Guardians of the Galaxy Set Visit: Chris Pratt Talks Star-Lord, Prop Guns and Alien Prisons

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Back in September of last year, SuperHeroHype/ComingSoon.net had the great privilege of visiting the set of Marvel's upcoming space epic, Guardians of the Galaxy. While we can't disclose all the details of everything we saw on the set just yet, we have been allowed to run the group interview we conducted with star Chris Pratt, which you can read below. Also, be sure to stay tuned to the official Facebook page on Monday, May 19, at 10 a.m. PST as there will be a cast chat and following the chat, the new trailer will launch at 10:30 a.m. PST!

Pratt plays Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, in the film, the leader of the ragtag group of extraterrestrials that call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy. We spoke with Pratt while he was taking a break from a rather complicated sequence being filmed that day. He walked in wearing a robe but underneath one could still see the leathery details of the Star-Lord outfit, a look that suits him perfectly as Pratt was born to play this role just like Robert Downey Jr. was Iron Man. Read on for our full discussion with Pratt from the set.

SuperHeroHype: Stepping into a role like this, is part of the kick just learning to play with everything and handle it well and look like you live in that space?

Chris Pratt: Yeah, I guess that's part of it. I think that's definitely part of it. You're talking about the props and the toys and the sets and the costumes? Yeah, that's definitely part of it. All that stuff makes my job pretty easy actually, well it's not easy, but it makes it easier because it's doing a lot of the work. The props, the costumes, the masks, the guns, everything that distracts a viewer's attention from me, I invite (laughs). So, just in case I f*** up, please, just look at the guns.

SHH: We were in the props department and they said they sent you the blasters. What was it like the first time you got them?

Pratt: Yeah, they sent me a gun, and I think wanted to see how it matched up against my hand, but at the time all I was worried about was 'I'm going to send them pictures of me holding this gun and they're going to think I'm too fat and fire me.' That's all I remember thinking. I was still very much in the process of losing weight, so I was sucking it in, and holding the gun and my wife (Anna Faris) was like 'You look uncomfortable in this photo!' I am! Then I sent them the photo and immediately afterward they were like 'Hey, by the way, we need to come get your sizes again!' I was like 'I know, I know.' But it was pretty neat, they're definitely awesome props. It's funny because we have a great prop department here and they're purists, so some of them are a little reticent to accept the 3D printer into their world because they make practical props. They build stuff out of nothing, out of little parts and they tinker and stuff like that, so I think the idea of a 3D printer is a little bit scary, because it's like the printing press. It's new and exciting that they use it because this stuff looks amazing.

SHH: How are you balancing the scheduling for the TV show with this? How's that working out?

Pratt: Well, that was a little something that NBC and Marvel worked out as we were finalizing the details of my deal. They said “We'll let him out for some episodes, but he does have to come back.” NBC was awesome to let me out and I'm missing probably six episodes, but they came out here and we did a couple of episodes out here in London. Also I went back for a ten day stretch in August and did another episode, so I've been going back and forth a little bit and making it work and when I wrap on this I'll just go immediately back onto the show.

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SHH: I imagine it's difficult to balance the being a badass and being super funny in the film.

Pratt: By being a badass, you're talking about Andy Dwyer, right? They're both super badass so it's real easy (laughs).

SHH: Were there any characters that you were inspired by or look back on and thought, 'I'd like to be in sort of that realm'?

Pratt: With Peter, with the Peter Quill character? I guess so. You'd think going into something as an actor that you would take performances that you’d seen before and want to take influence off of it, but that's not necessarily what I did. I know some actors probably work that way. I've heard Kevin (Feige) say, he thought the stuff he was looking at it was Han Solo meets Marty McFly. That wasn't an intentional thing at all. The truth is, I think at least with me, I know that me personally I'm different than anyone else. Our mothers all tell us that we're very special and unique, and we are. I think people, if an actor can stick to trying to make the character resemble something from their own spirit it will automatically be unique and it's not necessarily going to be trying to be Han Solo or trying to be Marty McFly or trying to be any other character that you've seen before. This is just gonna be me.

SHH: Has there been a more surreal day on set than others? Kind of like where you're standing in the middle of chaos?

Pratt: Yes. Our Morag set, we have a set for a place called Morag, was mind blowing. There was another day with something called, oh I don't want to give this away, am I giving stuff away? There's something called The Kiln, which is another set, and there was one surreal day when we had a second (unit director) called Michael whose this guy who worked with Stanley Kubrick, I mean he's been around for ages. You can sit around and listen to this talk about working on movies. He's worked in the business for like 50 years. He was doing crowd control on 160 extras, all of whom had gone through extensive alien make-up, and we were on a set that's maybe about as big as this warehouse that we're in right now, but maybe even taller. There's prison cells all the way around, a giant tower in the middle, and there's this long… look I'm getting goosebumps thinking about this.

SHH: That was in the sizzle reel we saw this morning.

Pratt: Yes, a long one shot that was put together, and I'm watching Michael who has worked with Stanley Kubrick directing these extras and saying: “Remember! If you can see the camera, the camera can see you! You are in a prison! You are not happy!” And we're walking through and there's this long dollying crane shot that's on our backs and then lifts up and then circles around and you see a fight break out and it pans down to a second level and you see these ominous prisoners grab someone and drag him into a cell and then it goes down even further and you see details that I don't want to give away, but you'll know this shot. It was so surreal, because the shot ends on my face looking around taking it all in and then it quickly cuts out, that moment. It's been five months of moments like that. It's really, really crazy, I'm like 'How much does this cost per second?'

SHH: Kind of go a little bit in depth about the character. This is a guy that's half-human and half-alien. We know the movie starts on Earth but it's set mostly in space, is the character mostly informed by who he was on Earth or is he more informed by who he has become in space?

Pratt: No, I think at this point he's definitely more informed by who he was on Earth. The arc of the character is a very human arc. It's really based on who he was and what was taken from him as a kid and something that he missed and lacks that he has to gain through the course of the movie, that's definitely what we're focusing on.

SHH: How old is he when he leaves Earth?

Pratt: When he leaves Earth? He's like nine or ten, he's a kid. Is that a spoiler? No, no, he's a 30 year old, he has pituitary issues, he's a four foot three kid, man, Yeah, he's about nine years old, and you get to see the origin of who he is and why he is the way he is when you meet him as an adult later in space.

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SHH: In the sizzle at Comic-Con that we saw, you say 'I'm Star-Lord' and Korath says 'Who?' Obviously that's going to be a lot of the general public's reaction, is that something that benefited you as far as being able to make this character your own in how you developed him?

Pratt: That was actually, that idea was a collaboration I think. I don't think in the original script, I remember reading it and my thought was 'Why is he just saying I am Star-Lord,' and I talked to James (Gunn) and I was like maybe it should be this moment where it was like 'Who? Who is that?' I feel like that was something we collaborated on it. What's great is the stakes of what happens in the movie, legitimizes this nickname he'd love to have himself be called. I don't want to give away too much, but you see why he's called Star-Lord in this movie.

SHH: But is the fact that the general public that's going to be watching this movie and being introduced to these characters really for the first time, where Iron Man, Captain America, most people knew the names going in, is that a benefit to you for making the character your own?

Pratt: I don't necessarily know if that effects me one way or another. I think it makes sense that…man, that's a good question. I think it probably is helpful that people don't know who he is, because it would be my intention to want to make this my own anyway. I feel like that's something Robert Downey Jr. did with Iron Man, he kind of came in and he IS Tony Stark, and he kind of is now because he could probably afford weapons systems. The guy could probably build his own suit now with all the money he's making. To be honest, I don't know Robert Downey Jr., but I'm just assuming. That may not be how he is at all, but to me it seems like Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. He was a guy that, people obviously knew Iron Man, maybe not as much as Captain America and other characters, but that was something that I would like to be able to try and do. Keep it real and keep it close to who I am and maybe the fact that no one knows these characters, that will be helpful. It probably will be helpful because if you look at the Star Wars prequels that came out, there's a lot of expectation there, and to shoulder a project with preconceived notions, expectations and all these things, it makes it difficult. It makes it difficult if you're trying to satisfy what people think they know about a character. The very first Star Wars didn't have that problem because it was all brand new, you just take it for what it is. So what I'm saying is we'll be better than Star Wars. (laughs)

SHH: Do you have a character other than yourself that you're a big fan of?

Pratt: In this story? Oh man. Drax is awesome. Not only the character but Dave Bautista the actor, I really just adore him so much and he's very, very good and so unique. I just really love him. I think Rocket is a great character and not just in a way that you would think, there's a lot of heart there. James did a great job of looking at Rocket as a real character rather than a cartoon character. So when you see the story unfold there's going to be some, you should feel bad for anything that was created out of nothing, there's a sense of loneliness and this inner pain that Rocket feels that hopefully the audience will empathize with that makes him a really sympathetic character but also so bad ass because he's a raccoon with a machine gun. So that's good, I like him. All the characters are really great, but those two probably in particular right now.

SHH: So much of the film is about building an ensemble that works together by the end. In terms of the ensemble of the cast, it's such an amazing group of people and such an eclectic group to put together, have you seen that really happen over the course of the film? That you guys have come together and figured each other out as you’ve been working?

Pratt: Yeah, probably. Part of it is the synergy of the whole group we obviously don't get to feel on the set because two of the characters are CG. I'm hoping that when it's all said and done, what's kind of great is when I see this movie, so much of it I'm just going to be a spectator. Seeing stuff and sequences that I didn't know what they look like and characters that I didn't know how they're going to look. We've definitely come together and gotten to know each other better. But this has been unlike any of the other movies I've been on where you walk away from set and the cast goes and hangs out, we've just been working non-stop. We've been working so much. We've gotten to know each other pretty well, but because we've been together for five months in a foreign country. But it's been eye on the prize this whole time, there hasn't been a lot of downtime to do anything. At least for me, I feel like I've been working every second.

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SHH: How have you been adjusting to the fact that you’re dealing with two CGI characters throughout the entire film?

Pratt: It turns out it's kind of the same as it not being CGI. You're still kind of just standing there, looking at something and pretending and saying the words, you know? It hasn't been that hard. I think it would be a lot harder if we didn't have Sean Gunn (director James Gunn's brother) playing Rocket. Groot doesn't have that much dialogue in the movie, I don't know if that's supposed to be a spoiler or not. Everyone knows that he says 'I Am Groot,' and that's it? So much of what actors do is just listening and responding and so when you're working with a great actor, even when they're off camera it's very easy, just to listen to what they're saying, respond, understand that they're listening to you, there's this connection there that just happens when you're talking to people. That's been really great with Sean, like I said a lot of the stuff that happens with Rocket, there are moments of real drama and real emotion, and he has committed so hard to it so when he's off camera I'm responding to someone that I feel really bad for rather than like a tennis ball.

SHH: Can you talk about the physical transformation you went through in losing some of the weight? Did it change the way you are physically as an actor and did you know when you had right where you wanted to be?

Pratt: There's a lot of elements that, like I said, made it easy for me. The costume, the hair, the make-up, the props and the sets. Then working out and getting in shape and I would get out of hair and make-up and have my costume on and look at myself in the mirror and I wouldn't even see myself starring back I'd just see this Star-Lord, Peter Quill character and I was like 'This is f***ing cool man!' It's a third of what I do as an actor, it's just what I look like. I'm a prop. I talk, and I listen, and I feel things, I have a certain rhythm to my spirit, all of those things I can manipulate, but the way I look is also something you can manipulate but it probably takes a third of the performance. That's why there are people that are completely dull and have nothing going on the inside but when you look at them they look compelling, there's great symmetry or something, and you're kind of captivated by them even though on the inside there's nothing going on. There are people like that and as long as they sound good and can link sentences together without stumbling. (laughs)

SHH: Which actors are you talking about?

Pratt: Almost all of them (laughs). Truly I mean there are actors that there's nothing going on, I've met some of them and I'm like 'Wow, there's nothing going on there.' I'm probably one of them. The physical transformation is a big part of it. It’s my vehicle, it's my body that I'm inside of, it can't not effect the way that people perceive you and the way you perceive yourself.

SHH: Going through the art room and getting a rough idea of this hero's journey, by the way the art is freaking awesome.

Pratt: How amazing is that? It's so cool. I know man.

SHH: But when the audience and us first meet Peter Quill the character when he's older and in space, what are his goals and what is he up to before he meets the Guardians?

Pratt: Well, he is on a quest to escape, but in the same way that a lot of people are on Earth. He's got a hope to him, the kind of hope you have when you buy a lottery ticket. He thinks that if he could just make that score, everything would be fine and everything would be taken care of, and I think he learns over the course of the movie that that's not where you ultimately find true satisfaction with yourself, or real happiness is going to come from doing something bigger than yourself and giving yourself up to something that's bigger than yourself. So we find him in a hopeful playful place, where he's sort of escaping and a little big on the run.

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SHH: You and James are both really funny guys, how important is comedy into telling the story of the Guardians of the Galaxy?

Pratt: Super important, I think comedy is very very important, especially in this film. I mean if we pull this off right, it's going to be really hard for other movies to come out like this. They're going to seem pretty unfunny compared to our movie I think. James is really funny. It's really rare that somebody makes me consistently laugh out loud and he really does. I think we have a similar sense of humor and a really great relationship and banter on set that could probably seen as inappropriate, but it's really keeping us both sane. This is ultimately his movie and his voice and you'll definitely see that humor through the course of this movie, and I think it is important, and I think it is a key to making this movie work because it's not just a straight action adventure type of movie. I think all the best big adventure movies have good comedy. All the "Indiana Jones" movies or Romancing the Stone or any type of movie where you have an adventurer, potential budding sexual chemistry, and humor all together, it works, it really works.

SHH: Do you get to improve or riff?

Pratt: You know, not really, this is not the place for that I think. I do though, I do sometimes, but it is kind of, probably, not something I should be doing, but I just sometimes can't help and I know a little bit of that stuff might still make it in and there's a difference between like improv-ing and essentially saying the words without using those words. As long as you're saying the same thing you can kind of put it in your own words if it makes it more natural, that can be a little bit better. I've been trying really hard to just stick to the lines because you don't want to blow a $300,000 craning, dollying, helicopter shot because you wanted to poke a little fun, they'd be like 'Noo! What are you doing, it'll take us five hours to reset this shot!' There's room for that in some of the scenes, but for the most part, no, not a lot.

SHH: How many of the comics did you read to prepare, and what was something you saw in the Guardians comic that you said I need to have this in the movie?

Pratt: Well when I first talked with James here, I had read some of the newest, the Bendis stuff, the very newest stuff, and I talked to James and I was like 'That's not exactly, what do you think?' and he's like 'Don't read anymore, I don't want you to read any of it.' He was like "Abnett and Lanning" stuff if I felt I had to read something, we'd be closest to that, but he said 'Don't, because we're not recreating the comic books, we're essentially just another delivery system for Marvel material. We're not necessarily making a movie based on those comic books, we're just telling more superhero, Guardians of the Galaxy stories, we're just using a different medium.' It would be like if they were going to release another Guardians of the Galaxy comic book, you wouldn't necessarily need to go through and read all the previous comic books and pick and choose what you want to use, you'd want to do your own thing, so I think that's kind of what we're doing. The name and the title and the characters are from different incarnations of the Guardians of the Galaxy but this is its own thing and James told me to steer clear of that. He was probably just wanting me to treat his script like the Holy Bible. 

SHH: From when you first got the script to what you're filming right now, how much changed along the way?

Pratt: Not very much, not very much. Maybe 10-15%? The only things that have changed, it was pretty solid going in, we rehearsed, had conversations and brought up any concerns that we had, and so there were changes made. That's kind of just the whittling down process, it always happens, it's always an evolution. It was pretty damn good to begin with, it wasn't want of those situations where you come in and you're like 'Well, this doesn't work, how are we going to get it figured out?' instead you're like 'Wow that stuff all really works, but what about this?' Maybe just trying to sharpen it with just a very fine touches, but it was pretty sharp to begin with.

Also starring Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Gregg Henry, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker and Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy is scheduled to be released on August 1.