Chris Pine is back in the cap­tain’s chair in Star Trek Be­yond. Nick Setch­field opens hail­ing fre­quen­cies

SFX - - Contents - Por­trait by Michael Friberg

Head-to-head with Cap­tain Kirk and his ho­ley trousers.

Do I have a hole in my pants?” Chris Pine

asks him­self, mid-flow.

The mas­ter and com­man­der of the En­ter­prise scru­ti­nises his crotch for cos­mic anom­alies. Spot­ting a worm­hole in his jeans he gives a tiny sigh of dis­may. “That sucks…”

It’s a rare dis­tracted mo­ment for the young Cal­i­for­nian. For all that he’s quick to laugh, he’s an in­tense, thought­ful pres­ence when SFX meets him in a Lon­don ho­tel suite. There’s just enough resid­ual, self-con­fessed shy­ness from his teen years to keep him dodg­ing eye con­tact but when those blue eyes find you it’s like twin trac­tor beams lock­ing on.

He’s here to talk James T Kirk, a part he orig­i­nally never wanted – “I’m just not a sci-fi guy – I didn’t want to talk about phasers and thrusters and all that kind of stuff!” – but which he in­stantly owned, stamp­ing it with hot­shot swag­ger and James Dean cool. Now he’s back for a third big-screen mis­sion in Star

Trek Be­yond, a film with the added re­spon­si­bil­ity of hon­our­ing 50 years of the fi­nal fron­tier.

“Ev­ery­one al­ways talks about the pres­sure,” he shrugs. “I never felt one iota of pres­sure on this one at all. In fact it was the most fun we’ve had. Nine years in, it just gets eas­ier…” This is your third shot at play­ing Kirk. What did you want from him this time around?

I told JJ a film ago that I wanted to go dark and rogue. There was an episode in the orig­i­nal series that I re­ally liked when Kirk went evil. But that didn’t hap­pen! What I re­ally en­joy about this part of Kirk’s arc is that he’s re­lieved of all the onus of try­ing to live up to his fa­ther and the anger of never hav­ing met his fa­ther, all the stuff that drove the first cou­ple of films. Now he’s an older guy, not a young man any­more, nec­es­sar­ily. He’s a leader and his pri­or­i­ties and his mo­ti­va­tions have changed. He’s think­ing to him­self, “Do I re­ally want to do this? It seemed to make so much sense when I was try­ing to be as badass as my dad. Now that I don’t need that, what else is there?”

Au­di­ences re­sponded to his mav­er­ick side. Is it tough to bal­ance his wildcard, mav­er­ick side with his growth as a com­man­der?

I think it was very im­por­tant, es­pe­cially for the first film, to have that ver­sion of the char­ac­ter. There were fans that were dis­mayed that he had so much bravado – but there’s no place for the char­ac­ter to go if you don’t start some­where. As you say, it’s some­thing that we all re­spond to, that icon­o­clast that is be­holden to his own sense of moral­ity and not any­body else’s rules and reg­u­la­tions. And that guy is cer­tainly still in there.

There was some se­ri­ous tur­moil in the de­vel­op­ment process this time around. Did that im­pact you?

Not one bit. The ac­tors are usu­ally the last peo­ple to find out any­thing. We have no con­trol. Given those two real­i­ties I de­cide to wait un­til they tell me when to show up.

Is it pos­si­ble to feed off that kind of en­ergy, cre­atively?

One hun­dred per cent. They’re such be­he­moths, these films. You can be­moan the fact that you’re get­ting the script so late but I’ve now done enough of these to know that, strangely enough, the more money that’s put into a project the more free-form it can be.

How does that work?

You can ei­ther dive head­first into that or you can strug­gle against it. I de­cided to dive head­first into it. Si­mon [Pegg] and Doug [Jung] had come up with a great story. And Justin [Lin] is a mas­ter nav­i­ga­tor of these kind of big bud­get film wa­ters, so I trusted those peo­ple. My job is just to bring it to life, to be open on the day for any­thing to hap­pen.

What kind of vi­sion does Justin bring to this movie?

Iron­i­cally, given all his ex­pe­ri­ence in the Fast

& Fu­ri­ous movies he ac­tu­ally comes from a smaller film back­ground. I al­ways think that with big films what’s re­ally nec­es­sary is the smaller en­gine – the story, the struc­ture, caring about peo­ple. That’s more im­por­tant than the ef­fects. He got that in­trin­si­cally. He’s a quiet

en­ergy on set ver­sus JJ’s very bois­ter­ous en­ergy, which ac­tu­ally let him fit him into the group very eas­ily – he was a col­lab­o­ra­tor. With Si­mon and Doug writ­ing, and with this new en­ergy di­rect­ing, it al­most felt like the kids took over the house for the week­end. We all had to build the story to­gether. It was great.

It’s 50 years of Star Trek. How does Star Trek Be­yond cel­e­brate that an­niver­sary?

It’s a film about the Fed­er­a­tion, which means it’s a film about the fun­da­men­tal as­pects of what Trek is: dis­parate peo­ples of dif­fer­ent races, dif­fer­ent colours, dif­fer­ent gen­ders, dif­fer­ent species, com­ing to­gether and work­ing to­gether. And it asks the big ques­tion, “Does this work? Does this mean some­thing? Is it mean­ing­ful?” Which I think is great – it’s a large ques­tion to tackle, and there are many dif­fer­ent av­enues to ex­plore. And stylis­ti­cally there are nods to it – my hair­cut in the film is a bit ’60s Kirkian!

You’re play­ing against Idris Elba. What sort of dy­namic do you guys have on screen?

God, Idris is like 6’ 3. He’s a huge guy. I’m not a small guy my­self but Idris is a big dude, very charis­matic. He came up with this re­ally rather ex­tra­or­di­nary char­ac­ter. Let’s just say he’s an an­gry man and Kirk sees in him a lot of his own anger, just like Khan. It’s an in­ter­est­ing thing – I hadn’t ever re­ally thought about that, but maybe the thing that ties all these an­tag­o­nists to­gether, from Nero to Khan to this new char­ac­ter, is their anger, ob­vi­ously, but also how it’s re­flected off Kirk’s own anger. And Kirk is learn­ing to deal with his anger, whether he’s set off by it or whether he can be zen.

Could you see your­self work­ing un­der a ton of pros­thet­ics, like Idris?

No. Se­ri­ously, never. I don’t ever want to do it. You’re not sleep­ing. You’re work­ing 15, 16 hour days and you’re get­ting force-called ev­ery day, which means you’re fin­ish­ing up at 6 or 7, get­ting home by 8 or 8.30, be­cause we shot out of town. If you go to the gym you go to the gym then. You’re in bed by 10. You’re up at 3.30 or 4. Not an eff­ing chance I’m do­ing that.

So it doesn’t feel like an act­ing chal­lenge you want to take on?

I like the idea of mo-cap, the idea of com­pletely cre­at­ing a Gol­lum – that’s re­ally cool, be­cause that in­cor­po­rates the whole in­stru­ment. But with pros­thet­ics you’re just deal­ing with your sheer force of will. You’ve got to take care of your act­ing, you’ve also got to take care of your body be­cause you’re sweat­ing so much. It’s an im­mense amount of con­cen­tra­tion. And also, not to lose your shit… Some­times they can’t even eat, so you have to have a straw… It’s fuck­ing aw­ful [laughs]!

This is a role that was de­fined by some­body else. Was there a point where you thought, “I ac­tu­ally own this now, I’m not just bor­row­ing it from Shat­ner”?

I felt that the whole time. I re­ally did. Be­fore we shot the first film we got a whole set of episodes, all the movies too. And watch­ing Shat­ner there was sim­ply no way I could see my­self do­ing this part as any sort of im­i­ta­tion and suc­ceed­ing. The movie would fail. It would be­come about peo­ple ei­ther lik­ing or not lik­ing my im­i­ta­tion of a man. My role is to dis­ap­pear. It is about Kirk and Spock but it’s re­ally about the story, so I’ve got to blend into the back­ground enough to let Idris do his stuff. If I’m there do­ing Shat­ner­isms all over the place the movie’s a gi­ant fail­ure. It was fun in the first one to throw in lit­tle pep­pers of Shat­ner be­cause he’s so fun. That makes peo­ple smile. But JJ never wanted that. He told me specif­i­cally not to do that.

I’m not even talk­ing about the ex­pec­ta­tion of do­ing an im­pres­sion of Shat­ner. More about hav­ing to step into a role an­other ac­tor’s owned for so long…

I just had to look at the script and say, “If this script was at­tached to no other iconog­ra­phy or mythol­ogy, how would I do it?” I’d just have to cre­ate the char­ac­ter that I was given. The guy that I was given was a real mav­er­ick, kind of a pain in the ass, a lot of fun… He’s the clas­sic rogue. He had no at­tach­ment in my mind to any other char­ac­ter named Jim Kirk. He was just the guy in that par­tic­u­lar script – which gave me a lot of free­dom to do what­ever I wanted.

There was talk that Shat­ner was ac­tu­ally go­ing to be in this movie. How would you have felt shar­ing a scene with him?

At this point there’s been so much built up about this po­ten­tial por­ten­tous meet­ing be­tween the two Kirks… Fuck the movie, it would just be­come about that. The movie can’t be­come about that. The movie has to be about what­ever story we’re try­ing to tell. It’d be fun, it’d be kitschy, it’d be a great piece for you guys to talk about, and for late-night TV, but above and be­yond that I don’t know what it serves for our sto­ry­telling pur­poses, you know?

Si­mon Pegg said Para­mount wanted this to be an ac­ces­si­ble Trek. How does Star Trek com­pete and still stay true to Star Trek?

You can’t make a cere­bral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in to­day’s mar­ket­place. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into

Dark­ness has crazy, re­ally de­mand­ing ques­tions and themes, but you have to hide it un­der the guise of wham-bam ex­plo­sions and plan­ets blow­ing up. The ques­tion that our movie poses is “Does the Fed­er­a­tion mean any­thing?” And in a world where every­body’s try­ing to kill one an­other all of the time, that’s an im­por­tant thing. Is work­ing to­gether im­por­tant? Should we all go our sep­a­rate ways? Does be­ing united against some­thing mean any­thing?

There’s a new Star Trek TV show com­ing next year. Does that feel like com­pe­ti­tion? No [laughs].

If you get a fourth shot at this, how would you like to see the fran­chise evolve?

I would like a slower film. That’d be kind of fun. Kirk and team land on a planet and go ex­plore. It’s just not go­ing to hap­pen. But it would be fun to make the Mer­chant Ivory ver­sion, a slow, talky film.

When the pre­vi­ous cast got to do a fourth film it was a time travel com­edy. Have you got a hunger to do some­thing like that, to re­ally break the mould?

Push­ing the bound­aries would cer­tainly be fun and I love do­ing com­edy. If Si­mon’s be­hind it… The most fun I have on set is laugh­ing so any­time we can do that I’m way, way into it.

You can’t make a cere­bral Star Trek in 2016. It wouldn’t work

In the chair…

Idris Elba suf­fered muchly for this role! Armwrestling the Shat in 2011.

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