Whether wrangling velociraptors in Jurassic World or saving the universe in Guardians of the Galaxy, actor Chris Pratt needs to stay film-star-fit. Here are his top training secrets, writes Karen Anne Overton
When Chris Pratt first appeared on the hit US comedy Parks and Recreation, as the overweight and workshy Andy Dwyer, no one could have predicted that in a matter of years he would be one of Hollywood’s leading action stars. And it transpires that among those disbelievers was the man himself. “I had to change my whole way of thinking. I had gotten into a frame of mind where I saw my character as someone who would just let himself go and party,” reveals the 37-year-old.
“I had gotten used to the idea of making a living as an actor by playing the fat friend who makes you laugh. That works for some roles, but you begin to realise how many parts you will never be able to get because you’re out of shape. But at some point I saw that if I wanted to have a serious career and play serious characters, I needed to get into shape and look after my body.”
To say his career got ‘serious’ is an understatement, but it wasn’t until after several auditions – which Pratt describes as ‘humbling’ – where he was told he was simply too fat for the roles. Serendipitously, his biggest career break came via a dubious Instagram selfie in his underpants that he posted while training for Zero Dark Thirty. “I’d lost 70 pounds and my older brother Cully persuaded me to do it,” says Pratt. “It was embarrassing but without it, who knows…”
The selfie piqued the interest of Marvel, who thought Pratt would be perfect for the lead in upcoming space fantasy Guardians of the Galaxy. After several screen tests he became frustrated with the process, but a lucky break saw him summoned at short notice to the Marvel office. “They held up the selfie from Zero Dark Thirty and said, ‘You’re too fat for Star-Lord. How long will it take you to look like this?’ They gave me five-and-a-half months. I did what I had to do!” he laughs.
Embarking on a strict regime, Pratt committed himself fully and lost 60 pounds in six months. He combined a carefully calculated diet plan from nutritionist Phil Goglia with an intense training regimen designed by personal trainer Duffy Gaver, and adopted the mindset of a warrior. With a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve – lean with muscle, and better overall fitness – it became easier for Gaver to adapt the fitness plan accordingly. The first two months focused on bodybuilding workouts, the second a combination of bodybuilding and conditioning and finally, two months of hard conditioning – cardio circuits, mountain biking, swimming, etc.
“It was very important to lose that weight and get fit,” Pratt says, beginning to expose a sliver of vulnerability. “I was eating very badly and it was having a very bad effect on my overall health. I gave this impression of being the happy fat guy when underneath I was very depressed and unhappy about my appearance. I had no energy and sometimes I felt helpless about my situation.
“But getting fit has been the key to getting better roles and also just feeling better in general. Once I started getting better scripts and I started playing in big films, I just saw how important it was to stay in shape, go to the gym, eat healthily, and change my lifestyle.”
Having said in the past that his weight gain was thanks to his wife, actress Anna Faris, and her ‘fantastic home cooking’, Pratt has joked that she preferred him back then as he was a ‘great pet fat guy’. For Pratt though there is no going back. “I’ve had to work very hard and maintain a good training regimen for the last few years and I have no intention of ever letting myself slide again,” he says.
“I’m eating good food, I’ve cut back on drinking, and I have a different mindset now. It’s a matter of having discipline and knowing how much better you feel and the impression you create when you’re physically fit. It would also be hell to have to lose that weight again. I never want to go back to being the fat guy!”
Yet with all this monster success, the pressure is on Pratt to keep off the weight for good, as long as he hopes to keep going after the types of roles he’s being offered now. Does he ever get the urge to throw caution to the wind and pig out? “Yeah, I don’t think so,” he says, firmly. “I like feeling this way. The roles have opened up.”
Refreshingly, for Pratt it’s not all about massaging his ego. “I’ve a four-year-old son, Jack, at home, and I’d like to be able to retire and spend time with my family,” he says. “But it’s the sad reality of realising that trying to tighten it up and look as good as I possibly can for the next few years is the best way for me to achieve the type of success I need to live my dream, getting out of Hollywood, taking my son and wife and living in the country somewhere.”
This ambitious ideal could explain Pratt’s schedule of back-to-back blockbusters. Fresh off his turn in Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven remake, which saw him play as one of the star-studded cowboy troop, he will appear in Passengers – a futuristic thriller in which he gets up close and personal with Jennifer Lawrence in outer space; then next year comes the much-anticipated Guardians sequel, for which he will need to be in prime Star-Lord shape.
From feebly fat to fighting fit, Pratt has set out his stall as a role model for whom getting in shape has literally opened doors in a business where it’s notoriously difficult to reinvent yourself. For anyone who misses ‘fat Andy’, you’ll have to go back to Parks and Rec. Now, it seems, it’s all about winning his race to retire.
Get Star-Lord fit: Peter Quill needed to be pretty nifty for darting about the galaxy and the way he achieved that is through Speed Training – a combination of speed strength, applying maximum force at high velocities and speed conditioning, where you maintain running speed for about seven seconds or longer. Speed training gives you the ability to power-up fast and slow down without injury.
Warm up with a series of butt kicks, high knees, reverse lunge hip stretch, Frankensteins and power skips, followed by 10 reps of the following: Spider-Man steps (10 each side), wall swings (saggital and lateral), T push-ups and cook hip lifts. Finish up with a series of eight stair sprints with 20-second rest and a rotation of either 10 squats, jump-ups and burpees in between.
Get Zero Dark abs: To get Pratt’s Navy Seal core strength, do three sets of plank for 60 seconds, three sets of 12 hanging leg raises, three 60-second side planks and three sets of 12 toes to bar, which must be done slowly. Come on Marine!
Dino-wrangling strength: Unfortunately, Pratt was unable to wrestle real dinosaurs in preparation for Jurassic World so he had to settle for three or four hours a day of consistent hard graft. Workouts included P90X, running, swimming, boxing and kickboxing, and he even completed a triathlon.