LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - In a speech both touching and funny at Friday's March of Dimes Celebration of Babies, Chris Pratt shared about his son Jack's premature birth, born nine weeks early at just 3 pounds, 12 ounces. "That's a decent-sized bass," he said to laughs from the star-studded crowd at the Beverly Wilshire. "Very small for a human."
"I've done all kinds of cool things as an actor -- I've jumped out of helicopters and done some daring stunts and played baseball in a professional stadium, but none of it means anything compared to being somebody's daddy," Pratt said. While Jack was in the NICU, Pratt said he cherished moments where he'd cradle his son skin-to-skin. "I made promises in that moment about what kind of dad I wanted to be and I just prayed that he'd live long enough that I could keep them."
Pratt and his wife Anna Faris were told that Jack may have special needs and would need cosmetic surgery to correct his eyes ("Welcome to the club, kid," Pratt joked), but after about a month in the NICU, they took their son home. "Our Jack went from a small, helpless little squirt to a strong, smart, happy, funny, beautiful boy who loves monster trucks and 'Daniel Tiger,' and, believe it or not, loves vegetables. Broccoli and cherry tomatoes are his favorite foods."
"None of what we went through would be as easy even 10 years ago," he said. In the NICU, life or death hangs in the balance -- "a balance that's tipping towards life by cutting-edge medicines, much of which is a direct result of this wonderful organization, the March of Dimes."
Honored at the luncheon were Elizabeth Banks and Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler. "We honor people for their most important job, and that's being a mom," said luncheon co-chair and Universal Pictures president Jimmy Horowitz. Steve Carell introduced Banks, whom he met when she auditioned for "The 40 Year Old Virgin."
"She's always the right person for the part. She plays characters that are elegant and goofy, chillingly remote or completely accessible, gorgeous or just really, really beautiful. On top of that, she's funny."
Universal will release Banks' feature directorial debut "Pitch Perfect 2" in May. "She had a lot of kids to work with, she did an amazing job being both their director and their mother at the same time," Horowitz told Variety.
Banks spoke about the March of Dimes' advocacy work, including lobbying to remove pregnancy as a pre-existing condition that made it possible for many women to be denied health insurance.
Gabler, who got a standing ovation as she walked onstage, said she was in awe of the doctors, nurses and caregivers at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. "I was momentarily stunned by the thought that what I do is so trivial in comparison to the life-giving and life-promoting angels who sacrifice so much to do their job in the face of sometimes overwhelming adversity. But then I realized that what I do help is give people, families and caregivers alike, an hour or two of respite, of entertainment and escape. I, and many of us in this room, made the choice to create unique worlds of fantasy and fascination. It makes me want to tell better stories, and make better films and reach for the stars in every way that I can."
The luncheon raised more than $1 million. Also honored were doctors James Byrne and Herman L. Hedriana. In the crowd: Eddie Redmayne, Selena Gomez, Emily Bluntand John Krasinski, "Fifty Shades of Grey" director Sam Taylor-Johnson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ron Howard, Chris Weitz and emcee Jason Bateman. Also in attendance were chairs Joi Horowitz, Wyck Godfrey and Mary Kerr; Jim Gianopulos, Stacey Snider, Steve Gilula, Nancy Utley, Donna Langley, Jeff Shell, Rob Friedman,Erik Feig, Nina Jacobson, Eric Fellner, Jason Blum, Alex Kurtzman, Tom Rothman, Frank Marshall, Joe Drake and Scott Stuber.