NEW YORK — Chris Pine wasn’t afraid to accept one of the most challenging jobs in film history: portraying a young James T. Kirk in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot. Yet despite visions of William Shatner and the qualms of some Trekkies, the Los Angeles native managed to put his stamp on the role, and a star was born.
Since then, the graduate of UC Berkeley has shown his chops in a wide variety of parts, from the action film “Unstoppable” to the romantic comedy “This Means War.” In “People Like Us,” opening Friday, he plays the bitter son of a legendary music producer, who discovers that his father has a love child (Elizabeth Banks) from a previous relationship. Lewis Beale talked with Pine by phone from Los Angeles.
You come from a tight-knit family — actor father Robert, psychotherapist mom Anne — the total opposite of the fractured group in “People Like Us.” How do you as an actor manage to relate to such a situation?
There’s a fair bit of imagination involved. Even if you don’t relate specifically to this story, to that unique experience, what you do share is the source of where you come from, a family. And even if they’re around or not, everyone has a certain drama in their family, there are secrets in their family, and one of those is when you view your parents as human beings, rather than super people. That’s the resonance there.
One of the nice things about the film is that it’s not about superheroes and isn’t filled with special effects, which seems all too common these days. Do you think reality-based stories are making a comeback?
I think it’s a good sign that people like good stories, and it doesn’t matter if they have explosions or not. There’s an appetite for something different than the usual fare, and it’s unfortunate the film companies don’t make pictures like that any anymore.
Your dad was one of the stars of the old TV series “CHiPs,” and has been a working character actor for decades. What kind of advice did he give you when you decided to pursue an acting career?
My father leads by example; I’m the son of a working actor, a blue-collar actor. There are good years and bad years, the business is a fickle one. He stuck with it through thick and thin; I’ve seen every good and bad thing the industry has to offer. my parents were blue-collar actors (Pine’s mother acted at one point). Some years we had good money, some years bad money. I had no rose-colored glasses regarding the business I was getting into.
You have an English degree from UC Berkeley and also studied the subject at the University of Leeds in England. What is it about the subject you like so much?
A. I love the act of reading, not writing papers about reading. I did not find pleasure in dissecting things and killing all the joy in them, like we did at Berkeley. I did enjoy the English program at Leeds, it was more creative and open-ended; I really enjoyed that.
What’s it like being part of the “Star Trek” universe? And did you really understand what you were getting into when you accepted the role of Kirk?
I don’t know if I had any sense of what I was stepping into, not being a fan when I got into the process. I watched that documentary “Trekkies” and thought, “Wow, I had no idea how the fans were so loyal and related to the world.” Because the fans loved the original actors so much, we were afraid we would not live up to their expectations. We all wanted to do well by it. But after it came out, people seemed to be pretty receptive to it. Although some people had a problem with my version of Kirk that was more rebellious than Shatner’s Kirk.
You’re signed to do the next Jack Ryan movie, following in the footsteps of Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin. In fact, Us Weekly once referred to you as “the new Harrison Ford.” What does that mean to you?
A. I was watching Ford in “Clear and Present Danger” the other night. I think what he does so well is he’s the perfect embodiment of the reluctant hero, and he does that well in the Jack Ryan series. There’s a part of him that doesn’t want to be in the limelight, but he’s got to be. There’s a gruff, real-man quality to him that’s very appealing.
About those striking blue eyes. You get a lot of comments about them.
It’s definitely flattering. I have to thank my father, I guess. I had no control over that one. I have heard it before. It’s always a nice thing to hear.