Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After a long search, Marvel Studios has found its lead for its next big superhero franchise, the James Gunn-directed Guardians Of The Galaxy. I hear the role will go to Chris Pratt, the Moneyball star who bulked up and played one of the hero Navy SEALs in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. The role is Star-Lord, the Guardians leader who is the offspring of a human mother and an alien father. A puffier Pratt plays Andy Dwyer on the NBC series Parks And Recreation. He certainly has the charisma to hold the screen.

Marvel had made test deals with Zero Dark Thirty‘s Joel Edgerton, Boardwalk Empire‘s Jack Huston, Cloud Atlas‘ Jim Sturgess, Lee Pace (who has roles in both Lincoln and The Hobbit), and Eddie Redmayne from Les Miserables. More recently, Zachary Levi was identified as a candidate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was pursued, but he has other plans. An August 1, 2014 release date for the pic is planned.

Related: Marvel Testing Short List For ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Leader

Guardians Of The Galaxy first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1969 but didn’t get its own series until the 1990s. Star-Lord (real name Peter Quill) leads a group of alien superheros who team to protect the solar system from an evil alien race. The good guys are from the future, and another dimension. In the comics, the Guardians worked with The Avengers, so there should be opportunities to use Marvel’s big franchises to help launch the new one. That gives Disney a deep space companion to its plans to resuscitate Star Wars. Forgive the sacrilege, JJ Abrams, but I’m kind of more excited about this one than a Star Wars rehash.

Pratt is repped by CAA and Mosaic.

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