"I get paid a ton of money to be a sex object," says Chris Pratt, star of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy star Chris Pratt says it helps his career, but adds that objectified women are offered fewer great roles to prove they are more than just a body

SPH Brightcove Video
The unconventional group of Guardians of the Galaxy who became a family in the first film are back for the sequel with many of the characters now dealing with their blood families. VIDEO: REUTERS

Guardians Of The Galaxy, the 2014 superhero smash hit, was the film that confirmed Chris Pratt's transformation from lovable goofball to A-list sex symbol.

And the actor wants you to know he is perfectly happy being a sex object.

"It hasn't hurt my career," the 37-year-old tells The Straits Times and other reporters in Los Angeles.

He was speaking at a press event for the movie's sequel, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

It reunites the ragtag band of alien heroes - Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) - led by Peter Quill (Pratt) as they are called on to save the galaxy once again.

Now one of Hollywood's most sought-after leading men, with credits such as The Lego Movie (2014), Jurassic World (2015) and Passengers (2016), Pratt observes that actors are by definition "objects".

"We're props - they paint us with make-up and take a camera and point it at us. And half the time, what ruins it is us talking."

Yet he is careful to clarify that it is a different matter for women, who, on-screen, are more frequently reduced to being sex objects and little else.

"So I can say that objectification is good for me because when I turned my body into an object that people liked, I got paid a lot of money.

"And now my grandkids are going to go to a great college because of that. But you have to be a little sensitive about that because there are a lot more great roles, probably, written for men than women.

"For millennia, women have been objectified in a way that there's a pretty horrifying past around. So it is a little different and you have to deal with them separately because there's a history of objectification that is a sensitive issue," says the star, who is married to actress Anna Faris, 40, with whom he has a four-year-old son, Jack.

Director James Gunn, 46, notes that when women are objectified on-screen, they are often "reduced to being only that", whereas "when Chris Pratt looks beautiful onscreen, people take that and they still go, 'Well, what's that guy like? What's his personality?'

"Chris Pratt is great because he's funny and sexy and he's got this vulnerable side. And there are all these other attributes about him."

Becoming a sex object certainly has not hurt Pratt's career.

After his breakout role as a dimwitted, slovenly government employee in comedy television series Parks And Recreation (2009-2015), he overhauled his body to land supporting parts in two movies, playing a baseball player in Moneyball (2011) and a Navy Seal in Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

He won scores of new fans after sharing photos of his newly buff physique on social media. And, despite never having landed a lead movie role, he was announced as the lead in Marvel's new superhero movie franchise, Guardians Of The Galaxy.

At last week's press conference for the sequel, the actor - who has spoken openly about being deemed "too fat" for certain roles and eventually becoming depressed and having a lower sex drive because of his weight gain - is teased about taking off his shirt for a scene in the new film.

Gunn is asked a tongue-in-cheek question about whether it was a calculated move to have Pratt bare his chest for a little longer than he did in the first instalment.

Gunn, who wrote and directed both films, jokes that having the star be semi-clad was a stipulation from Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige.

"Kevin Feige had a rule - he gave me full creative freedom, except 'there must be Chris Pratt shirtless in a scene'. A beefcake clause."

But the director reveals the actor could not suppress his funny bone, deciding to undercut the scene's sexual overtones by picking up the T-shirt he is supposed to wear and sniffing it to check if it is clean.

Pratt "had the great idea of sniffing the armpit", says Gunn.

"We kind of take the Marvel shirtless sexy scene and, right when you think he's being very sexy, he's smelling the armpits of an old shirt to see if it's okay to wear."

Comedy aside, both men say that the movie's underlying theme is about yearning for family and close friends and overcoming something many struggle with - the feeling that they do not belong.

Pratt says: "This is very much a family movie and it's really universal. Because I don't think there's anyone who hasn't felt that at some point in their life."

Gunn, who is dating actress Jennifer Holland, 29, says this was what inspired his script.

"For me, it's a very personal film: I have always felt like I didn't belong," says the film-maker, who wrote the Scooby Doo movies (2002 and 2004).

"And fortunately, I have some people around me who helped me feel like I'm not completely alone in the world and, just as importantly, grew up with some movies - by everybody from David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg - where an outcast didn't feel so alone.

"And I hope that that's what Guardians Of The Galaxy does for people - it's a series about outcasts for outcasts. There are people all over the world that it touches and that's the most rewarding thing by far about making it."

•Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in Singapore tomorrow.

Veteran action heroes on becoming superheroes

Strong women in the thick of action

Struggling over a life of pretence

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline "I get paid a ton of money to be a sex object," says Chris Pratt, star of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. Subscribe