Chris Pratt, 39, pulled in a reported $10 million payday for his latest starring role in Universal Pictures' "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the dinosaur blockbuster that hits theaters in North America on Friday.
That salary represents a slight raise from the reported "seven figure" fee Pratt received for 2015's "Jurassic World," which went on to bank nearly $1.7 billion at the global box office, according to Forbes.
But long before Pratt's earning power put him in rarefied air among Hollywood's elite actors — and, before he even began his acting career — he was a college dropout living out of a van and waiting tables in Hawaii.
Pratt's lucrative roles in the "Jurassic World" franchise are the latest achievements in an acting career that's been on a meteoric trajectory in recent years. The actor went from a supporting comedic role on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" to landing leading roles in blockbusters like Warner Bros.'s "The Lego Movie" and Walt Disney's "Guardians of the Galaxy" in 2014.
Thanks to starring roles in the 2016 sci-fi movie "Passengers" and last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," Pratt has cracked Forbes' list of "The World's Highest-Paid Actors" every year since 2015. In 2017, Pratt raked in a total of $17 million, according to Forbes' most recent list.
In order to find success in Hollywood, though, Pratt — like any actor — needed a big break. Pratt's came when he was just a teenager waiting tables at a restaurant in Maui.
Born in Minnesota but raised in Washington, Pratt began taking some community college acting classes after graduating from high school in 1997, but he left college after less than a semester.
Pratt tried saving money by working as a discount ticket salesman and even as an amateur stripper. (Pratt told BuzzFeed that he even got paid $40 to strip for his friend's grandmother's birthday party once, though he added: "I did go one time and audition on a stage for a club, but I don't think I got the job. I don't think I'm a very good dancer.")
When he was 19, Pratt moved to Hawaii after a friend offered to buy him a one-way ticket. There, Pratt basically became homeless, living in a van by the beach while he worked a variety of minimum-wage jobs.
However, Pratt told the British newspaper The Independent in 2014 that Maui is "a pretty awesome place to be homeless," and that he enjoyed that period of his life. "We just drank and smoked weed and worked minimal hours, 15-20 hours per week, just enough to cover gas, food and fishing supplies," he told The Independent. "You know, it was charming time."
When he was still just 19, Pratt was a server at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant in Maui when he ended up waiting on actress-director Rae Dawn Chong ("The Color Purple"). The actress was casting her first directorial effort — a short horror comedy called "Cursed Part 3" — and Pratt charmed her while talking up the acting skills he'd honed in high school plays.
"I was like, 'You're in the movies, right? I always wanted to be in the movies,'" Pratt told Entertainment Weekly about the encounter with Chong. "She said, 'You're cute. Do you act?' I was like, f--- it, 'Goddamn right I act! Put me in a movie!'"
Chong ended up casting Pratt in the movie and he moved to Los Angeles to begin his acting career. The movie "sucked," Chong told Entertainment Weekly, and it was never released.
But Pratt says the movie still changed his life. "The moment she told me she was bringing me to L.A., I knew," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I was like, 'This is what I'm going to do with the rest of my life."
Pratt struggled to land substantial acting roles over the next few years and he worked in an L.A. restaurant to make money while awaiting his next career break. "It was a terrible restaurant," Pratt said on "The Graham Norton Show" in 2016. "I was a major contributing factor to how terrible this restaurant was."
Pratt was making less than $30 per day at the Beverly Hills restaurant and he told Norton that he'd try to save money on food by eating off of customers' plates. "I'd been busted so many times eating off people's plates," Pratt admitted to Norton.
In 2002, Pratt landed his first breakout acting role, starring as Bright Abbott on the WB show "Everwood," which aired for four seasons. From there, Pratt appeared on Fox's "The O.C." and in the 2011 movie "Moneyball" while also landing his seven-season role on "Parks and Recreation," which went off the air in 2015.
Now, Pratt is one of Hollywood's biggest stars and he has his choice of major acting roles — a turn of fortune he says he could never have imagined when his career began. "I could never have fathomed that," he told The Independent. "Before, I would have done commercials for herpes medication if you wanted me to. Gladly, just as long as I didn't have to wait tables again."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.
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