As Dave Edmunds once warbled, “From small thinks baby, big things one day come.”
In Hollywood right now no one is bigger than Chris Pratt. His films Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie were two of the top five grossing hits of last year and Jurassic World is pegged to light up the box office with an estimated $100 million take this weekend.
Esquire has declared him “awesome” and The Guardian noted “there’s a lot of love for Chris Pratt right now.” He has momentum, the kind of Hollywood heat that gets your name mentioned as the lead in every big movie, including the proposed reboot of Indiana Jones. In fact, some even label him the next Harrison Ford.
The hype swirling around the affable thirty-five-year-old actor places him at the top of the Hollywood ladder, but it certainly wasn’t always that way. A scan of the early credits on IMDB does not point toward superstardom.
Guest spots on the short-lived bounty hunter series The Huntress and a third lead in the so-little-seen-it-doesn’t-even-have-a-Rotten-Tomatoes-rating action film The Extreme Team seem positively high profile compared to his first credit.
Pratt was working as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant in Maui when actress Rae Dawn Chong came in for lunch. She happened to be in the midst of casting Cursed Part 3, a short horror satire about a director who tries to convince his actors and crew not to flee when a mysterious killer visits the set.
Pratt was living with a group of friends in a van, doing stand-up comedy and community theatre when he approached the Quest for Fire star. “I said, ‘I know you. You’re a movie star, right?’ She said, ‘You’re cute. Do you act?’”
Chong thought he’d be a good fit for the part of “a beautiful kid to play the Brat, an actor who complains out loud about having to make out with an older actor, played by Donna Mills.”
The film was set to roll in five days and after a quick audition Chong offered Pratt a plane ticket to California and the role of Devon. “I had far more confidence than capability at the time,” he says, “but I knew I could do it.”
Shot next door to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, Cursed Part 3 isn’t much of a movie, but Pratt made $700 for his debut, money he invested in a car so he could drive to auditions.
“I went from waiting tables in Maui to waiting tables in Beverly Hills,” he says of Cursed Part 3, “but with a little bit of movie experience under my belt.”
The film was a stepping-stone to bigger and better jobs, including the role that made him a star, Pawnee City Hall shoe-shiner Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation.
Movie stardom was harder to come by. Losing blockbuster roles like Avatar’s Jake Sully and Captain James Kirk of the rebooted Star Trek was discouraging, but he was determined to act. “People have to work,” he said. “I just don’t want it to be at a restaurant.”
With big budget movies on the way like the proposed sci fi adventure Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence and an all-star remake of The Magnificent Seven, it doesn’t look like he’ll have to dust off the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. uniform again any time soon.