If you bump into Chris Pratt, do not call him “Chris.”
The actor prefers “CP,” which might trigger “Who’s on First?” hijinks if he’s interviewed by The Canadian Press. Or just use his surname.
As not-Chris explained to SiriusXM: “No one calls me Chris … I went golfing with my friend, Chad, my pastor, the other day and he was like, ‘No one calls you Chris? I’m gonna call you Chris. All right, Chris. You’re up.’ And I was like, ‘No, it feels weird. It’s not my name.’”
But that is his name. I’ve watched his films. I enjoy his work, whether it’s the sardonic Star-Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy” or dino-whisperer Owen Grady in “Jurassic World.” He’s a larcenous scene-stealer.
But in all his films, he’s credited as “Chris Pratt,” the short form of “Christopher,” his legal first name. A Michael can be a Mike, a Samantha a Sam. By contrast, I’ve always been thrown by the vast array of diminutive forms for “Margaret,” including “Daisy,” “Rita,” “Gretchen” and “Peggy.”
How do you reverse-engineer any of those names from Margaret?
It’s not as if people are calling Chris Pratt “Jackie Chan.”
Is the decades-long showbiz tradition of stage names bringing an identity crisis to Hollywood? Anne Hathaway has lamented not going with “Annie.” A few days ago, Closer Weekly published a Q&A with Martin Sheen and asked if he had any regrets about changing his name many moons ago?
“That’s one of my regrets,” he said. “I never changed my name officially. It’s still Ramon Estévez on my birth certificate. It’s on my marriage licence, my passport, driver’s licence. Sometimes you get persuaded when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later.”
We forget how the stage names we know are at odds with the true identities of celebrities. Sigourney Weaver is Susan. Oprah is Orpah, a hell of a switcheroo for dyslexics. Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Johnson.
Natalie Portman? Neta-Lee Hershlag.
You’ll never hear anyone shout, “Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar!” at a Cardi B concert, even though that’s her real name. Ditto for Lady Gaga and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Even Meghan Markle is a Rachel.
I don’t get why Chris Pratt finds it odd to be called “Chris” when that’s the name he picked. But maybe there are too many Chrises in Hollywood. I’d have mixed feelings if newspaper columnists included a Vinay Hemsworth, Vinay Pine, Vinay Evans and Vinay Pratt.
So this is today’s hot take: birth names should be placeholders. Why should our parents be allowed to determine the enduring foundation of our identities? They should get the first shot for administrative purposes. And then we get a mulligan at the time of our choosing. One of my best childhood friends changed his name before the start of high school. His birth name had caused a lot of teenage angst. I won’t say what it was.
But suddenly he was Barry. One night, as we sat on a curb outside a Jamaican patty shop, he encouraged me to use “The Bear.”
I was jealous. The Bear ditched his ethnic moniker and was getting party invites from the cool kids. Meanwhile, I was developing a real phobia for my name. If calling to make a salon appointment, I’d just lie and say my name was Steve. It was easier than answering, “How do you spell that?”
“Ah, it’s V as in vacuum, I, N as in Nancy, A, Y.”
Y, as in, why did my parents do this to me? I just want a haircut.
We are born. We grow up. And along the way, we gradually morph into the adults we will become. Can you imagine if, at birth, your parents codified how you’d dress for the rest of your years? Or pre-selected your future profession? Or greenlit your hobbies? Or checked a box for your sexuality?
So why do they get to pick your name, your eternal calling card?
If Peter Gene Hernandez wants to be a Bruno Mars, so be it. If Adam Richard Wiles is more comfortable as a Calvin Harris, good on him. There is no logical short form that turns Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor into Lorde.
All I’m saying is stage names should be for everyone. We should all get to pick our names. And there should be no government fees in making any change. If you like what your parents came up with, great. If not, now Theodore is Eclipse1000.
I made my peace with “Vinay” after my mother told me my grandmother had been pushing for “Vindu.” I nearly had a panic attack.
No offence to any Vindus out there. I’m sure you are all awesome Vindus!
But in my heart and soul, I’m just not a Vindu. I’m kind of just a Gilbert.
That’s really what this Chris Pratt story is all about. In his heart and soul, he’s not a Chris. In Martin Sheen’s heart and soul, he remains a Ramon Estévez. The vagaries of celebrity branding get easier when you strategically toggle from Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini to Doja Cat.
There’s been so much fuss in recent years about pronouns.
Me, I think it’s time for all of us to pick our own names.
Chris Pratt, I strongly suggest you go with Steve.
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