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Chris Pratt's career trajectory is about to blast into outer space -- literally. With a solid career in TV already on his resume, thanks to well-loved roles in "Everwood" and "Parks and Recreation," Pratt's movie ventures have become increasingly high-profile, with recent parts in "Moneyball," "Zero Dark Thirty," and "The Five-Year Engagement."
Now, he's in this week's "Delivery Man," where he matches comic wits with Vince Vaughn and holds his own admirably. A remake of the French-Canadian comedy "Starbuck" (with that film's director and co-writer, Ken Scott, also behind the camera for this version), the film stars Vaughn as David, a can't-get-it-together truck driver for his family's meat business who discovers that, through a series of sperm donations he gave years earlier, he has fathered more than 500 children -- 143 of whom want to know who their biological dad is.
Pratt plays Brett, a single father of four and David's attorney, who is tasked with protecting his client's identity in the film's climactic courtroom trial. Pratt has some of the movie's best lines -- particularly when he says the kind of things parents think but never say aloud about raising kids -- while also enjoying several snappy exchanges with Vaughn and the young actors playing his brood (Pratt himself has a one-year-old son, Jack, with wife Anna Faris).
Next up for the actor is a lead voice role in February's "The Lego Movie," and then Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, in Marvel's highly anticipated "Guardians of the Galaxy" next August. We caught up with Pratt in Los Angeles, where we spoke about getting all the good lines, working with Vaughn, being a proud dad, and mentally prepping for "Guardians."
Moviefone: You have some of the best lines in the film. Are you ever aware of that while you're reading the script or making the movie? Do they leap out at you then, or is it the kind of thing where you see it and realize it along with everyone else?
Chris Pratt: Well, it's a good question. Usually moments will leap out at you. You'll understand a moment is going to be funny. And, oftentimes, not on this movie but in other movies, I would help those moments by maybe improvising a line or saying the same joke but in my own words and knowing when a moment to be funny is there and making sure that that moment's funny. Whether it's saying it exactly how it's written, or coming up with your own way of making it funny, that would be the moment. So moments jump out at you.
But with this movie, both Vince and I stuck really strictly to the script. No improvisation, no going off book. I would say the words as written and do it like that. It was a challenge for me. It's not something I normally do. Even in dramatic things, I'll paraphrase essentially. So I did that and there were definitely moments in this movie, some really great comedic moments that I knew would land. But sticking exactly to the script, then seeing the film with a small audience, some moments were funny when I didn't realize they would be funny.
Was the lack of improv at Ken's request?
I think it was something I was really interested in doing. When I had my first conversation with [executive producer] Scott Mednick and Ken Scott I said, "You know, I'd really like to stick to the script. I'd really like to stay in it. Say it exactly as it's written." And it was going to be a big challenge for me because a winning formula of mine is that, when I start struggling, I just go to what's most natural for me which is to just create a funny moment somehow. And find a way to use my shtick to be funny. And I know I need to work on that.
You walk a very fine line with Brett, because he's very likable but he could easily cross over into being completely self-pitying. Was it hard to find the right balance to keep the audience on his side?
Well, I think you're right. I think that was the challenge with this character, was to make sure that the self-loathing and this despondency and the person who's emasculated is still likable and still kind of charming in a way. And I think that it is a fine line to walk but I think it's more of a fine line to walk for Ken than it is for me. Because I think that's something that Ken has to keep an eye on as he wrote it. And there are really winning moments. Even regardless of how dark it goes or how much he becomes self-loathing, there's certain moments of lightness with his children in the courtroom when they leave him the picture and when he's rehearsing with his kids. Or the fact that he's really trying. He's really there for his kids -- which I think makes him likable, you know?
Brett does say a lot of stuff that's pretty out there, but it's stuff that I think every parent says to themselves at one point or another.
As a relatively new parent, were you able to draw on that yourself in terms of those things that we never want to say out loud as parents?
When we made this movie, I was still a very -- I only have one kid and he was still very young. He was only three months old. And so I hadn't hit that wall yet of fatigue that you hit as a parent. I was still very excited by every little poopy diaper. I was wanting to Instagram photos of his craps and say, "Wow, my son is brilliant. Look at this one." So I don't think that I had it necessarily inside of myself to mine, but maybe I will one day.
Four children on your own would be incredibly difficult, I think. But there are people I know in my life who are single parents -- women, primarily -- who have a lot of kids and it's really, really tough. So that was what I thought of mostly -- the large number of women who find themselves in this same scenario, being single moms at home, having a breadwinner who essentially pays the bills and you're stuck at home with kids and with no creative outlet, no outlet for any occupational passion, you know. There's nothing you can do with your time other than just babysit kids. And so that was something I thought of a lot.
Next summer you're going to headline your own franchise with "Guardians of the Galaxy." Do you feel mentally prepared for being at the forefront of that whole universe?
I don't know. Probably not. I'm probably not mentally prepared for that, but I'm not sure that there's any amount of preparation you can really do. I think it's just running, gunning, learn on the fly which is what I've been doing for ten years. I've been faking it for ten years, so hopefully I can fake it when that comes around. You know, it's like you just learn as you go. I think it'll be fine. You know, you learn quickly in this business to set your expectations really low to prevent yourself from having your heart broken over and over. Whether it's auditioning for something that you really want or working passionately on a movie and hoping that it will hit with an audience or hit with critics. You really want all of those things to go well and all it takes is them not going well a couple of times before you start to be pretty guarded to prevent yourself from being heartbroken.
So I'm not going to start preparing for what my life could look like if "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a huge hit and changes my level of fame. I'm not going to prepare for any of that because then if it doesn't happen I'll be heartbroken, you know. So instead, if it happens, I'll try to deal with it then and if not then I'm no worse off than I am now. Maybe that'll work.
"Delivery Man" opens in theaters November 22.