Chris Pine is Down to Earth in ‘People Like Us’

by / No Comments / 154 View / June 29, 2012


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Chris Pine rocketed to stardom in 2009 when he took over the iconic role of Captain James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the sci-fi classic “Star Trek” franchise.

With his intense blue eyes and considerable acting chops the second-generation actor (his father, Robert Pine, was a regular on the ‘70s police drama “CHiPs”), Pine proved a worthy successor to William Shatner, who portrayed the starship captain on the ‘60s TV series and in several films in the subsequent decades.

The career-boosting sci-fi film also introduced the young actor to the hot young screenwriting team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, co-writers of some of the biggest blockbusters of the past decade, including two of the “Transformers” movies, as well as “Mission Impossible III” and “Cowboys & Aliens.”

When Kurtzman decided to write and direct an intimate family drama based on his real life experience of meeting a previously unknown sister as an adult, he called upon Pine to portray the lead character. In “People Like Us,” Pine was more than willing to accept the challenge. He plays Sam, a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman, whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns his father has suddenly died. He flies from New York to California where he belatedly discovers his father had another family, and he must decide whether to carry out his father’s wishes to deliver $150,000 to his half-sister, a woman he never knew.

Pine, 31, recently spoke about tackling a film with no special effects, working with his lovely co-star Elizabeth Banks and what’s ahead for the next “Star Trek.”

Front Row Features: What personality trait did you like the most about your character?

Chris Pine: I like the part about Sam that I see all the time. Here is a guy who deflects with words, humor, smile, charm—he’s not emotionally present at all. All you have to do is go to a cocktail party and Sam is in the room. You can pretty much witness it staring at you all the time. Sam is a very human, screwed up guy who is trying his damndest to get through the week without dying. He is a fighter too. He’s not a survivor but he’s fighting for his life.

Front Row Features: When Sam reveals their family connection to Frankie (Banks), she explodes in anger. What was it like getting beat up by a woman?

Pine: I would say for the majority of the film, Sam was getting beat up, physically and emotionally. That’s not to say that some of it was rightly done. Sam’s biggest mistake is that he doesn’t tell Frankie the truth. That was a hard scene to do.

Front Row Features: How many takes?

Pine: Alex (Kurtzman) covered the living daylights out of that scene, so there were master shots for all sorts of coverage.  I think a lot of credit should go to Liz, because the revelation of the truth that she’s got to (pretend to) hear for the first time all day long. My job, as difficult as it was to tell the truth, but she has to listen and process that moment which is extremely difficult to do well.

Front Row Features: Was it tricky handling the emotional connection these two siblings have without crossing over into romance?

Pine: No. The job wasn’t hard for me because I knew the whole time. The falling in love, there is nothing physical about it. These people are falling in love emotionally. (Elizabeth’s character Frankie) is the first person that emotionally gets Sam and vice versa. It’s because they have that shared commonality and pain, they have the same perpetrator of the violent upbringing, which doesn’t have to be physical. That burgeoning relationship is built on the emotional, almost immediate, trust with one another and they have never felt that with anyone else. That has nothing to do with the physical.

Front Row Features: What was it like working with Alex as a director on set and developing your character with him?

Pine: The fact that the guy can experience something like Sam does in this film and write it over a period of seven years and for him to give it over to the actors and to not be precious about the material, and not trying to force feed us as to what it should feel like, is a great gift. He has sensitivity and empathy for what an actor does. You never felt affronted if you said, “This doesn’t work. Cut that.” I felt a general sense that it was an absolute team effort.

Front Row Features: Can you talk about the moment you knew you wanted to be an actor? Your father was an actor on “CHiPs,” so did that influence you growing up?

Pine: I never wanted to be an actor for a second in my life until I was 20. My father has been an actor for 50 years. He came out to L.A. in 1964. He was under contract when they still had the contract system at Universal when you got paid to be an actor even when you weren’t working, which if you can imagine is a stunningly awesome thing. (Laughs)  I saw it when things were really not good, so for me growing up I was a child of someone who had a business, which was sometimes really good and sometimes really bad. I wasn’t like Denzel Washington’s kid. I had no rose-colored glasses. I really found (acting) later because I enjoyed it and it seemed to be something I could do.

Front Row Features: Did he take you to the set as a kid?

Pine: Oh yeah, I went to “Quantum Leap.” He played Magnum P.I.’s father. He was on “Murder She Wrote.”

Front Row Features: Was being on the set like going to the playground?

Pine: Not at all. The most boring place to be on the planet is on a movie set. For a kid it is just so slow. We just liked the craft service. For me, meeting Mickey Mantle with my father—that was huge.

Front Row Features: Has your attitude to acting changed after you had a hit movie?

Pine: You just get offered more. I think for any actor it’s about the ability to have choices. If you make money for the studios, they are more willing to offer you things.

Front Row Features: Are you shooting on IMAX for the new “Star Trek” movie?

Pine: Yep.

Front Row Features: How is that different from shooting with regular cameras?

Pine: They are big loud camera and they take forever to reload. I mean, literally it takes 20 minutes to reload a camera. The first thing I saw on IMAX was “The Avengers,” so it’s pretty neat, the scope and the size of it. And (filmmaker) J.J. (Abrams) did a good job of knowing which scenes to marry with the IMAX and which ones would really pop. Every time I went back to the script, (I saw) the mythic structure is done really well. The character journeys are just perfect mythic structures. The explosions and the set pieces are going to knock people out of their seats.

Front Row Features: How was the experience of being interviewed by “Star Trek’s” original Captain Kirk, William Shatner, for his documentary?

Pine: Intense. He’s actually a very good interviewer.

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