LOS ANGELES — Chris Pratt is not a name that springs to mind when putting together the list of potential actors to star in a major comic-book-inspired action film. He's better known for roles on sweet family shows like "Everwood" or quirky comedies like "Parks & Recreation."
"Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn didn't even want to audition Pratt for his new big-budget action movie.
When the casting director mentioned Pratt to play the wise-cracking, alien-kicking Peter Quill, the director rejected the idea immediately, saying it was stupid to look at the "chubby guy from 'Parks & Recreation.' " The casting director scheduled a tryout for Pratt without telling Gunn.
"I was initially mad because I couldn't remember saying I would see Chris. Then Chris started to read and within 20 seconds I was 'Holy (expletive deleted), that's the guy we have been looking for.' Sometimes a role and an actor are meant for each other and that's what I felt this was," Gunn says. "Chubby or not, the world was going to have to be ready for the first chubby superhero."
Executive producer Kevin Feige knew Pratt was right after seeing his screen tests.
"He was cool. He was sexy. He was ridiculously hilarious in certain aspects — which he has to be. When he puts on the costume and puts on the mask and he's holding his space gun, he is badass and you believe it," Feige says.
Pratt and Gunn immediately connected. They have the same sense of humor, so the film became a collaborative process to make the script as funny as possible.
Pratt came to the role in the best shape of his life, having gone through some training for his role in "Zero Dark Thirty." Once he was cast in "Guardians," he knew he had to get in even better shape and immediately launched a regimen that included four hours of work daily with trainers. He also went on a strict diet with a supplement of vitamins.
It was a long, hard process, but one Pratt knew he could handle because of his days playing team sports in high school.
"I was good at sports. I was confident I could go through the physical transformation for 'Guardians of the Galaxy' because I wrestled for 11 years," Pratt says.
Getting in shape was only half the job. Pratt had to find just the right snarky, witty, self-confident attitude to play the character. He realized he had to be open to doing different things and trust Gunn would make him look good.
He also had to trust co-star Zoe Saldana. Things got very physical during fight scenes.
"She can knock you out," he says. "She's got a very strong kick and isn't afraid to use it."