Jurassic Park wowed audiences and redefined what an epic summer blockbuster could be, when it was first released in 1993 and used awesome visual effects to make people believe that dinosaurs could roam the Earth again. With Jurassic World, those original dreams for a theme park where visitors from all over the world could experience the thrill and awe of witnessing actual dinosaurs have now been fully realized. But after years of walking alongside the Earth’s most magnificent living prehistoric marvels, park goers are demanding bigger and scarier with more teeth, which can’t possibly turn out well for anyone involved.
During a conference at the film’s press day, actor Chris Pratt was his typically charming self, as he talked about his own experiences with wild animals and how to handle them, the research he did with animal trainers, making sure this character was different than any that he’s played before, shooting the epic final battle scene, how overcome with joy he is to have three franchises to his name now, and why he’s not ruling out the possibility of returning to TV.
CHRIS PRATT: Yes. It’s funny, I was just talking about this. This is cool. This is a good story. I love this story because it’s true, and it’s one of those stories that I’ll tell forever and I’m glad that I can tell it to you guys because, if I wasn’t at a press conference, I’d just be telling it to my buddies, but this is way better. I was on an elk hunt, maybe about eight or nine years ago. I had shot an elk the first day, so my tag was filled. I was on this hunt with these other two guys, Mike and Ian, and they were out in the morning. They didn’t have me come with them because it was a dry time of the year, the Aspen leaves had fallen, and it was crunchy on the ground, so two less feet in the woods is better because it’s so loud. So, I was at camp that morning. I wasn’t with them. I was walking around the camp because they have these things called grouse, which are dumb little birds. They are like a cross between corn and an animal. I feel like God put them here to be like, “Even the dummies have gotta eat. I’ll give you grouse!” And so, I was out going to shoot these little grouse with this tiny little gun that’s basically a BB gun. I was out looking for grouse, and I looked up on the hill and saw a giant something. The sun was coming up behind this hill, so I couldn’t really see, but it was the shadow of a giant beast. I assumed it was a monster bull elk.
So, I went back quickly to the tent and said over the radios, “I think there’s something here. I think it’s a huge elk. Stand by. I’m going to go get a better look, but you might need to come back this way because one of you should shoot this big elk.” So, I went back and I looked up, but I didn’t see him. Now, I was looking through my binoculars and I didn’t see this animal. I couldn’t find it. Meanwhile, I was wearing slippers and pajamas, and I had my little single shot baby gun. And then, I heard this “pfff,” and I dropped my binoculars. Standing not 10 feet from me was a big mature bull moose, and moose are incredibly dangerous. They kill more people in North America than bears and wolves combined. They are very, very dangerous animals in the wild. They are huge, too. They’re over 1,000 pounds. This thing was monstrous. I was thinking to myself, “Oh, I’m going to die right now.”
It was looking at me, rubbing its foot into the ground. I didn’t look it in the eyes. I don’t know why. Maybe I’d heard that you don’t look at them in the eyes, or something. So, I took a step back, and it took a step towards me. It was a stand-off between me and this giant beast. I took another step back, and it took another step towards me. I can still smell this creature, it’s so vivid in my brain. There was steam coming out of its nose. I could see it because it was so cold. And I had this little tiny gun and was thinking to myself, “What am I going to do? If it attacks me, I have to try and stick this little gun somewhere, like its eye or something, to try to shoot it because there is no way this gun is going to kill a moose. It’s just going to make it mad.” Finally, I took one more step, and instead of taking one step, it took three steps at me. I nearly fainted, and then it just turned and walked away. It didn’t care who I was. It just walked off into the wild. So, did anything in the wild ever inform me in this movie? I told this story to Colin [Trevorrow]. I said, “There is something really scary about having something standing in front of you and, if you step back a few inches and it comes at you a few inches.” That suspense and building that up informed a little bit of the experience that I had with the raptors.
Did you do any backstory work, for how you worked with and trained the raptors?
PRATT: I did some work, in terms of creating the techniques that this guy would use, if this was a real character and if this was a real job opening at a park. First of all, I thought, who would this guy be? When Colin first pitched me the idea, I was all over the place, in terms of how to play it. I was like, “Oh, so he’s like the Crocodile Hunter? Should I do like an Australian accent?” And Colin was like, “I don’t know. Maybe not. I just want this to be real, no matter who the character is. I want it to seem real. We need to create an organic relationship between man and beast that is going to strike some emotional chord in people.” Hopefully people will give a shit about this relationship between a guy and his dinosaur, which is a tough thing to try to accomplish, especially when the dinosaur is a CG character. It’s sometimes tough to create a real relationship between a man and an animated character.
So, moving forward with the idea, I did some research. I got to hang out with some pretty awesome animal trainers. There was one guy, named Randy Miller, who has a company called Predators in Action, which is a company that trains bears, tigers and lions, and things like that, to do simulated animal attacks in movies. His tigers were in Gladiator, and he had the bear that was in Semi-Pro. He does a bunch of commercials with pumas, and stuff like that. He’s got all kinds of amazing animals. I went to his ranch, hung out with him and spent the day seeing him interact with these animals, and that was a big part of creating the character and having that clicker and the posture that I adopted.
This character is the ultimate bad-ass. Coming off of playing the bad-ass Star Lord, how did you want to be sure to make this character different?
PRATT: I do feel like this is a different character. I approached it as being and always saw it as a character who is just different from Peter Quill. A huge part of that was just our director Colin Trevorrow’s vision. He had this term called “the third rail.” I didn’t grow up in a city with a subway, but apparently in the subway, there are three rails and, if you touch one, it will kill you. That was the third rail, for me. If I started being goofy, or acting like a dip-shit, or going to my normal comedic bag of tricks – some of which I used in Guardians of the Galaxy, and certainly the character of Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec is a full embodiment of that type of clowning around and that type of comedic schtick that I’m known for – that was my third rail. If I wanted to have any fun with this, it was all in my repartee with Claire, and my relishing an opportunity to spar with her and get her goat a little bit. That was how I could have fun, but for the most part, it was deadly serious. There was a bit of a darkness.
This is a guy who’s been through something. It goes back to, who would this guy be, if this were really a job opening and they needed a person to fill this position? We came together and decided that the backstory is that he’s a guy who probably trained dolphins for the Navy, and he saw what type of treatment those animals received, which is always not great for the animal. We decided that the likelihood is that, in the years that he’s been working for the park, this isn’t his first set of raptors. Raptors didn’t make it through some of the training. These animals died on his watch. They killed each other on his watch. Certain techniques that we tried didn’t work. We’ve come a long way and a lot of these animals have paid the sacrifice for the work that I’m doing for this company. That’s pretty serious. There’s not a lot of room for goofing around, when you play that guy. He’s a guy who’s been through combat. He’s a combat veteran with a bit of a darkness, who lives on an island. He’s chosen to move away from the world and live on the dark side of an island. All that stuff was interesting, fun character work and made me want to be someone who was different. I love Peter Quill, and I love Andy. I look forward to playing Peter Quill again. It’s super fun. But this was somebody who’s just a little different for me.
Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole?
PRATT: Which dinosaur was the biggest asshole? I guess Indominus Rex was a pretty big asshole. Just mean. A mean dinosaur. But like most assholes, had a tough upbringing. You feel a little bit bad about that.
Could you outrun that dinosaur in heels, like Bryce Dallas Howard had to?
PRATT: Likely no, I could not. Although I wore high heels yesterday, for the first time, on the James Corden show. A) I liked the way it felt to work in them. I just did. And B) I surprised myself with my ability to run. It’s like tippy-toe running. I would not be able to outrun Indominus Rex, but with enough practice, I might be able to make it 40 or 50 feet before I was killed.
What was it like to shoot the awesome final battle scene?
PRATT: Wasn’t that awesome?! Talk about going out with a bang. It was unreal. But making that was not nearly as fun as watching it. You have a lot of small pieces. Essentially, the way that it works is kind of neat. By the time we were filming that sequence, we were actually re-filming it. Directors will go into an edit room and cut together the movie from all their footage and go, “Oh, man, I wish we would’ve done this, this and this,” but it’s already too late because the movie is in the can. What they do with a movie like this, which is the same thing they did on Guardians of the Galaxy, is that they essentially direct and create an animated version first. There’s a cartoon version of this movie. It’s not great, but it’s essentially a moving storyboard. In a way, it’s like when you put together a thousand-piece puzzle, you have to look at the front of the box at the picture, and this animatic works as the picture on the front of the box. By the time we’re shooting the sequence, you’re looking at the animatic going, “Okay, this is going to play for this piece. The camera moves from up here to down there, and there are going to be two dinosaurs there, and you’re running by. Okay, action!” And then, you’re onto the next piece. So, depending on what the set-up was or the day was, sometimes you’re doing really cool stuff and interacting with the other actors, sometimes you’re having this really intense interaction with what will be the raptors, and sometimes you’re just a prop, moving left to right, running up and stopping, firing a gun and doing a dive roll.
Did you ever think you would have three franchises to your name?
PRATT: I always knew it. I was always like, “Well, as soon as I have three franchises to my name . . .” No, I never could have known. No way. That’s pretty rarified space to be in. I am feeling very blessed and overcome with joy. But, I never thought I would have three franchises.
Would you return to TV, or are you focused on films now?
PRATT: I think the platform for entertainment is shifting so rapidly. It’s really changing. There’s this terrific show on CBS called Mom, which I think is the best show on the air. It’s truly remarkable. I could go on and on about the tones they hit emotionally and comedically, and the lead actress is stunning. I would like to have a baby with her. TV is extraordinary right now. There are so many different media outlets outside of the major networks.
What’s so great about TV is that you can get an opportunity to tell really rich stories, over the course of so many hours. It’s like a novel of this type of medium. Film is cool because I have two hours for this cool ride. It’s typically three acts, with a beginning, middle and end. You go on an adventure and, by the end, it’s all cleaned up. And if you have a franchise, maybe you have three chapters of a great great story. In TV, you can really get into not only great characters, but also the relationships. There are all of the backstories and all of the relationships that you have with every person in your life, and the relationships those people have with each other. It’s just more dense and there’s more time to tell stories.
I would definitely not rule out doing television, in the future, because I think it’s a great medium for telling stories. Also, just practically, it’s very nice for a family man to have nine months out of the year where you’re close to your home. When I did Parks and Rec, it took me seven minutes to get to work, which was amazing. Nine months out of the year, I would work right down the road, come home for dinner every night, and spend the weekends at home. With movie making, you can be half-way around the world for six months. So, there are amazing benefits to doing TV, and it’s a platform to be creative.
Jurassic World opens in theaters on June 12th.