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Chris Pratt: Passengers – by Jan Janssen

Chris Pratt is the type of good-natured, self-effacing gentleman that often seems to be apologising for his success. Not that he doesn’t remember the tough times when he was broke, out of work, homeless and sleeping in his car in Maui while dreaming of becoming an actor. In person, sitting down in front of you in a checked shirt and blue jeans in a posh hotel suite, he is unfailingly polite, enthusiastic, and smiling – he would probably get up and pour you a cup of tea if time allowed.

Today he’s sitting on top of the world as the star of three major film franchises – Jurassic Park, Guardians of the Galaxy and as Harrison Ford’s successor in the upcoming Indiana Jones reboot. His most recent film, The Magnificent Seven, was a box-office triumph, and now he’s about to be seen in the highly anticipated sci-fi drama, Passengers, co-starring Jennifer Lawrence.

“I was excited about this film from the first moment I read the script, and I can’t wait for audiences to see it,” Pratt says. “I had the best time working with Jennifer Lawrence and it was an extraordinary experience overall. I’m really proud of this movie.”

Directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), the film sees Pratt play a passenger aboard the starship Avalon on a 120-year journey across the galaxy in which everyone aboard is supposed to remain in suspended animation to prevent ageing until they arrive at their destination. But a malfunction occurs causing space mechanic Jim (Pratt) to awaken 90 years ahead of time. He subsequently rouses fellow space traveller (and upper-class intellectual) Aurora (Lawrence) out of her induced slumber so that he won’t face the journey alone. A second malfunction then forces them into taking emergency steps to save the spacecraft and everyone aboard. The film co-stars Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, and Laurence Fishburne.

The 37-year-old Pratt lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Anna Faris (Scary Movie), 39, and their four-year-old son, Jack. They met and fell in love on the set of the comedy film, Take Me Home Tonight, and subsequently wed in 2009.

THE INTERVIEW

Passengers was one of the biggest movies of last year. What are your thoughts about it

It’s one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever been part of, and I thought the script was the best I had ever read. It’s also a very original story and I think audiences are going to find that it’s something they’ve never seen before, which is rare.

What was it like working with Jennifer Lawrence?

Jen is fantastic in it, and we had a lot of fun working together, even though it was a long, tough shoot.

Your life has changed dramatically over the years. How would you describe this personal evolution?

Our son, who’s four now, has been a major part of that process. My life has changed away from self-centred, spontaneous living because of that. Our life took a big change, and I don’t know how much of it is based on the success of the past few years, and how much is that my priorities have shifted onto caring for another human being more than myself … It happened sort of at the same time.

We don’t really hear much about you when you’re not out promoting your films?

That’s the way I like to have it… I’ve always been a homebody, but I’m more of a homebody now. I carve out time. I keep my family time really private – so that’s something different. When I’m working on a set or doing press for my films, I often get very lonely being on the road. That’s the toughest part. I keep a journal and sometimes when I find myself writing and thinking about things I get emotional when I realise how much I miss my family.

You’ve been open about how your (Christian) religious faith has kept you going and prevented you from giving up on your acting career even when things weren’t heading in the right direction for you?

When you’re working in an industry where there’s a lot of uncertainty and you don’t know whether you’re going to be successful or not, you need to believe that things will work out… I just had to have faith that everything would be OK. And I think it’s like that – I just have to have faith that it’s going to be OK.

When you were struggling as an actor, did you ever imagine this kind of success?

[Laughs] As a kid, I had dreamed of doing something heroic or important with my life. But that could have been working as a police officer – I would have been happy doing that. As an actor, you have to balance your dreams with reality all too often and for a long time my main goal was never to have to work as a waiter again. That was one job I really hated.

Do you ever worry that success will go to your head?

I worry that sometimes I might behave in a way that people might think I’m rude or inconsiderate. It’s important to me to be a good man and to connect with people in a good way… I would be devastated if anyone ever thought I was a [jerk]. As a young actor I saw how fame changed people and how money and power can turn good people into bad people.

I’m not saying that that could never happen to me, but I can honestly say that I’ve never let [fame] affect me and turn me into someone different from who I am. I try to make sure that every day I am thankful for the kind of life that I have and that I never take anything for granted. I will always remember where I came from and how it’s more important to me to be a good person than almost anything else.

You’ve admitted to going through some tough times personally and professionally, dealing with losing weight, regaining your self-esteem – what did those experiences teach you?

I never want to get upset over small things that are unimportant. I want to enjoy every moment of this time in my life because this is a business where success can be very fragile and it can all go away very quickly.

I want to be the same kind of person and be a good husband and father whether I’m having a lot of success or when things aren’t going as well as you would like. That’s the kind of perspective I try to have on everything.

What keeps you grounded?

I cling tightly to my wife and my son, and [true friends] who would have me to dinner even if I was still a waiter or a coupon salesman. I do my best to try to nurture those relationships. And I am a man of faith. I rely heavily on my faith.

What are your interests outside of acting?

Nature is very important to me. I love hunting or fishing or hiking through the woods. I love nature and I love my family.

Apart from your faith, what has guided you in life?

I owe almost everything to my parents who raised me properly and gave me discipline and a strong sense of respect for others. I think when you grow up with a solid foundation in life that will carry you forward and help you through the bad times and also make you appreciate the good times even more.