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Matt Masson is a passionate skier who was so severely injured in an accident in 2010 that he had to relearn how to walk, talk and ski. In his inspiring story, Matt says his accident has been pivotal in leading him to achieve what he could only dream of pre-injury.
Skiing is a dangerous sport, and freeriding the extreme version of an already death-defying activity. A style of snowboarding or skiing performed on natural, ungroomed terrain without a set course, goals or rules, freeriding was a rebellion against the traditional highly regimented style of skiing in the sport’s early years.
Travelling to Switzerland for the Freeride World Tour (FWT) earlier this year was a chance to witness the athletes of this incredibly challenging sport in which the best snowboarders and skiers compete in the most renowned ski resorts across the world. Naturally, I was wowed by the flips and jumps of the masters of this sport but I was equally amazed by its fans, one of whom is 32-year-old Matt Masson.
Matt was born to British parents but his father’s work had taken them to live in Hampshire, Paris and Düsseldorf before moving to Geneva when Matt was eight, and it was there that he first learned to ski. He quickly became obsessed with the sport and he and his older brother Tim soon progressed to ski parks and off-piste skiing.
They moved back to England when Matt was 15 but he continued pursuing the sport he had fallen in love with and in time, qualified as a ski instructor. At 18 he followed his peers to university, choosing to study leisure marketing at Bournemouth but left after a year to live the enviable instagram-worthy life of a seasonnaire.
While qualified to instruct skiing, Matt worked in bars in the winter and taught sailing and windsurfing in France, Canada and Greece and had just returned from working in Australia when he came back to London to visit some friends.
At 23, Matt was living a charmed life of a man who has everything he wants at his fingertips. He was travelling the world doing what he loved with a youthful energy of someone of his age, and then he fell – literally. It’s surprising, given the nature of his favourite sport, that his accident actually happened completely away from the mountains. Matt was at (now defunct) Proud nightclub in Camden in 2010 when a night fuelled with alcohol and bravado led to him attempting to prove his ability with a girl he had just met by hopping over a fence and falling through a corrugated-plastic roof outside the club. His stunt had him plunging three floors down, landing on his head and knocked out cold.
When London’s air ambulance reached him, Matt was deeply unconscious, and his airways were partially blocked with limited breathing. His condition was so severe that they gave him a general anaesthetic right there in the car as they tried desperately to stabilise him. Within an hour of his accident, he was at the London Royal Hospital fighting for his life. This was November, and with his parents now living miles away in Chichester, all they were thinking about was getting Christmas ready for the family when they awoke to more than 30 missed calls, all from the early hours of the morning and messages to say that their son had been taken to hospital.
Matt suffered a traumatic brain injury and scans revealed his brain was a bruised and bloody mess. After two weeks in intensive care, while waiting for brain pressures to settle down, he was moved to a high dependency unit while everyone waited to see if he would ever wake up. Matt’s mum, Anne, says, “I can just remember the extreme anxiety, with each day a seemingly endless wait as we hoped for better news. All we knew was that he might wake up or he might not, but we kept hoping until the day that he finally did wake up, and it all got a lot better then.”
Although no one can prove it, Anne says she believes part of Matt’s recovery was down to his passion for skiing. It wasn’t until one of his friends played him his favourite ski film, Claim (2008), that he started to show signs of waking up. Matt was then allowed to move to a hospital in Chichester nearer his parents, and when he spoke, one of the first things he said was, “I want to ski!”
Matt went on to rewatch hundreds of ski films with freeriders doing tricks and flips all over the mountains. A friend contacted one of his favourite freestyle skiers, Jacob Wester, who sent a signed photo to his bedridden fan. At that point, Matt was not retaining enough memory to remember who was visiting him, but he was so proud of the gift from his hero that he showed it to anyone and everyone multiple times as he continued to be encouraged to recovery.
Driven not only by the desired to ski again, Matt also watched Cool Runnings (1994) about ten times a day! He was inspired by the overcoming of adversity displayed by the Jamaican bobsleigh team. He says he was never worried about not recovering, choosing to adopt the philosophy of pioneering freeskier C.R. Johnson who suffered a brain injury while filming in 2005. C.R. spent a month in hospital with two weeks in an induced coma, entirely paralysed except for his eyes. C.R. had to relearn how to use his vocal cords, his arms, his legs; everything. He had been one of the best skiers in the world, overly confident in skiing and in himself. A freak accident stopped that but he refused to let it get in the way of his stride. Unfortunately, C.R. later died in another accident but Matt claims C.R. and his words played a key part in helping Matt back on his skis.
Eight weeks after the accident, Matt could barely roll over in bed and couldn’t even hold his head up when he began working with physiotherapist Lisa Featherstone and asked if she thought he would ever ski again. In the video account of his accident and recovery,* Lisa admits that when he asked she told him she didn’t know but internally she thought it unlikely.
Undeterred and discovering that she knew a ski instructor, a year after his accident Matt convinced Lisa and her friend to take him to the indoor centre at Milton Keynes where he went up and down the beginner slopes for about an hour while they skied beside him. It was then that everyone realised that Matt was going to get back on his skis whether they liked it or not. Sure enough, determined to get back on actual snow, Matt returned to the instructor who taught him when he was just a kid, 20 years earlier. Magali Devouassoux was initially afraid that getting him back onto slopes would send him back to hospital, but after some time taking him back to the beginning, she said he was better skiing than walking.
In 2011, Matt finally met his long-time hero, Jacob Wester, when he was still using a walking frame, and he shared with him his wish to do something he had never mastered before, a backflip. After his recovery, Jacob agreed to teach him and together went to a jump with an airbag to land on rather than the snow, since no one was in a hurry for him to spend another six months bedridden. This attempt ended in an admirable half-turn that most able-bodied people would fail to do, but Matt is determined to one day finish what he started there.
As he continued his mission to get back onto the slopes, Matt sought out other goals which led to him walking 300m carrying the Olympic Torch in July 2012 and walking the Amsterdam Marathon in 2014 – it took him just over nine-and-a-half hours and he raised £12,000 for the High Fives Foundation. High Fives is a non-profit organisation supporting the dreams of outdoor sports athletes by raising injury prevention awareness, based in California founded by Roy Tuscany, a former professional freeskier who broke his back in 2006. Matt went on to do an internship with High Fives in 2017, celebrating his 30th birthday while staying with C.R.’s sister Khalil who presented him with a jacket C.R. had started for his clothing line but died before he could finish. Khalil finished it herself, on C.R.’s old sewing machine, and said that C.R. would have been proud to have been Matt’s mentor.
Just five years after his accident, Matt enrolled in university at Southampton in 2015 to study sports journalism in order to stay in the environment since he was no longer able to teach, and he graduated in May 2018. Matt now holds the unique title of freelance freestyle ski journalist with close connections to freeskiers all over the world. Friends with FWT title holders Markus Eder and Arianna Tricomi, they seem as much his fans as he theirs with his boyish starstruck demeanour making him an endlessly positive and respectful journalist, incredibly knowledgeable in his craft.
Ten years ago, Matt was living a wonderful life until disaster struck, but as he turns 32 he says, “I still ski better than I can walk, but my mum actually said the other morning that I’ve always been lucky. Yes, I had a pretty tough accident but it turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me, thanks to organisations like FWT, and publications like Newschoolers and Fall-Line I’ve met all my heroes and been closer to the sport than ever before. It will take more than a coma to wipe this smile off my face.”
*Skiing before he could walk is Matt’s account of his journey from accident to recovery:
Skiing Before I Could Walk - YouTube
Matt currently works for freestyle ski website Newschoolers.com and provided the digital footage for FWT during the final leg in Verbier in 2019. Find out more about Matt at TheWobblyJourno.com
It’s not often you meet a real-life Indiana Jones in person. First impressions of Bob Cornuke are of a broad-shouldered, tough-looking, no-nonsense all-American – everything you’d expect when encountering a modern-day explorer.
But what makes Bob even more unique is the fact that he’s risked his life on more than 72 expeditions and even been arrested five times in the Middle East, not for the fame and fortune, but for the sole purpose of discovering the lost locations in the Bible.
These journeys have included searching for the real Mount Sinai in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, following ancient Assyrian and Babylonian flood accounts in Iran and tracking the ark of the covenant from Israel to Egypt and across the Ethiopian highlands. Off the coast of Malta, his research team found the probable location of Paul’s shipwreck – more specifically, the accounting of all four anchors as described in Acts 27 in the Bible. His latest extensive research efforts have been in Israel in search of the true Temple site and the precise location of Christ’s crucifixion.
Bob tells me as a former FBI-trained and SWAT team member this new direction in his life to become a Bible investigator actually came about through meeting a famous astronaut:
“Well, I first got involved in searching for lost locations in the Bible when I met a man named Jim Erwin who was the eighth man to walk on the moon. He was the first one to drive the car on the moon. He said, ‘Bob, how’d you like to do something really fun? Let’s look for Noah’s ark. It’d be the greatest discovery of all time.’ I went, ‘OK, how can you pass up on that?’
“I had a career in law enforcement, got involved in a very bad shooting incident and moved to Colorado and then I met Jim Erwin. So that started this cascading life of adventure and fun and risk and peril, and it was all because of meeting a man who walked on the moon that started it for me.”
As well as becoming friends with a famous astronaut, Bob gives me the ultimate name-drop story when he tells me how he used to hang out with a Hollywood legend during his years as a police officer in Orange County, California:
“Growing up in Van Nuys, California, as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a policeman. Many years later, I realised my dream when I became a police officer with the Costa Mesa Police Department in Orange County. I admit there’s some truth to those stereotypes about cops and their donuts. Some mornings after a long graveyard shift, I would head to a donut shop for a cup of coffee. On several occasions, around 7 a.m. I would find a wide-shouldered, big man standing next to his car all alone. He lived in nearby Newport Beach and wore an Irish tweed cap and held a steaming cup of coffee in his huge fists. His name was John Wayne.
“He loved hearing stories of the night’s activities, but he once told me his life was completely scripted, and while he was often shot or killed in movies, it was just an act as he always went home unharmed. He often said the police were his real heroes because we weren’t acting and real harm could come to us at any moment.”
It was that risk of danger that led Bob to eventually walk away from his days as a police officer after a fatal shootout with a drunk man:
“One late afternoon while working in plain clothes as a crime scene investigator, I heard a call that a man had set his truck on fire in front of his house. After arriving at the incident and trying to calm the man down for several hours, he started shooting at me. Fortunately, he missed me, but I ended up taking his life. I knew from that moment my life would never be the same.”
Bob never would have believed how different his life would become, but he was able to use his police investigation skills in pursuit of tracking down lost artefacts and locations from the Bible, inspired by his own personal Christian faith. So, of his many adventures, Bob highlights one particular exploration that has led to a Hollywood blockbuster in production:
“One of the key standout things that we think we have been allowed to be a part of would be the Mount Sinai story. Where is the real Mount Sinai? Tradition puts it, of course – and everybody believes that – it’s in the Sinai Peninsula. But the Bible says in Galatians 4:25 Mount Sinai is in Arabia. That’s a red flag for me and as a former FBI-trained homicide investigator I had to check that out because the Bible is shooting a flaming arrow right into Arabia as to where the real Mount Sinai is.
“So, I went there. I met with a man named Larry Williams – we found this peak that’s black on top and all these things around it. There were pillars and altars and writings and a lot of people were saying yes, that is the real Mount Sinai. So, we think the real Mount Sinai has been discovered in the ancient land of Midian. And believe it or not, they’re doing a Hollywood movie that we’re actually in the process of production as we speak.
“It will be called The Mountain of Fire and it’s really fun because we’re talking big Hollywood types. One of the co-producers is Charles Segars who did National Treasure One and National Treasure Two. I’ll be doing some site locations in Jordan where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia so it’s all new and exciting.”
As well as being involved in movies and countless television documentaries, Bob has also written several books, the most recent being his own life story:
“I have 11 books but I have a recent book that just came out called Explore: My Life Searching For Lost Locations in the Bible (Koinonia House Inc.). And that chronicles all my searches. I’ve been involved with 72 expeditions, been arrested five times in the Middle East for carrying a Bible, believed to be a spy … they arrest you because you’ve got a Bible in the Middle East.
“I don’t want to ruin the book but I do live – I survive. The book includes my nine searches for Noah’s Ark 9. I’ve looked for the crossing site of the Red Sea where the fleeing Hebrews were being chased by Pharaoh. I’ve searched for the ark of the covenant in Ethiopia on 22 trips. I’ve actually been on the search looking for shipwreck off the coast of Malta, of Paul the apostle.
“More recently I’ve been involved in searching for Solomon’s Temple. And we’re looking where Christ was crucified and that’s where Golgotha is, of course. I don’t think people are going be too believing of where we say because tradition is such a strong thing, so you have to get past that big rock in the road that’s called tradition to find these locations. You know you take what the Bible says and you bump into these roadblocks of tradition. So we try to go around these traditions and follow God’s words as a road map and as a compass and as a guide.”
Bob concluded by explaining why he’s so motivated to show people what happened in the Bible is actually true:
“I don’t care who you are, you know the Bible is a very difficult thing to believe. There’s the Red Sea parting and you see the world being flooded and you see animals aboard the ark and you start saying, ‘Well, that’s a little far-fetched’ and then you say, ‘Wait a second, God put that in the Bible.’ The Bible is and shall be the supreme standard by which we should live.
“The whole university system is designed to put God out of the divine and say these things didn’t happen. The Red Sea parted from a strong wind. No God parted the Red Sea. He didn’t do it because he was a cosmic show-off. He showed the people because he wanted them to know there was no other way of salvation except through him.
“And so why do I look for these things? Because I try to show people the physical evidence that’s in the Bible. People say … ‘Well, you just need to have faith; why do you need to find things?’ I try to show people the evidence, the physical evidence, that these ancient historical events are real and true; and if we rely on the Bible, every word of the Bible from start to finish … we have the faith of a child, and the world will change … you can move mountains with that kind of faith.”
To find out more about Bob Cornuke and his organisation the BASE (Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration) Institute go to baseinstitute.org.
After his stellar success as a boy wizard in the Harry Potter films Daniel Radcliffe has found himself in many movies and on Broadway.
Now, he is starring in Miracle Workers, a quirky new American TBS cable series, based on Simon Rich’s book, What in God’s Name, which tells the story of heaven as a corporation run by a leader who has taken a sabbatical to play [with] gold and google himself instead of answering the world’s problems.
Miracle Workers, depicts heaven as if it was grimy and industrial, and stars Daniel as a lower level angel named Craig, Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) as God and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) and Karan Soni (Deadpool) as angels.
The show tells the story of two angels, Daniel’s character Craig and his female colleague, who are put to task to try to convince God not to destroy the Earth. These two hard-working two angels bet God that “they can pull off their most impossible miracle yet: help two humans fall in love.”
The 29-year-old British actor, whose recent movies include the 2012 horror film The Woman in Black, the thriller-drama Kill Your Darlings, The F Word, the science fiction horror film Victor Frankenstein, the bio drama film The Gamechangers, Swiss Army Man, and Now You See Me 2.
Why did you pick this project, Miracle Workers?
I think that there is something lovely about this show. From the moment I started working on it, you could just tell that [writer-creator] Simon Rich’s world and the world that he’s built up has kind of inspired everybody, who works in all the different departments. It’s so rare to get a job where you have to production design heaven, or to find a new take on heaven.
That is definitely rare.
I think this is the kind of project that just gives everyone permission to kind of go kind of crazy and just their imagination. Also, just the level of detail. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to see the books and stuff, in the department of prayers, and all the prayers that are on the wall are all very specific, real prayers with pictures of crew members. It’s a lovely thing, when you step on to the set and see that level of detail, I always think that’s a really cool, exciting thing. I mean, I think it’s really like, it was a chance to work with Simon and work with him over hopefully a number of years. I just think he just has the most unbelievably creative mind and I’m such a fan of all his sort of short stories and his work.
How do you see working in TV versus making movies?
I think one of the intimidating things for me about doing TV is that you are often signing on to something having just read a pilot, and that’s crazy to me. And not knowing where that goes is something that would worry me. But there’s something about Simon that I have absolutely no doubt that he would be able to come up with amazing ideas for how where to go with this show. Obviously, the next series will not be in Heaven, it will be in somewhere totally different. Hearing how excited Simon was at the prospect of being able to write a show that there are things that I never considered about writing for TV, but you know, you can’t write an ending, you have to write continuously open-ended stuff.
Please tell me more.
How frustrating that must be, as a writer, so I think, when I hear the excitement in his voice, at the amount of freedom [the cable network] TBS was giving him to just create a world and to tell the whole story. So essentially, it’s like a long movie, and then you chuck it out and go on to something completely different for the next season. For me as well, that freed me of any of the worry of, oh ‘I’m going to be playing the same character again for a long time, because I’m going to get to play a different character every year.’
What about your character of Craig?
Well, you know, this first series is obviously based off of Simon’s book, so my character of Craig is pretty much how he is in the book. I think he’s probably become slightly more neurotic and nervous, as the writer started writing for my voice. In some ways, there are definitely parallels between myself and this character that I see, but I also think the character of Craig kind of functions as an avatar for Simon, himself, in the story.
What else is involved?
Obviously, it’s his creation and his character, but I think there’s definitely a lot of both of us in it. And also, this world. I know Simon has written for Pixar, and The Simpsons, and lots of animated stuff, but I definitely picture this world somehow, even though I’ve been filming for four weeks, as still being an animated Pixar movie, it just has that, in the same way that Inside Out did.
What else is appealing about this?
As well as it being a great story, with great characters, there’s an intricacy and a playfulness to the world, where you just want to spend time in it, and see how more of it works. And, to me, that’s a very exciting thing, as an audience member, where you just want to get back to being in that space with all these characters. I think, contrary to what we, as human beings on Earth, would hope for, the answering of our prayers is very low priority in this version of heaven. Craig, my character, takes an incredible amount of joy and pride in his job, but he’s like a one-man army, he’s literally a one man band receiving millions of prayers a day; answering like three or four, that’s like a good day.
What did you think about Heaven when you were growing up?
I feel like most of my versions of heaven were from like, cartoons and Terry Pratchett books. My mum and dad were, I think they definitely both believe in God, I think. But it’s not something that we, as a family, it was never something that was passed on to me, in terms of, this is what Heaven is and this is where you’re going to go and not go. I’ve never been particularly religious, but I’ve always been fascinated by religion and also found it amazing. There’s reason religion has such an important place in all of our lives, and is reflective of where we, as a species, have been at every point in our existence. And so there’s something to it, and there’s something, I particularly think, from a storytelling point of view.
What else comes to mind?
I did a movie called Horns, which is a similarly weird. Like, I’m not religious, but it’s a weirdly very religious movie. And it’s quite straight on, on its take on demons and angels and redemption and that kind of stuff. And so, I think, I don’t know, maybe it’s just pure exploitation, but I feel like heaven and religious symbolism, and stuff like that, is incredibly fertile ground for storytelling. Because it is why things like Good Omens, the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman book that I was thinking of earlier, one of the reasons that’s so good is that it just plays with things we sort of already know about heaven and reinvents them in ways that are pleasing and fun.
Tell me more.
So, I actually think this world is less religious than the heaven in Simon’s book. The heaven in Simon’s book is kind of a straight up Christian heaven. I think Jesus is mentioned directly. This is much more sort of secular. Like it is like a corporation, it’s definitely a non-denominational kind of just omnipresent organization, I don’t know. The closest we ever get to some direct religious parody, or something like that, there’s one episode where God gets a prophet, and that’s great. That’s one of my favourite things, but I don’t want to say too much about it.
Do we know how [your character] Craig gets to Heaven?
You do find out about his past life, yeah. Well, Craig’s life on Earth took place at a time where he was actually probably towards the top end of human life expectancy when he died. It’s one of my favourite jokes in the series actually is you see all of our past lives, all the three main angels, what we did on Earth. But I’m not going to say anything more about that, because it’s such a great joke. Those particular jokes remind me of the jokes in movies like Airplane, where you just are like, ‘whoa. How much time was put into that four second joke?’ Because they’re all very, very short, but we all had sets made specifically for that. It’s one of my favourite moments, but I won’t say any more about that.
What do you think people will respond to about Miracle Workers?
You just hope that it finds an audience and that people like it. The thing that I find lovely about it is that, first of all, the world that it is in I genuinely think is so imaginative and creative and wonderful and fun. I think that is really powerful, in terms of people wanting to watch the show. I’m not saying this is like Harry Potter, but I think it’s the reason that Harry Potter was very successful as well, was that world, and you wanted to spend time in there. So, no matter what iteration of this is, you sort of just want to go back and see more of it. I think this has that same feeling. I think it’s really, as I said earlier, there’s some darker humour in it, but generally speaking, I think it’s incredibly kind and heart-warming and happy comedy.
How do you see your character Craig?
Well, he is somebody who is sort of quite isolated. Because nobody else is really in his department, and he’s developed a certain way of doing things, he’s also very cautious. He’s somebody who, for fear of failing, will not try. He would rather take the path of, well I won’t even try that, because that’s going to go terribly, badly wrong. So, I’ll just stick to my safe prayers that I know that I can get done. Then when Eliza comes into the story, in the beginning, she kind of comes in with an attitude of wait, what the hell are you doing.
Please go on.
You have an opportunity to make a massive difference to people’s lives, and you’re just sort of doing these tiny trivial prayers. But then she finds out, in her zeal to try and make a massive difference in the world, that actually it’s very hard to do that without there being some sort of horrible butterfly effect that launches something terrible else halfway around the world. That’s one of the things in this story that I find, not funniest, because it’s not funny, but it also is. These guys are working in Heaven. So, when something goes wrong, it is truly catastrophic on Earth.
What else is involved?
But they have also been there for ten thousand years, and they’ve seen every variant of an earthquake or every variant of a volcano, or something going wrong. So there’s a certain de-sensitivity, or the doctors, with the sort of gallows humour of, well okay then. There goes another one. Moving on. Simon’s humour, hopefully, combines some very, very light fun stuff with some very, very dark. We are trying to save the world, so at a certain point, the ends justify the means, to a certain extent, for our characters in this series. We do some bad things to people who are getting in our way in order to try and save the world.
What can you tell me about the story?
It’s focused on one particular sort of, I guess just over two-week time period. But you certainly see everyone kind of run the gamut in that thing. Simon had a great analogy for the series actually. What he said was it’s kind of like a sports movie in that a lot of the drama from it comes from, not how is it going to end, but actually how are they going to assemble the team. So it starts off with just me, and I’m useless on my own, and Eliza, and she’s kind of too enthusiastic for her own good on her own.
Tell me more about this.
Then we meet and sort of balance each other out. And then it’s about us learning that we’re not enough, so we maybe have to go with some characters who we don’t won’t to, or we find intimidating, and try and bring them into the team. It’s sort of about the ups and downs of the relationships along the way. And also, my favourite description that Simon has is half the movie is like this crazy high-stakes almost action movie, it’s not an action movie, but it’s that sort of feel of incredibly fast tempo and high stakes craziness, all the time.
What else can you say?
Then the other half is just like this movie about these two kids trying to go on a date. And hopefully the flipping back and forth between these two and seeing these people on Earth completely unaware of the weight that their story is carrying, and the fact that there are literally angels watching them, depending on their every move. Hopefully, a lot of comedy will come from that as well.
Tell me about Craig?
I don’t think it’s addressed. Everyone is randomly assigned roles when they get into heaven, and it’s random weather you get into heaven, in our story, as well. There’s one moment when Eliza is trying to rally the troops, and she’s like come on guys, you know, we’re all in heaven. That means we’re the best humanity has to offer. And somebody else is like, no, no. That’s not how it works. It’s random” I think that’s definitely one of the things that Simon has enjoyed, is just like messing with what expectations of Heaven would be, and generally, I think, being pretty disillusioning to people. I suppose in a way that I’m not trying to give you no answer, but I think that’s probably more of a question for Simon.
It must be quite creative working with Simon. Is it also collaborative?
Simon anddefinitely had conversation about how I saw Craig, particularly in moments at the end of the series. It’s normally like I’d say, I think maybe Craig needs to have something there to sort of tie that together. Then Simon goes off and writes an amazing scene. So, it’s generally that’s the input I had, was just going, maybe something that. And then Simon did something amazing, and it was exactly what it needed. I got to be involved in the casting process as well, which was super weird, to be on the other side of that. It was cool, and it made me have so much respect for actors in a way that I maybe didn’t before, frankly. I obviously have respect for actors but, watching loads and loads and loads of tapes of people that had sent tapes in, for various roles. So, you were seeing the same scene again and again and again. And then suddenly you’ll see somebody and like, oh wow. You just said the exact same thing as everyone one else, and suddenly that was completely different and amazing. So it was cool being involved in that part of the process.
Did you and Simon take to one another?
Yes. I think Simon and I are quite similar people. I’m like a dumb version of Simon. But I do think, talking about the character, that we were often finding a lot of common ground, particularly around stuff, the most I ever feel like myself and comfortable is on set working, and I think that’s something that Craig has as well. When he meets Eliza, in the beginning, he’s thrilled to be meeting her at work, because that’s kind of the place where he knows, and he can show off and be his version of cool. And then outside, anywhere removed from that, in a slightly social situation or in a situation anywhere else around the sort of cavern, or the campus of Heaven Inc, he’s pretty useless. I think Simon and I have experienced versions of that same sort of feeling. So you know, conversations like that.
Anything else you can tell me about this?
Well, I think it’s very hard to do comedy that is just not in any way mean or cynical. There’s a huge amount of warmth for just humanity, and the awkwardness of being human. And I think there’s a huge amount of love in the series. I know that sounds like just a cheesy, corny thing to say, but sometimes you watch some comedies, and you’re like, ‘I feel like this is really funny.’ But often you’re like, I feel like writers kind of hate the characters. On the other hand, with this, there’s an incredible amount of even our depiction of God is kind of crazy. And Steve is sort of like a child in it. But even in that character and even in that depiction of him, there’s still a huge amount of love for that character, and hopefully that sort of comes across. Ultimately, what I’m saying is I think it will be a very happy show to watch, and so I think people want to watch it.
In his next Great British Adventure, Pete Woodward takes to the water for a kayak journey on the Channel
Discovering new places under my own steam has always been a passion of mine and when I am not out on my own adventures, I read those of others avidly. Over ten years ago, I read a book called Pedalling to Hawaii by Stevie Smith (Summersdale). Stevie and his ‘Expedition 360’ partner, Jason Lewis, set out to complete the first human-powered circumnavigation of the globe; cycling, rollerblading and walking across the landmasses, and traversing oceans in a pedal-powered boat built by their friend Chris Tipper. It is a fantastic book and gave me a new perspective on adventure. Years later, when Jason completed the circumnavigation, I devoured the series that he released, “The Expedition”. They remain among my favourites and I took great inspiration from their ambition, tenacity and from their willingness to tackle challenges that others had written off as dangerous or outright impossible.
You’ll imagine my excitement, then, when I saw an article by ocean-going pedal-boat builder, Chris Tipper about his new kayak company in Newhaven, Sussex, just down the road from where I live.
A couple of weeks later, I was stood in Chris’ workshop below the cliffs in Newhaven admiring the racks of traditionally made kayaks and Moksha, the Expedition 360 pedal boat. Tucked away below the cliffs of Newhaven, Chris’ workshop sits just yards from the beach and we were soon staggering across the car park carrying two sleek-looking boats before crunching towards the tideline over the pebble beach.
Like many South Coast beaches, the tideline is steep and as we seal-launched from the shingle we were straight into white water and breakers. Pulling hard, we fought our way offshore, me very conscious that I didn’t have a kayak skirt, and ended up with a few well-placed waves sloshing around in my lap. Out onto the sparkling blue water of the Channel, we shared a wry smile as we sponged out the cockpits and regained our composure.
With tide and wind in our favour we headed west, off the shingle beach and then below the steep white cliffs between Newhaven and Peacehaven. The cliffs are rugged, and are clearly undercut at the base where the power of the Channel is steadily eroding the shoreline inland. The impressive boats were responsive and rode the rolling waves well.
Chris’ boats are all wooden, avoiding the use of plastic, and are either glued or stitched using traditional Greenland methods. The traditional V-shaped hulls provide more directional stability and a trend to reintroduce this out-of-fashion design feature fits well with Chris’ wooden boats. The use of plywood provides a strong material that once sealed with epoxy resin, can challenge the performance of carbon fibre boats. Chris’ company, Selkie Kayaks, is developing a kit-form boat that can be easily assembled at home and will provide a high-performance boat within reach of the pocket of the amateur kayaker.
On one of the first warm days of the year, we paddled with the wind on our backs and the sun on our faces; walkers watching from the clifftops and gulls whizzing by, dipping their wingtips into the sloshing waters and sweeping between the wave crests. The early summer sun sparkled on the water and we made easy progress towards Rottingdean where children played in the surf and families were picnicking on the beach. We rounded the boulders of the breakwater, beached the boats and sat outside the seafront café in the sun, sipping coffee and feeling lucky to be out on the water on such a glorious day.
Refuelled and with our eyes trained on the tower of the i360, our planned finish, still a further five miles away, we swapped boats and launched from the beach. The gentle breeze on the water and the spray from the paddles was a welcome relief as we pulled our way west towards Brighton, the sounds of the shore drifting out to us as we headed towards the marina. The huge concrete harbour arms jut out into the sea and we headed further offshore to round the entrance, keeping a watchful eye for yachts. With the constriction of the tidal flow and silt deposits around the entrance, the water reared up and having approached the harbour chatting side by side, we were soon riding the roller coaster of steep following waves and snatching wary glances at each other across the rising sea.
With the boats surging forward, we rounded the harbour arm and slipped into calmer and quieter water with the famous sights of Brighton ahead of us. The afternoon heat throbbed and we slid across the smooth water towards the famous Palace Pier, waving to children as we cruised beneath it. Space was at a premium on a packed Brighton beach and we drifted to the foot of the i360 before beaching the boats and trying our best to look inconspicuous as we carried them across the road to Chris’ flat. A unique perspective on our stunning coastline and a fantastic human-powered adventure on the sea.
In the next in the series of Great British Adventures, Pete Woodward heads to the English Lake District for a new style of amphibious race.
Adventure sports have exploded over the last decade with people looking for bigger and more exciting challenges to test themselves against. One of the most exciting new formats is Swimrun, a concept born in Sweden where the official brand is called ÖtillÖ. A whole race format has evolved from a late-night in a bar on the Swedish archipelago. Two teams of two made a bet and raced each other across the vast collection of islands from one end to the another, running further than a marathon distance over the islands and swimming between them in a continuous race. More than 15 years later, the concept has followed IKEA and meatballs to become a great Swedish export and this original route hosts a World Championship with qualifying events around Europe. There are now several races established in the UK, with an official ÖtillÖ brand race on the Isles of Scilly and other major races in the Lake District and Scotland.
My brother, Andy, and I grew up swimming and running from an early age, and tackling one of these races has been on our list for some time. With Andy’s first child due to arrive early in the year, we were finally prompted to schedule a trip before racing took a lower priority than changing nappies and midnight feeds. We submitted a late entry to the Coniston race in the autumn and started to think about training. The race format is for teams of two to race together and continuously, with no triathlon-style transition areas. This means swimming in trainers and running in a wetsuit, which takes some getting used to. I was reasonably confident that I could hold my own on the running sections but, with Andy having raced at the European Triathlon Championships in Glasgow earlier in the summer, I was equally certain that I needed to work on my somewhat rusty swimming skills to avoid being left in his wake. A few weeks of charging up and down the South Downs in my wetsuit and bobbing around the Channel in my trainers eschewed. After a long drive north, we were as ready as we were going to be.
Breca are the UK leader in Swimrun and offer events in iconic British locations as well as New Zealand for those looking for inspiration further afield. We chose the last race of the season in Coniston and with the autumn colours providing a golden backdrop, water temperature was the topic on everyone’s lips. The race instructions recommended a wetsuit suitable for 10 degrees Celsius. Andy and I had both been swimming in the sea without a wetsuit to prepare as much as we could. The English Lakes are notoriously chilly, though, and to steel ourselves we attempted to add a little to our fat reserves with a pre-race pasty in Grasmere.
After a well-organised race briefing, we boarded the bus to the start and as the beautiful scenery scrolled by, our heads drooped in the warm, rubbery fug of nervous chatter and Neoprene.
The race totals 18km of running and 3km of swimming, broken into short sections with a total of ten transitions. A tough uphill start soon thinned the field, and as we pushed through the brown ferns under clear blue skies, glimpses of the dark water of Windermere flashed through the wooded slopes of the fell. I pushed hard through the woods, with Andy tucked in behind, as we settled into the rhythm of the race. Out of the woodlands at full speed, along a short grass bank towards a flag, goggles down: splash! In an instant, we were launching out into the dark, cold waters, between yachts and heading for a gap in the islands ahead. Our unanswered question about water temperature was answered immediately with brain freeze. We both surged forwards trying to generate some heat as the icy water crept into our wetsuits. Andy is by far the stronger swimmer, and as he smoothly glided forwards I pulled hard to keep his feet visible. A stiff breeze meant the water was surprisingly choppy and short waves slapped us on the head as we threaded the gap between two small islands and adjusted our course for a flag on the distant shoreline.
Staggering up the beach with goggles on our heads, we shared a wry smile before splashing through the shallows and pushing into the next run. The team format is a great way to share the race and the shock to the system that was Windermere gave us a moment to chuckle about later. Sloshing water from wetsuits and with bandy legs adjusting to once again being upright, we staggered past a growing crowd of walkers curious about the runners emerging from the lake. With a long flat section of woodland track, we pushed on to make up as much time as we could. An inspired race route clips bays on the edge of the lake with short swims and stunning shoreline runs before heading over the fells again towards Grasmere.
Working hard, we were relieved to reach the checkpoint where a selection of treats awaited us. Based in some of the most beautiful areas of the country, it is fantastic that Breca are heavily focused on minimising the impact of races on the environment. Racers carry their own cups to be refilled to avoid wastage. Having two young boys, I had supplied the team with two cardboard Tractor Ted party cups and after fishing out the soggy remains stuffed into our speedos we gulped down some squash before attempting to master the art of eating a pork pie on the run.
A long descent took us to Rydal Water, with a spectacular swim at the foot of Red Screes and Fairfield fell, and a winding run through the golden woods to the banks of the River Rothay. The last swim beckoned with a crossing of Grasmere lake from the woods towards the landing stages. My arms were fading and in the cold water, my hands were becoming claw-like. Struggling to keep my fingers together, I resorted to swimming front crawl with my fingers bunched into fists, and desperately tried to stay in Andy’s wake to gain a little tow from his efforts. The field was bunching up and, over one of the longer swims, the competition was strung out ahead and behind us, all furiously churning through the still waters towards the huge red tree on the opposite bank. Staggering onto the pebble beach, the route took in one last steep climb before sweeping into Grasmere village on quiet country roads to the party atmosphere at the Tweedies hotel.
We crossed the line together with broad smiles, happy memories and very cold hands. Heading for the large, heated luggage tent, we were already refining our plans for our next amphibious outing.
Picture the scene; two days of fast-paced action as some of the world’s top polo players battle it out against a backdrop of some of the finest coastline in Britain. Then when the sun starts to slide into the horizon, the gathered thousands party into the summer night to some of the finest DJs on the music scene.
Running for twelve years and still going strong, there is no stopping the enthusiasm of those who flock to the beautiful beaches of Sandbanks, Dorset. Held on the second weekend in July to join in with what has become known as “the Sandbanks weekend” in the sporting and social calendar of the south coast of England.
Curiosity brought people to watch high-quality beach polo at Sandbanks for the first few years but since then the parties, hospitality, fashion shows, international volleyball, and beach rugby and, for the last three years, the SandfestUK music festival have kept the audience guessing and wanting more.
Johnny Wheeler, the man behind Sandpolo explains. “We came up with the idea 13 years ago. Polo was confined, restricted really, by the field polo clubs, with little value to the spectator aspect of the sport.” In its conventional form of field polo, the spectators are distanced from the action, the ball is hard to see, and for the casual or first-time spectator, it can seem confusing. So, Sandpolo was born, a spectacular, high-speed sport where the spectators are right on top of the action, where they can see up close the skill of the players and their ponies and the contact made between them. The arena is smaller and the extra-large orange ball is easier to see as it flies around at high velocity. It’s no wonder that it has been compared to the high speed excitement of ice hockey. And the beautiful Sandbanks peninsula doesn’t hurt. As Johnny says, “Where better than a blue flagged beach?” And the players that are attracted? Most of the top park polo players attend, although the sport is different, they attract all the arena polo specialists and most of the top players are attracted to the Sandbanks event. They haven’t quite yet managed to attract a 10-goal handicap high goal polo player, but Chris Hyde, the best in the world, 10-goal arena player has played in past years. The event has four teams confirmed, but the players will be named a lot closer to the event. As Johnny explains, “players get injured and may be involved in high goal competitions, which affects their availability, and you might not know until a week before the event.” Even so, the event is incredibly popular with players and Sandpolo never fails to attract top players.
The same can be said of the crowds. There are more spectators at Sandpolo than at any of the high goal competitions, places that are the bastions of polo; Cowdray Park, the Guards Polo Club, and Hurlingham, and that in turn is a huge factor to the quality players that attend. “Players like to play in front of a large crowd” as Johnny says.
A firm playing surface achieved by producing a heavily watered beach arena is surrounded by elaborate marquees, staging, and grandstands above the high-water mark. This is the stage for the British Beach Polo Championships, otherwise known as Sandpolo which has become the “must go to” two-day event. With a ticketed capacity of 5,000 on-site, the polo can also be enjoyed by spectators along the beach from a raised sand platform and gives polo exposure to a wide variety of people and business platforms who may not have experienced it before.
The polo is played under the authority of governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association, and is made up of four competitive medium goal teams of three players. Each team plays on both days with a further exhibition game on the Saturday. A charity race is also held between the two fastest ponies on each day. International teams are welcome and bring an interesting dimension, and over the years the event has welcomed Australian, South African, Argentinian, Irish and Welsh teams among others.
Generous corporate sponsorship from established brands such as Sunseeker, Barclays Wealth, Audi and Oakley has ensured the quality of the event remains high and guests are treated to the best level of service. And when the chukkas stop the musical talents of Idris Elba, Tinie Tempah and Trevor Nelson ensure the beach parties stay energised until the early hours of the morning. This year the outstanding Arts Club house band will perform on the Friday evening with Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw hosting the polo closing party on the Saturday.
After the sport has finished on the Saturday, Sandfest begins. It attracts a unique audience of music and beach lovers on the Sunday from midday to 10 p.m. This year’s line-up includes Chase and Status, Example, Yxng Bane and Hannah Wants. Sun-soaked ‘Sandfesters’ will feast on the best DJs and live performances and indulge in the exquisite beach food and bustling outside bars.
With continued support from the local authorities, the Sandbanks Festival will carry on adjusting to the ever-changing social dynamic while staying true to its mission of bringing a broad range of people together to enjoy being entertained on the spectacular Sandbanks beach. Why not come along for this year’s weekender across 12-14 July?
My hands are freezing. My trousers are soaked. The pelting rain sounds like popping corn under the hood of my raincoat. Droplets run along my eyebrows and drip from my nose but shaking them off is futile. I glance at DJ, and we both break a smile. Sunshine is overrated anyway.
When the alarm rang early, I had peeked through the curtain to find a misty morning with rabbits grazing on the lawn. But the downpour had begun the same time the rabbits had scattered – the moment we left the front door. Now we plod along the causeway that winds beside the dunes, stepping aside for passing cars.
“Sleep well?” DJ asks. I wipe the rain from my face and think before I answer. DJ and I first met while working on a radio project tackling child poverty. We had visited developing countries together, discovered some shared interests, and enjoyed long conversations about life and God. DJ had moved his family to Aberdeen from Australia soon after Merryn and I came to Oxford, allowing some shared holidays to follow. In him I’d found a wise, fun and empathetic friend. But…
“I forgot that you snore,” I say as kindly as I can. I hadn’t slept all night. Not a wink. It isn’t the best way to start a long hike. DJ quickly apologises, and we agree our cost-saving plan to bunk in the same room will need to be revised. I don’t tell him that Merryn says I snore too.
We round a bend and reach the tip of the island. The dunes fall away, exposing the full force of the wind. It wraps our hoods around our heads, flattens our jackets across our chests, and turns those raindrops into liquid needles. With heads down and faces stinging, we head for the mainland, our adrenaline pumping. We march along the causeway for 40 minutes, the asphalt awash in sand from the receding tide, then head south-west on the mainland. The terrain starts to rise as we move into the countryside, the rain easing now but the path springy. We lean forward as we climb, our boots sinking under the load of our packs.
“Now our preparation is tested!” DJ says. We’d done practice walks for months to prepare for the pilgrimage, DJ roaming the glens near his home in rural Scotland, and me trekking around Oxford. I had walked to St Margaret’s church in Binsey with its ancient healing well, and to St Michael’s in Cumnor to enjoy its quiet nave, up to Boars Hill where the bluebells flower, and across town to find CS Lewis’ grave. Hopefully these miles have readied our limbs for the coming days. We’ll find out soon enough. Even if they haven’t, I think those preparatory walks have accomplished much already. In heading out to the ancient wells and bluebell woods, I had left the confines of my fussing mind for unexplored roads and new vistas. Each walk had coaxed me out of myself and into its own small adventure. A left turn. A right. Around the corner, straight on. Walk on, Sheridan. With movement comes discovery.
We zigzag up the hill, walking the seams of patchwork fields, squelching in the soggy ground and picking blackberries from the brambles. The sun comes out; our jackets come off. Enjoyment masks my tiredness. “Maybe Cuthbert walked this path,” I say. The idea fills me with wonder. Cuthbert was a solitary soul. He would sneak out at night to pray alone in the fields (or the sea, if one legend can be believed). When Hobthrush got too noisy, he built a shack on a remote island further down the coast. There he communed with God, fought the devil, and counselled any who braved the seas to reach him. When he was later recalled to Lindisfarne to become its bishop, he left that beloved shack in tears. So, it’s surprising to find that this introverted monk was also a man of adventure. He journeyed into the hills where warring tribes fought. He went to impoverished villages others avoided. And as he opened his Bible and preached in those places, he saw the lame walk and multitudes respond. Though happiest at home, Cuthbert would step out and follow God into the unknown.
“I think it’s this way,” I say, pointing up and to our left. We climb a stile over a fence and head towards a forest. We’re a few days into autumn – a season of falling petals, yellowing leaves and seeds bedding in for the spring, but also of grand migration in the natural world. Right now, arctic terns are leaving these regions for cooler climes down south, humpback whales are departing the Antarctic for warmer waters north, wildebeest are crossing the Serengeti plains for Kenya’s greener pastures, and monarch butterflies are flapping their pretty wings across North America to Mexico. Wing to wing and head to tail they go, crossing earth and sea on their own pilgrimages.
We reach the top of the hill, enter a large open field, and take a right at the wooden sign pointing to our first stop.
A lesson from my 20s comes to mind as we walk. Seeking direction for my life, I had prayed for guidance, but a whole two years later I still had no idea what to do. Then some words from the Gospels had struck me with unusual effect. Keep asking, they said. Keep seeking and knocking. Because those who ask, receive; those who seek, find; and doors open for those who knock (see Matthew 7:7-8). And that’s when the hole in my strategy had been shown. I had prayed without seeking and asked without knocking, waiting for an epiphany instead of tapping on some doors. Once I put action behind my prayer by writing letters and making calls, my path into radio had become clear.
I take another step on that spongy track and feel this lesson reawakened in my bones. There is no discovery without movement, no direction without action.
Ask, seek, knock. Move.
Over the past five years, Chris Pratt has gone from comedy sidekick to Hollywood heavyweight. His physique and career may have changed dramatically, but his steadfast faith remains the same – and the star is determined to be a role model as well as a leading man.
In all of modern Hollywood you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rags-to-riches story than Chris Pratt’s journey to cinematic super-stardom. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine the Minnesota native as anything other than a man completely suited to play the plethora of heroic on-screen alter egos he has portrayed in recent franchises – from Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Quill to Jurassic World’s Owen Grady and even The Lego Movie’s Emmet Brickowski.
But at the origin of his career Pratt was living up to the stereotypes of the struggling actor, bussing tables at a Bubba Gump Shrimp in Maui, Hawaii, and sleeping in a tent on a nearby beach. It’s a memory that stays with him even now, with a multi-billion dollar haul at the global box office to his name.
“A part of me thinks that living in a tent was way better than this,” the 39-year-old laughs. “It was a really great time in my life; maybe I’m looking at it through rose- tinted lenses.
“All things lead up to the next, lead up to this moment and I just treat it all like another moments. You don’t want to let your guard down, I’m not going anywhere, I plan to stretch this out. I plan on being here for a long time, and you don’t want to ever feel like… you never want to be in a position where you’re like… you feel like you peaked. I never want to feel that, and it happens so easily.”
Pratt’s move from tent to tent-pole franchise relied heavily on that kind of work ethic, but there was another underlying factor to this success that has endured from the star’s less glamorous days: faith.
“I was sitting outside a grocery store – this is in Maui – I think we’d convinced someone to go in and buy us beer,” he nods. “And a guy named Henry came up and recognised something in me that needed to be saved. He asked what I was doing that night, and I was honest. I said, ‘My friend’s inside buying me alcohol.’ ‘You going to go party?’ he asked. ‘Yeah.’ ‘Drink and do drugs? Meet girls, fornication?’ I was like, ‘I hope so.’
“I was charmed by this guy, don’t know why. He was an Asian dude, maybe Hawaiian, in his 40s. It should’ve made me nervous but didn’t. I said, ‘Why are you asking?’ He said, ‘Jesus told me to talk to you…’ At that moment I was like, I think I have to go with this guy. He took me to church and over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring that I was going to change my life.”
Pratt’s teenage conversion first led him to lend his help to missionary organisation Jews for Jesus, and it is clear now that that same spirit still resides in him. Some high-profile figures have been known to be less open about their beliefs with the world’s spotlight on them, but this star is ensuring that his status as a household name only emphasises his role as a vocal advocate for faith and Christian principles.
Take last April’s MTV awards ceremony, for example, when Pratt made a splash on social media for opening his award-acceptance speech with the words: “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that; I do.” He went on to give the audience of young fans words of advice: “If you’re strong, be a protector. If you’re smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons, do not wield them against the weak. That makes you a bully. Be bigger than that.”
“I worry that sometimes I might behave in a way that people might think I’m rude or inconsiderate,” he explains. “It’s important to me to be a good man and to connect with people in a good way... As a young actor I saw how fame changed people and how money and power can turn good people into bad people.
“I’m not saying that that could never happen to me, but I can honestly say that I’ve never let fame affect me and turn me into someone different from who I am. I try to make sure that every day I am thankful for the kind of life that I have and that I never take anything for granted. I will always remember where I came from and how it’s more important to me to be a good person than almost anything else.”
There’s a distinct feeling that Pratt credits his desire to be a “good person” as intrinsic to his acting success: “If you’re known for having a bad attitude,” he says, “you will not work any more, and you see it happening all the time.” But in keeping with his amenable nature, there’s only so far Pratt’s career defines him. Once the camera stop rolling, there’s no hint that his life is led in any less of a positive way.
“I owe almost everything to my parents who raised me properly and gave me discipline and a strong sense of respect for others,” he agrees. “I think when you grow up with a solid foundation in life, that will carry you forward and help you through the bad times and also make you appreciate the good times even more.”
It may be easy for the average fan to think Pratt’s allusion to appreciating the good times has to be linked to his last half-decade as the film industry’s go-to leading man. But off-screen, the star has had to contend with obstacles in recent times, not least the premature birth of his son Jack in 2012 with former wife Anna Faris – an event which Pratt says came to strengthen his existing relationship with God.
“We were scared for a long time,” he says. “We prayed a lot. But that time in my life, it restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it. The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him, but to us he was so beautiful and perfect.
“Being a father makes you more responsible. I take that role very seriously and I am very dedicated to seeing to it that my son grows up happily and in a loving and caring environment. My life has changed away from self-centred, spontaneous living because of that. And it happened sort of at the same time. Our life took a big change, and I don’t know how much of it is based on the success of the past few years and how much is that my priorities have shifted onto caring for another human being more than myself.”
Jack’s problematic birth may have been a moment in which Pratt was afforded the rare sympathies of the world’s media, but recently he has found himself in the lenses of the paparazzi once more after his unexpected divorce to Faris was announced last year. Since that time, however, Pratt has become engaged to Katherine Schwarzenegger – Arnie’s daughter, no less – and has espoused his wish to enjoy a religious ceremony with his new fiancée.
“I would like people to sense that I’m a good man and I’m trying to bring good things into the world and help people lead better and more rewarding lives,” he says. “I hope that my faith can also inspire people or at least whatever they see in my soul, they can take some hope from that and see how their own lives can change.”
Intriguingly, Pratt will soon find himself, along with many of his co-stars and contemporaries, at a career crossroads as well. This year marks the release of Avengers: Endgame, the final piece of the decade-spanning box office-busting superhero ensemble smash. Pratt’s Peter Quill is set to feature once again, of course, but Endgame represents a possible new dawn for the star after four outings as the 1980s music-loving intergalactic arbiter.
“I want to enjoy every moment of this time in my life because this is a business where success can be very fragile and it can all go away very quickly,” he explains. “I feel blessed every day. I’m getting the kinds of opportunities that I never could have expected earlier in my career. Getting to be part of film franchises is a pretty rarefied space to be in and that’s why I’ve been working so hard the last few years, but I never want to get upset over small things that are unimportant.”
There’s little to suggest Pratt’s career will nosedive as a result of his hanging up his spandex, but even so, the franchise finale marks a new dawn that the actor is relishing. With Quill assumedly retired (for now), Pratt can fall back on his indefatigable belief to chart the course for the next stages of his profession on-screen.
“I always had a crazy blind faith in myself,” he says. “I knew that I would one day be playing big parts and have a great career. I didn’t know how I was going to do it and I didn’t even have much of a career plan until much later. But there was always something inside me that gave me hope and confidence that I was going to achieve something greater in life than anyone would ever have expected me to achieve.
“I always had this inner feeling that one day I was going to get to be able to play lead roles and be part of big films. I never gave up on myself and I always had faith that one way or another I was going to succeed at a higher level even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.”
That being said, Pratt is under no illusions when it comes to surveying his stratospheric rise – or the path he now happily finds himself on.
“It’s almost unbelievable how my life has changed,” he chuckles. “I’ve gone from being a former door-to-door salesman and doing summer theatre, to being a Hollywood movie star. It’s way, way beyond anything I ever dreamed [of] but here I am, and I swear that I’m never going to complain about anything for the rest of my life.
“As a kid, I had dreamed of doing something heroic or important with my life, but that could have been working as a police officer – I would have been happy doing that. But I want to be the same kind of person and be a good husband and father whether I’m having a lot of success or when things aren’t going as well as you would like. That’s the kind of perspective I try to have on everything.”
Even a man as committed to representing a positive attitude for his fans has his limits, however. The time spent sleeping in tents may well have matured with a certain sense of comforting nostalgia, but Pratt’s dedication to self-betterment can truly only be measured in the tangible steps he has taken over his life and career thus far.
“As an actor, you have to balance your dreams with reality all too often and for a long time,” he nods. “My main goal was never to have to work as a waiter again – that was one job I really hated.”