‘Passengers’: Chris Pratt Interview on His Character, the Sets, and Training

Passengers stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Passengers’ (Photo © 2016 Columbia Pictures)

Passengers star Chris Pratt paid a visit to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA on December 12, 2016 for a very special screening of the Columbia Pictures sci-fi film co-starring Jennifer Lawrence. Pratt spent time with members of the military and their families, posing for photos and signing autographs as he made his way down a line of fans that stretched for blocks. Pratt also did a special meet-and-greet with Wounded Warriors who attended the exclusive Passengers screening. And while the focus of the advance screening was to thank the Marines and their families and give them a special holiday treat, Pratt also took part in a few interviews to talk about his role in the action thriller directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and opening in theaters on December 21, 2016.

“Well, you know, we focused a lot on simulating zero gravity during the stunts which is something that’s pretty difficult and unlike anything I’ve ever done before in stunt work where you do a lot of wirework,” explained Pratt, discussing training for Passengers. “But with this, we’re trying to create the illusion of zero gravity and so that was something that we trained for. And all the action sequences that happen in space in zero gravity, those were really hard and required various techniques all the way from animation to heavily-choreographed bits of physical stunts.”

The sets that were created for Passengers were elaborate and huge, and Pratt says the use of practical sets rather than green screen really helped him get into character. “The sets were incredible. We had a grand concourse – the inner mall of the ship – we built it was practical. We had to tear a wall down between two stages in Atlanta. It’s one of the biggest sets ever built. It’s four stories tall, thousands of feet long. They used eight miles of LED lights around the whole thing. It’s really unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before. It was nice. It’s nice anytime you’re doing a movie that relies heavily on animation that you don’t have to use your imagination too much. Acting often is just reacting to your environment and so you can fake that or you can actually put yourself in a real environment and not have to fake it as much, so they were smart to create a really vibrant and real physical set against which we could act and react.”

Asked how he’d handle being alone in space for so long (his character’s awake on the ship for a year prior to Jennifer Lawrence’s character waking up), Pratt replied, “Oh my gosh, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say. I’d like to think that I’d be perfect, but you know I think it’s hard to say. I think there’s a reason solitary confinement is like a form of torture and punishment. Being cut off from other human beings is torturous and so I don’t know how I would react. Hopefully, not worse than Jim!”

Pratt says Passengers is not a post-apocalyptic tale, although people are leaving Earth to live on another planet. “Earth is still vibrant and healthy; it’s the cradle of civilization. But, based on a couple of bits of fictional science, we’re able to put people in a state of hibernation – stopping all metabolic function. It’s like putting them on ice for a couple of hundred years, if we wanted to. We can also move half the speed of light so given those two things, we’re able to colonize other planets and other solar systems. We’re able to find planets that are similar to Earth and colonize them. My character, Jim, is a guy who’s like a rate-2 mechanic, very blue collar, working class guy, living on an Earth that’s overcrowded and over-priced. He decides he’s going to essentially allow this Homestead company to fund his trip to this new planet. He’ll show up, he’ll be a mechanic, and he’ll help build things.

It’ll be a simpler time and there will problems there he can solve – his kind of problems – because the Earth he’s living on men like him are no longer required. If something breaks, you don’t fix it. You just buy a new one. Everything is disposable. You know, he’s a bit of a throwback and a pioneer, so it’s not desimilar to the men and women that jumped on boats in manifest destiny to kind of find and establish the world of the West, the New World. So, that’s who he is; that’s why he’s in this situation. He wakes up 90 years before he gets to Homestead 2 and is facing life alone on this ship forever.”

Pratt’s recently starred in a Western (The Magnificent Seven), has been chased by dinosaurs (Jurassic World), and now he’s in a big space adventure that mixes sci-fi and romance. If it seems as though he’s living out every kids’ fantasy on screen, Pratt says that’s because he is. “I got to play a baseball player. I got to play a Navy SEAL. I can’t think of anything left. I don’t know what else I can do to fulfill my boyhood fantasies. Yeah, I’m getting very fortunate in the roles that have come my way. For sure, it’s very much a dream the roles that I’ve been able to play over the last few years.”

Watch the Chris Pratt interview:

(Additional reporting by contributing writer Kevin Finnerty. Video by Gary Murray.)

Chris Pratt covers Jennifer Lawrence's face on 'Passengers' poster
Chris Pratt covers Jennifer Lawrence’s face on the ‘Passengers’ poster at MCAS Miramar (Photo Credit: Rich Polk © 2016 CTMG, Inc)
Passengers' Chris Pratt poses with Marines
Chris Pratt poses with U.S. Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (Photo Credit: Rich Polk © 2016 CTMG, Inc)
Passengers' Chris Pratt at MCAS Miramar
‘Passengers’ star Chris Pratt poses at MCAS Miramar (Photo Credit: Rich Polk © 2016 CTMG, Inc)
Passengers' Chris Pratt signs autographs at MCAS Miramar
Chris Pratt signs autographs for fans at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (Photo Credit: Rich Polk © 2016 CTMG, Inc)