When the original Guardians of the Galaxy movie hit theaters in 2014, even big fans of the Marvel universe had doubts that it would be a success. After all, its ensemble cast features a grouchy, genetically engineered raccoon, a talking tree creature ("talking" in the sense that he can utter a single phrase), a couple of humanoid aliens and one '80s-loving man of Earth played by Chris Pratt, who had not yet proven himself as a blockbuster action hero.
But Pratt, who had grown up with a Guardians of the Galaxy comic book in his admittedly small collection, was willing to take the shot. "I knew it was a little more obscure, I knew it was a risk, but nonetheless I was eager to jump on board," he says over the phone. "Then when we made the movie and were getting ready to sell it, I heard a lot of that [doubt] from people when I was doing interviews. So I got a little worried and thought, 'Oh no, maybe nobody is going to watch this movie and my career's going to be over.'"
He didn't need to worry, because the skeptics couldn't have been more wrong. Guardians was a success both critically and commercially, earning well over $700 million at the box office worldwide. Pratt wasn't surprised, but he was relieved.
"When you pour your heart and soul into something you really want people to connect to it, but they might not," he says. "Acting is embarrassing. It's a vulnerable thing to do. You're creating a piece of art for people to judge, and you want them to like it, but you don't know if they're going to."
Where is God in the Marvel universe?
The ante is upped significantly in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in part because the heroes encounter the Marvel universe equivalent of a god — "Little 'g'," the character, played by Kurt Russell, clarifies.
But like many characters currently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pratt's character, Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) doesn't seem to ask a lot of big questions about religion even as he encounters a powerful being that seems immortal. Last year's Doctor Strange explored the supernatural in some interesting ways and touched on the topic of spirituality in this world of superheroes, but Star-Lord's head isn't in that space.
"I always pictured that his gods were pop culture icons from the '80s," Pratt says of his character. "He kind of stitched together his own ideology that he followed, which was based on the movies that he loved and the music that he listened to. I think that his gods that he loved as a kid were people like Han Solo and Marty McFly and Kevin Bacon. That's a hero to him. I never got real deep into what Peter Quill thought about 'capital G' God."
Relatively speaking, Pratt is one of the more vocal actors in Hollywood when it comes to his Christian faith. So even if Peter Quill isn't looking at his adventure through any sort of Biblical lens, Pratt has.
"It feels as though everything that exists in the Marvel universe, just like how I believe it is in our universe, I think all of that is the creation of God," he says.
"I think that Thanos and the Hulk and Iron Man and all of them are part of God's creation. That's how I see it."
Referencing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 specifically, he says, "Even the celestial beings, like Kurt [Russell's] character Ego, he remembers showing up one day and being brought into consciousness millions of years ago. It's not that dissimilar to our understanding of the book of Genesis, where there was darkness and at one point there came light. I think it all falls into God's creation in my mind."
On social media
On Instagram alone, Pratt has more than 11 million followers. Some millennial entertainment writers at this publication, who shall not be named but who may or may not be me, clearly have a lot to learn about how to use social media effectively. When asked for advice, Pratt says his secret is authenticity.
"People have offered to run my [social media] accounts for me, because it's a bit of work, you know, and time-consuming," he says. "I could probably be more prolific on my social media if I had someone that did all of that for me, but it's really authentically my voice. And that's how I've always been. I love making people laugh and I love entertaining people and using anything I can to get to laugh with people. Before social media it would be my outgoing voice mails. I would make a rap or a punk rock song, and people would call and say, 'Hey, don't answer, I want my friend to hear your outgoing voicemail.' I've never denied myself a platform to try to make people laugh.
"Now that it's gotten bigger I also use it as a platform for various philanthropic endeavors and, from time to time, to share a little bit about my beliefs and my faith and a little bit about my family. But for the most part it's just me trying to make people laugh."
He told me, "Whatever is authentic to you, do that, because that will work. Make it authentically your voice, and that's how you're going to find your people."
On The Avengers: Infinity War
Now that Chris Pratt and I are best friends, I asked him how the third Avengers movie was coming along. It will be the first of the superhero crossover films in which the Guardians of the Galaxy make an appearance.
"Dude, I was just talking to somebody today about it, who's in marketing here at Disney — big, powerful guy who was wearing a nice suit — and I was talking to him about it, and he was just giddy because he had seen some footage that we shot," Pratt says excitedly. "I think it's next level, dude. I think it's going to be awesome. I'm really stoked about the Guardians' involvement."
As expected, that's about all he could say. "As Marvel does, they're keeping it really close to the vest. They wouldn't even really let us read the script outside of the stuff we were involved with. I can tell you that so far, already it's getting a ton of positive response in-house. They're freaking stoked on the stuff that we've shot."
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters May 5. Check guidelive.com/movies for a full review later this week.