Cover Story

How Chris Pratt Went from Zero to Hero

After a career playing second fiddles (and an awesome toy), Chris Pratt bolts onto the A list with two major films: Next year's ''Jurassic World'' and this summer's smart-ass superhero saga ''Guardians of the Galaxy;'' get ready to meet the next movie star

''Here's to you!'' says Chris Pratt as he downs his first, but by no means last, Jack Daniel's shot of the day. They say it's always 5 o'clock somewhere, but technically it's 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, and Pratt is about to spend five hours being photographed in the costume of Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord), the planet-hopping thief-turned-hero of the new Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy (rated PG-13, out Aug. 1).

In Guardians, Pratt leads a group of misfits the likes of which have never been seen on the big screen: There's Zoe Saldana's green-skinned assassin Gamora, wrestler Dave Bautista's vengeance-seeking behemoth Drax the Destroyer, and two CG characters — Rocket, a raccoon-like critter voiced by Bradley Cooper, and the walking tree Groot, whose single line of dialogue (''I am Groot!'') is repeatedly enunciated by Vin Diesel. ''What sets this movie apart is that it is in space,'' explains Pratt, 35. ''I love all the Marvel movies, but you're sort of limited to 'We're going to destroy Chicago' or 'An alien person lands in some middle-American town.' This has really unlimited potential in terms of the worlds they can create.''

Pratt's suggestion that today's photo session at hostelry Barcadia should kick off with everyone present drinking a shot of Jack — and in his case, another one five minutes later — would be approved by his character. As a child, Quill is kidnapped from Earth by the shady Yondu (Michael Rooker), then grows up to be something of a rogue. ''Peter Quill spends a lot of time in space bars,'' says Pratt. ''If there's a sequel, we'll probably find out he's got a lot of half-alien kids.'' Pratt's afternoon drinking also jibes with his real-life fondness for the finer — and the more fattening — things in life. That might explain the often portly physique of Andy Dwyer, his character on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. ''It was like the fatter I was, the funnier I got,'' Pratt says.

But last year, the actor got in six-pack-sporting shape for Guardians, and he has maintained that sculpted look for his starring role as a scientist in next June's Jurassic World, a fourquel now shooting near New Orleans. Moreover, EW's plan to go out drinking with Pratt tonight is dealt a serious blow when, halfway through the shoot, he starts mulling an evening gym session. Luckily, the idea disappears — right around the time Pratt takes a third and fourth shot. Photos over, your writer and the actor head out in search of food (which we never get around to ordering) and beer (which we most definitely do).

''Oh, yeah, I'm super-fun when I'm drunk,'' says Pratt, after we position ourselves around a patio table at a joint called the Ugly Dog Saloon. ''If you drink with me, I get funnier. If you don't drink with me, I just get louder.'' Pratt, you see, is a bit of a throwback in an age when movie stars — especially movie-stars-in-waiting — speak as if they're reading press releases packed with publicist-approved messages. Naturally, this worries his wife, actress Anna Faris (CBS' Mom), to no end. ''Anna tells me to reveal less of myself,'' he says. In interviews? ''Interviews. Twitter. Whatever. She's like, 'Don't give it away!' But I can't help it. It's my favorite topic in the world — myself,'' he says, laughing. ''Try and stop me!''

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