Originally plucked from obscurity while working as a waiter in Hawaii, Chris Pratt has spent the past few years making a name for himself in Hollywood. With gigs on shows such as ‘The O.C.’ and ‘Everwood’ under his belt, his next role was that of Andy Dwyer on the hit series ‘Parks and Recreation’ where he established himself as a scene-stealing, fan favorite! With great range and amazing timing, it didn’t take long before Pratt started garnering big-time attention and is quickly becoming a major screen presence in the entertainment industry. His latest outing is a raunchy, romantic and ultimately touching blast from the past set to an awesome soundtrack of timeless rock and hip-hop hits called ‘Take Me Home Tonight. In the film, Pratt shares the screen with an ensemble cast that features Topher Grace, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer and his wife, the always hilarious Anna Faris. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chris Pratt to discuss the unique start to his career, his experiences during his time on the set of ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ and much more!
I wanted to tell people a little bit about your background. You have a really interesting story about how you were discovered. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Oh yeah, sure. I was living in Hawaii. I did one year of college, which I paid for myself, and was like, “This is terrible. This is kinda like high school except it costs you money.” And so I left college, and after having two years as a door-to-door salesman, I was pretty burnt out and my best friend Alex bought me a one-way ticket to Hawaii where he had been living with a group of friends all from high school. I went to Maui and was there for about a year, and lived kind of on the beach in a van or a tent, and we had the time of our lives and partied the whole year, and had a great time learning to surf, and scuba dive, and snorkel, and just was on the retirement-at-19 plan.
And then, I guess, just before my 20th birthday, or maybe before my 21st birthday, somewhere around there, I met an actress, Rae Dawn Chong, and I was working at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Maui on Front Street in Lahaina, and I saw this actress come in, whom I recognized from her work in different various films. And I said, “Hey, you’re a movie star. What are you doing here?” And she kinda looked at me and had this look, and she said, “Hey, you know, you’re cute. Can you act?” And I had. I mean, it wasn’t a real game plan in my life.
I mean, I didn’t really have any plans at that point in my life, but it was something I dreamed of doing as a kid growing up, and did as a kid. You know, regional theater, school and assemblies at school and stuff, and a little community dinner theater after I got out of high school. And my favorite class, the one year I did at college, was theater. I was like, “Yeah, I act. Put me in a movie.” And it just turned out that she was out there sort of on a mini-vacation before she went to production on this film and her star had fallen out, and so she gave me an audition and I, needless to say, I booked the role and that’s what brought me to LA.
And I got paid $700 to do this movie in 10 days, and biggest paycheck I’d ever held in my hands at the time, and I bought a car for $700 and got a job working at a restaurant in Beverly Hills, and was like, “Hey, I’m gonna try to be an actor now.”
Awesome. Well, it seems to be working out for you pretty well so far.
Yeah, yeah! Not too bad. I haven’t had to go back to that restaurant to be a waiter for nine years now, so as long as I can keep that up I’ll be happy! [laughs]
Well, your latest project that’s getting ready to come out, “Take Me Home Tonight,” what can you tell us for people who aren’t familiar with the film yet? What can you tell us about it, briefly?
This is like a contemporary ‘80s movie. It’s sort of a period piece, sort of in the vein of “Dazed and Confused” was to the ‘70s, what we are to the ‘80s. It’s got an awesome ‘80s soundtrack, Topher Grace, Anna Farris, the wonderful and talented Dan Fogler, and Teresa Palmer, and myself. We’re five characters, all of whom have a life-changing experience in the course of one epic night, and it’s a riot. It’s comedy. It’s really funny. It’s got a great soundtrack, and I think people are gonna really like it.
What originally attracted you to this particular part that you’ve taken on? Was there something special about the script?
Yeah. At the point that I was auditioning for this, I thought it was really cool. I love the ‘80s. I read it and was happy to see that it wasn’t like an ‘80s spoof movie, but it was actually a real movie that just happens to take place in the ‘80s. That really turned me on. I’m a fan of Topher’s and Anna’s and was really excited to do it. At the time I had been doing television. I wrapped four season of a show called “Everwood” and did a year on a show called “O.C.” and was excited to potentially try to break into the movie world, and this was sort of a launching pad for me. I mean, I wasn’t really, and still not at the point to turn anything down. I can’t afford to be too critical, but this happened to be a really excellent project that I was able to be part of, so.
They say that every outing you go on, every project is a learning experience for an actor and this film has such a great cast. What did you learn from your time on this film and the cast in particular?
Wow. That’s a really great question. I think that I learned – it was the first or second time that I was ever on a studio movie, so it was neat to see that process where you have six or eight weeks on one story rather than one week, telling a different story each week like as an episode of television. I think Topher, this is gonna sound like it’s not a big lesson, but for me at the time it was. Topher helped me to sort of navigate the business side of being an actor, in terms of representation and stuff.
He was sort of like a big help to me in that, and I mean, God, I feel like you learn a lot on every project, and on this one I felt like I learned a lot in terms of just kind of going for it and trusting your director. You know, doing something that you might be a little bit afraid of doing, but if you trust your director, you know that if it’s not good they won’t use it. You know what I mean? Sometimes you’ve gotta crap out some pretty bad stuff to get to the good stuff, and so I think there was a lot of that. I mean, if you went to the editing room floor, you’d see some pretty terrible takes, I’m sure, but hopefully none of them were the best option for them to use. And yeah, I think that’s about it.
I wanted to touch on the director of the film, Michael Dowse. What do you think he brought to the table for this project?
Well, I was a huge fan of a film called “It’s ‘All Gone Pete Tong” that Mike Dowse created, and if you ever have a chance to see that movie, it’s awesome. It is a really cool movie, and that was a big turn on for me because I watched that movie and was a fan of that movie before I had ever met Mike. And so that was really great. Mike’s Canadian, so he’s naturally very nice, and you kind of learn to reserve your judgment of a director until you’ve seen what they’ve done and you see the final product of the movie.
You could be having a glory time and the director could be really nice, and you could think everything is great, and then you realize that it doesn’t really matter so much about the experience, in terms of judging a director. It’s more what are they catching through that little 35 millimeter lens. Are they making a movie here? And I think, with Mike, he already had my respect, but he really earned my full respect when I got to see the film because I think it’s really good.
Awesome. Looking back on the total experience, what was the biggest challenge for you on this one?
I would say it’s a combo of a couple things, and maybe one leading to the other, because it all takes place through the course of one night, logistically speaking, it was a bit of a nightmare to shoot because we were in one location for eight weeks, and we were working only nights, six days a week, so I mean, we were there at 5 p.m. as soon as the sun went down, we started working and we worked till 6 in the morning.
So we’re potentially on graveyard shift for eight weeks, and that was really taxing and tiring, and towards the end of the film there’s a scene, it’s my character’s last scene, and without giving anything too much away, it was the last scene for me in the whole movie and also for the production of that day. The sun was coming up and the pressure was on for me to sort of deliver this kind of big comedic, as well as vulnerable moment, I guess, and it wasn’t happening. I was mortified. I thought, you know, “Fuck, I’m not getting to sleep. This is not working.”
And the director even came up and said, “Hey, Pratt. This isn’t working at all.” And it was like, oh my God, so that was really tough. I think, in the end, I ended up giving him what he wanted, but the previous 10 or 15 takes or whatever we did to kinda get there, and I think that was just like persevering and having a little bit of thick skin and not letting the rejection of a previous take let you down. You know what I mean?
I think it’s like if you’re there and they’re rolling, I mean, everyone’s standing around waiting to go home, it’s a Friday or a Saturday and the sun’s coming up. They just wanna say cut, move on and use whatever we got, and it was great that Mike Dowse made everyone stay a little extra and made the studio pay a little extra for overtime so we could get that scene in, and I ended up giving him a good take, which is in the movie, so that was probably something notable. I think it was a combination of just being brought down on working six graveyard shifts, you know, whatever 70 or 80 hours a week, and that final scene being the toughest scene. That was something notable. I think I’m rambling on now. [laughs]
Oh, that’s all right. Now, obviously a lot of people are gonna recognize you from “Parks and Recreation,” which actually, I guess 2011’s kinda the year of ‘80s nostalgia for you, in a way, because you’ve been working a little bit with Rob Lowe.
No kidding, yeah! That’s just right! [laughs] That has been fantastic. By the way, for somebody who has been so successful for as many decades in this business as he has, you can’t find somebody who’s more grounded, and down to earth, and kind. And I’m not just blowing smoke. If he was an asshole I’d tell you. He’s really not. He’s a really great guy and a fun guy to work with, and yeah, this is really kind of an ‘80s throwback because, I mean, he was a star back then but he’s still a star, ‘80s, ‘90s, the what, the oughts and now the ‘10s. This’ll be what, his fourth decade? Holy shit!
When you work on an ensemble cast like this, is it difficult to find the right mix of where you fit in? Is it a difficult process or does it just happen naturally?
You know, it’s interesting because I think if you’re really doing your job well, you can’t really put any thought into what the end product looks like. You know? You have something you’re aiming for. It’s something an acting coach once told me, which is a really great look at life. It’s like you have something you’re aiming for, but it doesn’t matter if you hit a bullseye. It’s really more about capturing the trajectory of the bullet. You know, you could miss by 15 feet and it’s still okay if that trajectory is fine. So if you’re focused on how well you’re fitting in or what the end result looks like, you’re not gonna be fully present for making sure that the trajectory is real. And I think it just either comes naturally or it doesn’t, but you can’t really have much control over it or put much thought into it while you’re doing it because it’ll kind distract from what you’re really trying to do, which is create genuine moments.
You’ve tackled a few comedic roles at this point, but is there a type of film or genre that you haven’t had a chance to tackle yet that you’re really anxious to take a shot at?
You know, I hadn’t really had a chance to do anything dramatic in film, and recently got to do that on this movie “Moneyball,” which is a baseball movie based on the book “Moneyball.” That’s gonna be coming out in September, so that was like my first crack at that. I’m looking forward to seeing how I did with that. I hope I didn’t fail too miserably, so I don’t know. I’m open to all things. I think comedy comes more naturally for me, but shit, I’ve got a lot to learn. I mean, you look at a guy like Rob Lowe, and he says he’s still learning, and so hopefully 30 years from now I’ll be able to answer that question better.
Awesome! Thanks for your time, Chris! Best of luck to you in everything you do.
Hey, thanks a lot, bro. I appreciate it! I’ll talk to you later!
Keep up with all of Chris Pratt’s adventures by following him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/prattprattpratt!
Visit the official site for the film at www.iamrogue.com/takemehometonight.Also, be sure to visit TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT on Facebook at www.facebook.com/takemehometonight and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/#!/TMHTthemovie
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.