"Magnificent Seven's" Chris Pratt plays a winning hand
TORONTO >> The offer to star in Antoine Fuqua's "The Magnificent Seven" came to Chris Pratt while he was on a hunting trip with friends, listening to an audio book of Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove." Having recently learned some card tricks of his own, the part — a gun-slinging card sharp — felt like kismet.
"All of the signs in my life pointed me toward doing this movie," Pratt says. "It's like when you get dealt a hand that you don't even throw a single card back. You're like: That's the hand I'm going to play."
Off of the success of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Jurassic World," Pratt is now playing a much different game, with some enviable cards. Few actors have ever been more immediately, more head-spinningly catapulted to stardom as Pratt did when the collective $2.9 billion in global box office of "Guardians," "Jurassic World" and "The Lego Movie" drove him to the top of the A-list.
"The Magnificent Seven," a remake of the 1960 original (which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai") was the first thing Pratt decided to do. "I actually said no to a lot of things," he says. "This was the first thing I said yes to."
The film, which opens Friday, represents the first phase of Pratt's new reality as a movie star with the power to pick and choose. It's still a somewhat novel experience for the 37-year-old Pratt, whose first decade in the movie business was as a comic character actor, most recognizable as the lovable Andy Dwyer on "Parks and Recreation."
"This was the first chapter in a whole new book that was so vastly different from the first book," says Pratt. "My choice of yes or no was on an audition. Do you want to go out for this? Yes or no. No one had offered me a part ever, so I would just go out for everything."
His challenge now, he says, is to use his newfound freedom wisely.
"I became someone that a studio could at least partially build a movie around," Pratt says. "It's a good thing but it's also a bad thing because you get offered all kinds of movies that you're definitely not right for. You could potentially be responsible for getting a bunch of bad movies made."
"If it was me on my own, I would have screwed it up," he adds. "I rely on people I really trust."
Naturally, there are some big-budget sequels on the horizon. He has already shot "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," due out next year, and he'll be back for another "Jurassic World" film, where J.A. Boyona is set to take over directing. But more immediately, Pratt stars in the upcoming sci-fi thriller-romance "Passengers" alongside Jennifer Lawrence. They play space travelers woken from hibernation 90 years too early.
"Chris is a guy who's trying harder. I think he's focused. He's happy to be there," says Fuqua. "He's physical, he has charm and he has a lot of depth that no one's even scratched yet. I know he's doing a lot of films now that will probably take him deeper. You can tell that's where he wants to go."
But Pratt is also devoting less of himself to his career, now that it's been established. Pratt, who has a 4-year-old with his wife, Anna Farris, says he's made the conscious decision to not do back-to-back movies. He's aiming to make movies that are both good and commercial.
"I don't really have the time or the luxury to say: Do one for them and one for me," Pratt says. "The one that I do for them also has to be for me because the one that I do for me is really not making a movie and staying home with my family."
In "Magnificent Seven," Pratt slides into the role carved out earlier by Steve McQueen, or if you go back to "Seven Samurai," Toshiro Mifune — the playful, hard-drinking, reckless one of the bunch. Though the film has received weak reviews from critics, Pratt was singled out by Variety for having the movie's "most combustible star quality."
That he's now a full blown movie star may have changed Pratt's life, but his appeal remains largely because it hasn't seemed to change him much.
"To be clear, I've always been a happy person," says Pratt. "I feel like that's a skill more than a result of certain circumstances in your life. I think if you can be happy with nothing, you can be happy with everything. But if you can't be happy with nothing, everything isn't going to do it for you."