Films

Chris Pratt is a big deal – and we couldn’t be happier for him

Chris Pratt talks to Jimi Famurewa about stripping off, the pay gap and why he’s happy to be a piece of meat

Say you’re interviewing one of the most upwardly mobile leading men in Hollywood in a borrowed corner office on a Californian studio lot, and the desk phone rings. Now imagine the actor, with mischief in his eyes, decides to take the call on speakerphone and see where it goes. Finally, rather than a wrong number or person stuttering through the US equivalent of a mis-sold PPI call, picture one of the world’s most notorious porn stars on the other end of the line. This is exactly what happened when Ron Jeremy managed to gatecrash my conversation with Chris Pratt.

“Hold on, this is Ron Jeremy?” says Pratt, bug-eyed and unable to believe his luck. “The Ron Jeremy?” “Yes, that’s right,” comes the reply. After apparently mistaking Pratt for an intern, Jeremy reveals he’s trying to get tickets for the upcoming Ghostbusters premiere. A message is taken, Jeremy hangs up and Pratt, to use the technical term, p*sses himself. “Oh my God.” There are tears in Pratt’s eyes, he’s struggling for breath. “It’s like, ‘Ron, here’s the thing,’” He pauses. “‘You are a strange toady dude with a giant dick who everyone has seen ploughing out women. It might be distracting. And it might not be right for the new female-fronted Ghostbusters.’ Man, I’m glad I answered that phone.”

It’s a gratefully received gift from the comedy gods, but maybe it’s not wholly surprising. Off the back of the box office-destroying hat-trick of The Lego Movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Jurassic World, the 37-year-old actor can’t miss at the moment. And, with a veritable campsite of new tentpoles on the horizon (The Magnificent Seven with Denzel Washington, Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence, and sequels to those three big-hitters), his dominant run doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon. Which means moustachioed adult performers aren’t the only thing putting a smile on his face.

You play Faraday, a fast-talking gambler, in The Magnificent Seven. Was the chance to pretend to be a cowboy too hard to resist? 

It was a huge factor in saying yes. Being able to shoot, having a Colt Peacemaker [gun] on my hip. Smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. It was great. I was smoking cigars every moment I was on the set. I smoked f*cking five cigars a day on that shoot. On camera, off camera. Someone would come up and be like, “Chris, I’m sorry but we can’t smoke on set,” I’d go, “Let me know when the cops get here. I’ll put it out.” It was fun. Playing a character isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to do emotional stuff, you dredge up old memories, or be hurt. But with this, I got to play a guy who runs around being a smart ass, drinking, smoking and killing people.

Was it intimidating working with Denzel Washington?

He does have a playful side, and I think I was fortunate because I got to see it. He didn’t let many people in, but I did feel like I was one of the people who could communicate with him on that level. Jurassic World came out in the middle of making this movie. I went on a press tour and came back and every day he’d go, “140 million dollar.” And the next day he’d go, “160 million dollar.” Then he’d go, “170 million-dollar man.” He’d give me sh*t and I’d give him sh*t, but he also gave me some real nuggets of advice that I still bring up now to my team. They’re kind of like, “OK, we know Denzel told you that…” “Listen Chris, we have five great movie offers for you…” “Let me talk to my agent Denzel real quick.”

Your run of hit films has coincided with a pretty dramatic physical transformation. Do you still turn down beers?

Yeah, continually. People always say, “Your self-control is crazy.” And I say, “Yeah, I know.” But I do give myself breaks. If you’re straight-up militant about your regime, no one will try to tempt you. But if they know you’ll slip, you’ll get tempted every day. They’ll say, “Hey man, have one drink.” What’s one drink going to do for me? How about this: I’ll wait 30 days and then we’ll have 30 drinks. In one day.

Do friends complain that you’re not as fun any more?

My poor wife [actress Anna Faris]. She’s like, “What do you want to talk about? Pull-ups, you boring motherf*cker?” She’ll cook a great big meal and say, “Do you want some of it?” “No, I’ve got my delivery. Got my brown rice.”

Does the obsession with your slimmer body get tiresome?

I’m lucky in that I’ve been around, I’m 37 years old and I’ve done things that are way worse than interviewers asking me about my physique when I’m looking good. I was a door-to-door salesman for a year. That becomes tiresome when someone wants to call the cops on you or tells you to go f*ck yourself. So when somebody goes, “What are you eating?” I’m like, “Haha, let me tell you.”

And in a way, men in Hollywood are dealing with a version of what women have for years.

I think you’re right. But maybe I’m doing my part for equality by saying, “All right. I’m basically gonna be a piece of meat, too.” That’s not exactly what women wanted [laughs]. It’s like, how about nobody gets asked these questions?

You also got involved with the wage equality debate when it was revealed Jennifer Lawrence will get paid more than you for Passengers. How did that feel?

I think it’s awesome. I’ve seen it and I think when they close the wage gap it will be the result of women negotiating harder. You get what you negotiate for. Personally, for myself on the job, I got a great deal – we negotiated really hard and I’m so thrilled with what I got. There’s never going to be a point where I complain that I got paid $12m for three months of work. That’s the kind of sh*t where, when I was a kid, people would go, “For $1m would you let Mike Tyson punch you in the face with no glove?” I’d be like, “F*ck yes! In an instant.”

I think it’s great Jennifer stuck to her guns and negotiated harder. I’m proud of her, man. She deserves every penny. People are talking about it and I’m hoping more women will put the screws to the studios to make them pay up.

Passengers also features one of your first major sex scenes. Is that a bit of a marker for where your career is?

Those are the roles I’m playing now, never underestimate the shallowness of your audience. That’s my new mantra. It’s based solely on having gotten in shape. I’m not any different, it’s just now I have less body fat. So people are like, “Do you know what roles you were really born to play?” I get it. Most of my job is being a prop. Shine lights on me, roll the camera. You can watch this movie on mute [laughs]. But I understand that and I’ve always understood that.

And didn’t you once work as a stripper?

That was just because I loved being naked, I didn’t mind dancing, I needed money and people knew I would just do wild sh*t. I was always getting naked in front of people anyway, so it went hand in hand. It wasn’t much of a career.

So you weren’t at Channing Tatum’s level?

I was like the low-rent Channing. I was the government-subsidised Channing. If you can’t afford Channing, how about Chris?

The Magnificent Seven is at cinemas nationwide from 23 September

Image credits: Main image by John Russo/Sony, Rex/Getty