Monday, July 20, 2009

Chris Pine Gets His Kirk On

Here's how Geoff Boucher's profile of Chris Pine, the new James T. Kirk of J. J. Abrams's Star Trek movie, begins: "Wearing a trucker hat, battered blue jeans and an air of breezy confidence, Chris Pine walked through the Paramount Pictures studio lot like he owned the place but felt no particular need to show anyone the deed in his pocket." Seriously, aside from the sartorial details, if you were writing about anybody who was picking up the gauntlet from William Shatner, isn't that how you'd want to be able to describe him? Many a young (28 years old, to be precise) actor might be able to pull off that walk in his head, but in reality? (As if to provide a constant genetic reminder of how many couldn't, Pine is the son of the actor Robert Pine, best known for the disappointed looks he used to direct at Erik Estrada during roll call on CHiPs.) "Shatner will forever be James T. Kirk," says Pine. "There's something set in stone about that. That actually takes pressure off me. I'm going my own way. My name is not William Shatner."

Some of the actors in supporting roles, such as Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty, have talked to interviewers about how much they enjoyed riffing on the mannerisms of their predecessors, playing with the traits that have so well served generations of nightclub impersonators and stand-up comics. Instead, as the man at the center, Pine saw it as his job to evoke Shatner in the role without imitating him. "There was no sense in trying to re-create what Shatner had done because it was so specific. He was unique, singular, it was his take. I did spice my performance with some of his straight-spined, almost ballet way of moving." (There will now be fifteen minutes of silence while we all try to adjust our conception of the term "balletic" so that it can apply to William Shatner.) If Pine's approach sounds very nuts and bolts, that goes with his having grown up in the business. "Whenever you're on set with people that have put in the years, pick their brains -- that's our apprenticeship, that's how the trade gets passed down, the stories, the lessons. I think with my family and my background, I have a sense of the history of the business, what has come before . . . going with my dad to his auditions I would listen to the actors talk and it was almost like workers in a steel town on lunch break talking about the line or union issues." Now he's kicking back in the captain's chair at a time when a new, turbocharged version of Gene Roddenberry's '60s chestnut may actually be timely. "There's a message in this almost utopian possibility and this team of people who must work together to overcome tremendous challenges."

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