now he’s there and the Internet is debating if he’s the right choice for a job that’s isn’t officially taking applications.
In that press conference, Pratt remembered the first time he was ever recognized in public for his acting. At the time he was on the WB show “Everwood,” which ran from 2002 to 2006.
“I was sort of a strange situation,” Pratt said. “I remember I was in Utah and I was sitting at this diner and there were these four, pretty menacing lookin’ dudes sort of looking at me, whispering to each other, lookin’ at me, whispering to each other, looking at me.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, these guys are about to mug me or something’, you know? This guy walks over to me and he goes, ‘Hey, you’re on ‘Everwood,’ aren’t you?’
“I was like, ‘Oh! That’s what that is!’ I had butterflies for the whole lunch. I thought these guys…I thought I had done something wrong or offended them or something. That was my very first time I ever got recognized. It was for ‘Everwood’ and it was by four dudes who I thought were going to beat me up.”