Chris Pine is flying high. Star Trek (2009) catapulted him to Hollywood stardom, and he’s been riding the wave ever since, acting in Unstoppable, This Means War, People Like Us, Rise of the Guardians and the upcoming action-thriller Jack Ryan. Right now, though, Pine is back in the captain’s chair for Star Trek Into Darkness, reprising his role as James T. Kirk in the new adventure. StarTrek.com caught up with Pine in London for a conversation in which he talked in detail about Kirk and Star Trek Into Darkness -- even revealing what a lens flare is like on set – previewed Jack Ryan, and addressed the ways in which his new level of fame has affected his life and career.
How would you say the camaraderie has built between the actors from Star Trek (2009) to Star Trek Into Darkness?
PINE: Just like the natural progression of any friendship, or friendships, we really do get along quite well. There’s just this strong bond that we all share. I guess it speaks to J.J. (Abrams) casting this thing that, above and beyond the acting chops, he cast it well in the sense that we get along. If you’re going to put a family on the screen for years to come, you’d better hope that they have a love for one another, and we certainly do.
What elements of this story resonated most with you?
PINE: What I was most excited about was that, for someone like who Kirk, for someone who you’d expect to be a strong and confident leader, and who, certainly from the first film had that self-assuredness, in this one I got to explore the flip side of that. The flip side is self-doubt and fallibility and this kind of existential crisis about whether or not he’s meant for the captain’s chair and whether or not he’s good enough. To begin a film and to carry the hero, or one of the heroes, from such a place of weakness, I thought that was an interesting challenge and one I looked forward.
Kirk and John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) have a lot of scenes together. Were you at all surprised by just how many scenes the characters shared?
PINE: I guess I wasn’t at all that surprised because I knew how important John Harrison was to this story and, at least selfishly, to development of Kirk in this story. Kirk is unhinged. Kirk is filled with self-doubt. Kirk is the little dog barking all too loudly. And you needed to see that. The only way you could see that, really, is when has his fingers put to the fire. That’s in verbal combat with Benedict’s character. We’re separated in a lot of our scenes by a glass partition, and it just goes to show you how powerful his character is, that he can wield the strings like a puppet master over poor Jim Kirk with nothing but a batting of the eye and the inflection of a word.
We’ve been dying to ask this next question to someone in the cast, and you’re the lucky guy. What does a lens flare look like on set?
PINE: (Laughs). For something that looks like it could be so complicated, I think it’s about as analog as getting a flashlight and pointing it toward the camera.
Zachary Quinto has said that he politely asked for and received a couple of pairs of Spock ears. Pegg said that he stole a combadge. What did you ask for or steal from the Star Trek Into Darkness set?
PINE: I was too scared to steal anything because the security around the set was so tight and I’d signed so many NDA’s that I was worried that Brad Grey was going to show up to my house with a crew of Paramount police and arrest me. So I don’t have anything.
We’re guessing there’s going to be a third Star Trek film. Assuming that’s correct, what do you hope to see for Kirk in the next one?
PINE: I’d like to see Kirk, whatever direction he goes in, still growing. I know that’s probably anathema to what fans want to see from their beloved Captain Kirk, but I don’t think he’s quite there yet. So I want to see him still growing.
The other assumption is that J.J. Abrams will be too busy with Star Wars to direct another Star Trek feature. Who from the Bad Robot family would you like to see assume his chair?
PINE: In terms of a director, I don’t know. What I am sure of is that J.J. and company have a great respect for Star Trek, for the franchise, for the history, for the legacy of it, and for what they’ve done. I can’t see them walking away completely without making sure that whoever takes the helm is going to protect that.
How big a kick did you get shooting your bit for William Shatner’s documentary, The Captains?
PINE: Well, as you well know, Bill is a unique man, a passionate man. He’s got so much going on and such a lust for life and for his job. He loves doing what he does. He loves working. I guess I was struck by how insightful he was and the kinds of questions he asked. I was really honored to be a part of such a stellar crew of actors and people who have gotten to the chance to play a Star Trek captain.
Your next film is Jack Ryan. How different is Ryan from Kirk?
PINE: Really, what excites me most is the fact that he’s so different from Kirk. Ryan is the thoughtful, quiet hero. He actually has many more qualities that resemble Spock than anything else. I think he’s a character who’s more comfortable using his mind and his wits, and his weapons seem to be his mind and his wits, rather than his fists and his brawn.
You’re becoming a collector of franchises…
PINE: I’ve just been lucky that I’ve been able to surround myself with really, really talented people in an art form that’s one of the most collaborative art forms of them all. And I’m lucky that I’m in a position to work with the people more than once. You need to surround yourself with talented people, and I’ve been really lucky with J.J. Abrams and now (Jack Ryan director) Ken Branagh.