Tumultuous train ride to Hollywood

Actor Chris Pratt opens up about his journey to fame and the part God played in it.

Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt. (Photo RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

It's hard to remember sometimes the stars who grace our TV screens were not always rich and famous. Many started from the bottom, waiting tables and compulsively checking for auditions.

Chris Pratt, beloved chubby boyfriend Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation and later action hero on Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jurassic World, is one of these. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, the actor opened up about his journey to the Hollywood screen – and the person he thanks for getting him there.

In Lake Stevens, Washington, as Captain of the Wrestling team, young Chris was not lacking in ambition. When his coach asked him what he planned to do with his life he recalls saying: "I don't know, but I know I'll be famous and I know I'll make a ton of money."

Many are the young boys who might give such an answer – few are the ones who actually deliver on it.

What he actually wanted to do with his life he decided only a few years later, inspired by his older brother Dan Junior (aka Cully).

"One Christmas he was in a play, a musical, and he sang, and it knocked everyone's socks off. My mom was crying. And I was like, 'That's what I want to do'."

Chris did the thing every aspiring actor does – he waited tables and took classes at a local community college, including a theatre course, where a teacher advised him to stage act professionally.

But he never finished his first year. "It felt exactly like high school except I had to pay for it," he says, "and, for a kid living hand to mouth, that didn't make sense. So I got a job as a salesman going door-to-door."

"I was selling coupons for things like oil changes or trips to a spa," Chris says. "I was great at [it]."

And it turned out to be perfect training for a future life of audition and rejection. "That's why I believe in God and the divine," he says. "I feel like it was perfectly planned."

Chris was first introduced to Jesus in Hawaii. At the time, with no job and no prospects, he followed a friend who was living there.

"I was sitting outside a grocery store – we'd convinced someone to go in and buy us beer," he remembers. "This is Maui. And a guy named Henry came up and recognized something in me that needed to be saved.

"He asked me what I was doing that night, and I was honest. I said, 'My friend's inside buying me alcohol.' 'You going to a party?' he asked. 'Yeah.' 'Drink and do drugs? Meet girls, and sleep around?' I was like, 'I hope so.'

"I was charmed by this guy, don't know why. He was an Asian dude, maybe Hawaiian, in his 40s. It should've made me nervous but didn't. I said, 'Why are you asking?' He said, 'Jesus told me to talk to you...'

"At that moment I was like, I think I have to go with this guy. He took me to church. Over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring I was going to change my life."

Things did change for Chris then.

At the time, he had a job at Bubba Gump Shrimp, a chain of restaurants that grew out of Forrest Gump.

One day actress Rae Dawn Chong, who reached a professional peak in 1985 starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, walked into the restaurant.

"She was with her producing partner," says Chris. "I wasn't even supposed to take a shift that day. But it was like I had a premonition. I always wanted to go to Hollywood. I just didn't know I was going to get there."

"You're a movie star," he told Rae Dawn Chong as he served her table. "You're cute. Do you act?" she replied.

Months later he was the lead in Cursed Part 3, a movie that was never released and that Chris describes as "the worst movie he'd ever seen". It didn't matter. He was in.

For the next few years Chris lived cheaply, waiting tables, taking small roles in big movies and big roles in small movies. "I was an outsider, no connections, no nepotism, nothing, a complete foreigner to Hollywood." His breakthrough came in 2002 with Everwood, the first time he "ever got into money, real money". He met his wife, Anna Farris, while playing her love interest in Take Me Home Tonight in 2007.

His next hits will be Passengers and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

When Chris looks at his life he sees the divine hand of God working things out into the life he lives now, with his wife and son, Jack, as a really famous guy making a lot of money.

Just before he eats, Rich Cohen describes in the Vanity Fair interview, Chris gets on his knees and has everyone else get on their knees, and they hold hands, and he thanks God for the food and the life, "and he even [puts] in a word for the Cubs".

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