In the new film (out Sept. 23), Pratt stars as Scott Hatteberg, a major league catcher who is seen as damaged goods based on an arm injury that doesn't allow him to throw -- kind of a problem for a Major League Baseball player. However, Hatteberg does get on-base a lot, which is why Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) sees value in the unsigned journeyman and sticks him at first base -- a position that Hatteberg has never played before. Moviefone spoke to Pratt at the Toronto International Film Festival about what's it's like to work with Pitt, the beating he took fielding ground balls and how Andy Dwyer from 'Parks and Recreation' transformed from an as-hole into the lovable schlub we know today.
Hey, Chris, nice to meet you.
Haven't we met before?
You should have just said that we had met and went with it.
Oh, yeah, remember that great rapport we already have? Let's just pick it up right there from the last time we met.
You know, you should say "no" because if we did meet before, then I would feel like an as-hole the whole time, "Sorry, Mike, I don't remember."
Or I would say "yes" and you would say, "I don't remember liking you very much."
Oh, yeah [laughs]. I would definitely ask, "Did I like you?"
I did like 'Moneyball.'
Well, that's all I've got.
All right! Well, that went well.
Between this and 'Parks and Recreation,' do you worry about being typecast as the funny guy who also happens to have an injury?
"We really need someone who is charismatic, but is also convincing with an arm injury or a broken leg. Who can we get?"
As long as I keep getting cast, I don't care if it's typecast. I figure, anybody who had had any level of success in Hollywood who looks back and credits their planning is full of sh-t. You get to a point where you have to start planning, when you cross that line where you have enough value to get someone's movie made if you attach yourself to it, you have to be very thoughtful and have to plan. When you're starting out, you're willing to do anything. I started auditioning for f-cking Frisky's commercials. And I'd get a Carl's Jr. commercial and I'm like, "Yes! This is awesome!" I called my friends and family, "I'm going to be in a Carl's Jr. commercial!" or "I have a guest spot on a show called 'The Huntress' on USA!" or "This is awesome, I got my SAG card!" There's a huge level of absolute lack of control and you are 100 percent at the mercy of people making the powerful decisions. You walk into a casting office, you hope to God you get the role – and 99 out of 100 times you don't.
So, through this job I meet quite a few people who are in movies and television and don't think much about it. I was in the same room as Brad Pitt yesterday and, yeah, that's a whole different thing. Was it weird for you getting used to working with one of the most famous people in the world? How long does the "Wait, that's Brad Pitt" effect last?
I don't know if it was weird, but I was cognizant of it. And I don't know that anybody wouldn't be. And if someone told you that it didn't affect them, I think they would probably be lying. There was a moment in my very first scene in 'Moneyball' where he comes in to Scott Hatteberg's house and I was thinking, "This must have been so weird for Scott to have this guy sitting in his living room." And I use this method from time to time -- the substitution method -- where if you need to feel something, you'll substitute something from your real life, feel that, then disguise it as what you're supposed to be feeling as a character. I remember in one take I said, "I feel weird. I feel a little weird that I'm opposite Brad Pitt. I'm going to use that. I'm going to actually just look at him and feel the reality of this moment." And I had that moment where I was like, "What the f-ck am I doing in this room with this guy?" And that's probably what Scott was feeling about Billy Beane being there at the moment.
But it is weird. Celebrity is intoxicating. I was talking to my wife [Pratt is married to star Anna Faris] about it last night. We went to this dinner and without being like a namedropper, it was very star-studded. There were people there who I grew up loving. It was surreal. And they were giving me this respect because they had just seen the movie. It was like a high. I was spun out. I was between elated and terrified before going to bed last night. I think the reason that Brad is so successful is that he's managed to stay a normal man in extraordinary circumstances. There are a lot of people who touch that level of fame and, the next thing you know, they become a complete as*holes. The lesson that you learn from Brad is that you have to just stay grounded. You have to keep your feet on the ground [pauses]... or I'd imagine you'd spin out of control.
I'm glad you didn't end that last sentence with "and keep reaching for the stars."
"Keep reaching for the stars"?
I think that was the catchphrase from 'Star Search."
Is that what it was? [Laughs] I wish I would have!
I'll edit that in there for you.
Did you meet Scott Hatteberg?
Yeah, I met Scott on set. He came and visited. He's so close with Billy and he and his wife, Elizabeth, and three daughters came to set. He was great. He sat behind the monitors with a big smile on his face. He was telling stories and answered every question that I had. It had to be really surreal for him to have this chapter of his life being played in a movie with these huge stars. And he couldn't have been nicer about it.
Did you want to meet him before shooting?
I was a little nervous to meet him because I was afraid that the way that I had him in my mind -- the way I was bound and determined to play him, and the way I did play him -- I was afraid that it might not be who he is at all. And I trust my instinct to not want to meet him and to not read the book after having read the screenplay. In reading it, I just thought, "I am perfect for this and I know exactly how I am going to do it." After meeting him, I was tickled to see that I wouldn't have done it any differently. He and I actually have a lot in common -- I was really born to play this role: we're both from the same area of the country, we both fish, we both hunt.
Scott was not a first baseman and was pretty bad at first base when he was learning the position. You're an athlete. Was it hard to pretend to be worse than you are when you were fielding ground balls?
It was! I'll tell you what happened. They gave me really extensive training, they just handed me off to Chad Kreuter who was the former head couch at USC and an ex-pro. He and his son were holding this baseball camp at USC all summer and he was like, "Any day that you want to come down, come down." And I was like, "OK, I'm coming here every single day." And I went there every single day, six days a week. And they hit me grounders every day for an hour. I would do batting practice every day for an hour. So I got much better and I got pretty confident. So when they were doing that scene when I was supposed to be missing the grounders, they're hitting me the balls and I'm catching them. Because they taught me how! And I have some semblance of athletic ability. Then it was like, "No, you need to miss." So then I started missing intentionally and it looked stupid -- it looked like a guy trying to miss the ball. So they're like, "You're making it obvious." I was like, "Just hit the ball as hard as you can at me and I'm going to miss some of them – get those on camera." And this guy is cracking them with a fungo bat, he's hitting these balls so hard: I get drilled in the chin, I take one off the kneecap, the chest – I got beat up. But I missed some of them and that's what ended up making the movie.
I didn't care much for 'Parks and Recreation' during its first season, but now it's one of my favorite shows. What changed?
I think it got fine-tuned. Television is such an evolving medium. When you're doing a TV show, it's not like you just shoot for six weeks and you're in an editing room with all of your footage. It's like a guitar or a car, you have to fine tune things. You stop doing what's not working, you work on what is working and you add things that do work.
Is there a particular moment that stands out for you?
I think season two is great. I think season three, we really found our legs. I think it was the addition of Adam Scott being sort of the Dean Martin -- a very funny, but straight, reactionary character to these wild people. I think Leslie Knope going from kind of a dummy to more of a Lisa Simpson kind of character. I think using the town of Pawnee as a character itself as like the main character -- it's kind of like Springfield in 'The Simpsons.' Do you know what I mean? You can have these super crazy, broad ideas and storylines and characters, but it is all going to be grounded in the characters that you love and know.
What did you change with Andy? I feel the first season, he was just kind of there -- but now he's one of the most interesting characters on the show. You're doing something different.
You know, in comedy -- at least my method -- it's important to try a ton of different things. If you go back to the first season and look at it, I played it way heavier and way lighter. And there are versions of that where I'm a real as-hole. And that's the way this character was written -- I was supposed to be written off after six episodes. I was a guest star that was supposed to disappear. But, like I said, they thought it was working. They thought some of the takes that I was doing where I didn't play an as-hole, I played it like a puppy -- earnest. And despite the fact that I'm doing these terrible things, I'm still kind of lovable. They liked that. And that was one big change. In the third episode they took a break and rewrote the last three episodes of the first season. And it ends with Andy doing a rock concert, you know? Andy should have disappeared and, instead, they kept him.
So I didn't change so much what I was doing, they just sort of catered their writing to what I was doing that was working. And as more scripts came down the pipe, I was like, "Oh, this character is now more likable than I thought originally." And I'm telling you, our fourth season is going to be our best season yet. The stuff that's coming out right now is the funniest stuff we've ever done. It's the truth. I've laughed more out loud at our table reads than I ever have before. And the addition of Rob [Lowe] and Adam, it has squared it away. I think it's the greatest show on TV.
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