After seeing the 20-minute preview of Guardians of the Galaxy recently, I predicted that, between that film and Jurassic World, actor Chris Pratt is about to be a huge star. He was great as lovable doofus Andy Dwyer in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and he had a nice little supporting appearance in Zero Dark Thirty, but Guardians is his first big leading-man role in a massive film, and it looks like Peter “Star-Lord” Quill is a role Pratt was born to play. But if things had turned out different, somebody else might be playing Star-Lord this August, and Pratt could have been commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Pratt gets the spotlight in the new edition of Entertainment Weekly, and in addition to talking Guardians, he reveals that he tried out not only for the role of James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, but also for Jake Sully in James Cameron’s Avatar. And since Pratt’s name is neither “Chris Pine” nor “Sam Worthington,” those auditions clearly didn’t go the way he might have hoped. And apparently the Avatar tryout just added insult to injury. Pratt told EW:
They said they want somebody that says ‘that thing,’ that ‘It factor’… I walked into that room knowing I did not have that thing, and i walked out thinking I would never have that thing, probably.
That double-whammy of rejection put Pratt off the idea of trying to become a big-screen action hero, and he instead started focusing on character roles in movies such as Moneyball and Her. In fact, he felt so burned by the Trek and Avatar auditions that he repeatedly turned down the chance to audition for Star-Lord. It reminds me of a great quote by Paul Williams in an episode of the Nerdist Podcast from a while back:
The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future.
I think Pratt would have made a great Kirk. Maybe even a better Kirk than Pine (although I do actually think Pine does a good job in the role). And if he’d landed the Jake Sully role in Avatar, maybe he could have brought a lighter touch and some charisma to the role, which was one of the least memorable parts in an already disappointing movie. But I’m glad neither Star Trek nor Avatar called dibs on Pratt, because his particular brand of roguish charm has ensured that I can’t picture anybody else playing Star-Lord, a character who looks to be a worthy successor to Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds.
The Wrap says Guardians is tracking for an opening weekend of around $60 million, a definite victory for a movie based on an obscure property that few outside of die-hard comics circles had even heard of when the movie was first announced a few years back. But since then, under the guiding hand of director James Gunn, the Guardians production has seemed to do everything right, from casting to marketing, and now it seems like everyone I know can’t wait for August 1. God willing and the creek don’t rise, Guardians of the Galaxy will not only be a huge hit for Marvel, it’ll be the beginning of a crazy new ongoing space franchise. Star Trek, eat your heart out.