If you think Chris Pine’s version of Captain Kirk had issues, wait until you meet his character in “People Like Us.”
Since film audiences discovered Pine at the center of the popular 2009 reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise, the 31-year-old actor has emerged as a versatile leading man who specializes in attractive but flawed protagonists. And leading characters don’t come much more flawed than Sam in “People Like Us,’” a struggling salesman who journeys home to Los Angeles when his estranged record producer father dies and is stunned to discover he has a sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew about – a sister he immediately finds himself compelled to know, but not by telling her the truth.
Pine explains the appeal of playing a conflicted hero, reveals the lessons of having a character actor father, and opens the communicator about the “Star Trek” sequel.
On the specific appeal of his character in “People Like Us”:
"I like the part about Sam that I see all the time: here is a guy that deflects with words, humor, smile, charm. He's just not emotionally present at all. All you have to do is go to a cocktail party in Los Angeles and you'll pretty much witness it staring at you all the time. So I just think Sam is a very faulted, screwed-up guy who's trying his damnedest to get through this week without dying. He's a fighter, too. Sam is not exactly a survivor, but he's a fighter. He's fighting and I like that."
On the surprisingly broad appeal of the seemingly unique tale:
"What's been interesting going around the country and talking about the film is that without fail in every city someone has had this same story happen to them. And I guess I originally thought, ‘Well, maybe it's not all that relatable, because who's got secret families? Maybe it's like a small, small percentage.’ But even if it is, we encounter people all the time that say that it's happened to them. And even if it hasn't happened to them, we all come from families whether we know them or not, or whether we know they're our parents or not, or if we're foster kids, or orphans, or whatever the fact of the circumstance is."
On the affect of the long acting career of his father Robert Pine:
"I never wanted to be an actor for one second in my life until maybe I was, like, 20. My father has been an actor for 50 years. He came out to L.A. in 1964 and was under contract – when they still had the contracts – with Universal. You got paid to be an actor, even if you weren't working, if you can imagine that, which is stunningly awesome. My father, I think he has 200 credits. My father has worked. He's a rare breed. He's a working, blue-collar actor. The man has made a living as an actor, put two kids through private school. He's managed to do it when things were really bad and when things were really good. Obviously, the marker for a young child is when things are really bad, so I saw it when things were really not good. So for me, growing up, when I was a child I saw it as someone who had a business that was sometimes really good and sometimes really bad. It wasn't like I was Denzel Washington's kid. That was not my family. So I had no rosy-colored glasses on. I really found it later on, and I guess it makes sense, but I found it later on because I enjoyed it and it seemed to be something that I could do."
On visiting the Hollywood sets his dad worked on while growing up:
"You name the show: He was on 'Murder She Wrote.' I went to 'Quantum Leap.' He played Magnum P.I.'s father in flashback. [For a kid] the most boring place to be on the planet is a movie set. It is SLOW. For me, meeting Mickey Mantle with my father – that was huge! Scott Bakula, I love you, but that was huge."
On being on the brink of walking away from his dream:
"I've been very lucky because it took me about a year before I started working and I could quit my job working at The Grove. I was a food runner and a host. I'm not a good food service representative. But yeah, there was a time when I came back to L.A. and I'd just done pilot season and I really wanted to live on the Lower East Side and do the whole poverty-stricken-artist thing for a while, and in those moments, I always say, when you don't care and you walk into an audition, things start landing like gangbusters. That's what happened. I came back to L.A., I was going to move New York, I had a place and I was, like, done. I was going to go to New York and do my poor artist thing, but then I started working, and there you go."
On when he got his first large-scale – and large-paying – acting gig:
"I know exactly where I was and what time it was. I was on the freeway in 2002. I was getting off on Magnolia and I almost got in a car accident. I pulled over on the side of the road and my agent apologized because she couldn't get me any more money, and I was like, 'Do you understand what this means?' I went home, and my sister was at home because she was living at home at the time, and I was debating how to tell her or not because it was about getting a job. So I went home and I remember screwing around and saying that I didn't get the job or something and then telling her that I did and we both started jumping up and down. It's like playing the lottery…That moment is very spectacularly liberating."
On the affect on the working actor who suddenly stars in a huge box office hit:
"You just get offered more. I think for any actor it's the ability to have a choice. Every actor has a choice, but to make a living and having choices, to say yes or no and to make money for the studios – they're more willing to offer you things."
On what to expect from “Star Trek 2”:
"J. J. [Abrams] and company – Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] and Damon [Lindelof] – I think what they're really, really good at it and what sets them apart is that they're able to marry really small dramas like this with tent poles. They know how to marry the action with this and they know that if you don't give them this – ‘this’ being the small, character-driven drama – you can blow up anything you want and no one will care. That thing will leave the theater because we've all seen it. We've all seen it a million different ways. So I think for the second one people will find…every time I kept going back to the script I saw this: It's the mythic structure done really well. The character journeys are just perfect mythic structures. They just do it so well. So, the journeys will be really great for the characters, and the explosions and the set pieces are going to knock people out of their seats, I think."
On shooting “Star Trek 2” sequences in the IMAX format:
"They're big cameras! They're big, loud cameras and the things take forever to reload – It's literally 20 minutes to reload a camera. It's pretty neat, I'll say that – the scope and the size of it. J. J., I think, did a good job in knowing which scenes to marry with the IMAX, knowing which scenes would really pop, like what they did with 'Mission,' when Tom [Cruise] is on that huge building and it made all the sense in the world to use the IMAX."
On the experience of being interviewed by William Shatner for his film “The Captains?
"Intense! He's actually a really good interviewer."