Playing animated brothers in Pixar’s all-new feature Onward wasn’t a stretch for Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.
“Let’s talk about the chemistry here!“ hollers Chris Pratt when STACK meets him in Beverly Hills, talking about his relationship with animated screen bro Tom Holland in Pixar’s magical movie, Onward. “You throw together two chemicals and there’s a heat; an explosion sometimes,” he laughs.
“Chris and I were already very close before we made this, so it was almost like we were just playing ourselves,” echoes Holland.
The pair voice teenaged elf siblings Ian (Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Pratt), who embark on an extraordinary quest aboard Barley’s epic van, Guinevere, and get an unexpected opportunity to spend one more day with their late dad.
Like any good quest, their journey is filled with magic spells, cryptic maps, impossible obstacles and unimaginable discoveries. But when the boys’ fearless mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), realises her sons are missing, she teams up with a part-lion, part-bat, part-scorpion, former warrior – aka The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) – and heads off to find them.
Inspired by director Dan Scanlon’s personal story about losing his dad as a young boy, the two actors had the bro theme nailed, already close through their respective roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Pratt as Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord/Peter Quill and Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
Both actors appreciated how Onward flips the classic sibling rivalry themes, instead modelling love and friendship.
“I liked that Barley is never jealous that he didn’t have his brother’s magic gift, which was very similar to my relationship with my own brother,“ says Pratt. “So when I saw that in the movie, it made me appreciate my own brother so much because he’s only ever been super encouraging.
“This brotherhood is so special and also the reason why grown men have come up to me saying, ‘Wow, I was really moved and cried’. I think the reason why is because it celebrates a love between brothers that oftentimes is not seen in movies; instead you see the older brother who doesn’t let his kid brother hang out with him; who won’t take his little brother to school; who says, ‘Get out of here, you twerp’.”
For Pratt, growing up in awe of his big brother was the total opposite to stereotyped sibling animosity: “I could take days listing what I’ve learned from my big brother but it’s hard for me to think of anything I might have taught him. I’m going to call him immediately and make him tell me,” he laughs.
“I would literally wear his clothes the day after he wore them. I’d pick them up off his floor and put them on because he had nice-smelling cologne and style and had learned how to match his clothes. I still don’t know how to do that stuff. When I became a freshman at his school when he was a junior, my brother finally said, ‘Hey man, I think you have to stop wearing my clothes because my friends have noticed’.”
For Holland, featuring in a Pixar movie was a dream come true.
“For every young actor, you set out goals. I set out mine when I was a kid, and they’re still the same today – and one of them was being in a Pixar movie,” he says, recalling how the Pixar team flew out to London to pitch Onward. “I was so honoured. This is the first time anyone has come to me. And it was Pixar! You don’t say no to Pixar.”
Ask Holland whom he would like to bring back from the dead for one day – echoing the themes of Onward – and he says, “I would bring back my great grandfather. My granddad Bob never really met his own dad because he passed away when he was 18 months old, so then my granddad would have the opportunity to meet his dad.“
As for Pratt, he says, “I would bring back my dad, who passed away just before Guardians of the Galaxy came out. I would show him Guardians and, if he didn’t like it, I would bring back a known criminal and beat him up on Instagram Live!”
Pratt hopes that Onward inspires viewers to take their own road trip. “The really good thing I discovered when I was learning to drive was that the chunk of cement closest to your house connects to every major monument in this country through a system of roads… with an automobile and enough gas money, you can see Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Montana, the White House, Yellowstone or the Florida Keys.
“This is a great beautiful country which was designed to be driven across. Don’t sleep on getting behind the wheel and discovering this great country. We used to road trip everywhere. America is a big wide frontier, and you can literally get everywhere if you have enough gas money.”
For Holland, the film holds another metaphor. “The only way to go onward is to look forward and you can’t go forward if you’re looking at your phone,” he says, referring to how he had temporarily deleted his Instagram account at the time of Onward’s US theatrical release, much to Disney’s chagrin. “So I think the film is a metaphor for, ‘Look out! The world is an amazing place. Experience it through your own eyes, not through someone else’s Instagram account’.”