Talk­ing about his twig has Pine weary

The Prince George Citizen - - A&e - Jake COYLE

TORONTO — If you want to see an ex­hausted Chris Pine, meet him after he’s spent a day an­swer­ing ques­tions about his pe­nis.

Fol­low­ing the Septem­ber premiere of David Macken­zie’s Out­law King, in which Pine stars as the Scot­tish hero Robert the Bruce, con­ver­sa­tion at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val fo­cused largely on Pine’s in­stant of full-frontal nu­dity in the film.

That such a brief mo­ment should arouse such cu­rios­ity – and not, say, any­thing else in the two-plus hours of his­tor­i­cal-epic sav­agery in the 1300s-set film – was for Pine a sad but telling commentary.

“The fact that vi­sions of nu­dity, gen­i­talia, mak­ing love are some­how the main at­trac­tion,” said an ex­as­per­ated Pine in an in­ter­view along­side Macken­zie. “All of us go ‘Oo oo!’ like fifth-graders. Lit­er­ally, it’s like talk­ing to a bunch of 14-year-olds, whereas be­head­ings and all that kind of vi­o­lence we’re so in­ured to that we don’t even ques­tion it.”

The irony is that Pine’s Bruce – like his sup­port­ing role in Patty Jenkins’ Won­der Woman – is a ne­go­ti­a­tion with tra­di­tional gen­der roles, even amid all the blood and guts. Pine plays the 14th cen­tury King of Scots, who won Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence from Eng­land, not as a one-di­men­sional war­rior but a man riven with in­ter­nal con­flict. Scenes with his wife (played by Florence Pugh) are sen­si­tive and tender.

When it’s pointed out that his per­for­mance – and even that flash of nu­dity – seems in­tended to de­con­struct tra­di­tional mas­cu­line archetypes, Pine im­me­di­ately bright­ens.

“I’ve been dy­ing to talk about this stuff all day and we’ve got­ten just myr­iad, mind-numb­ing ques­tions about non­sense,” Pine replies. “I do think there needs to be a re­bal­anc­ing of the world. The un­der­ly­ing bass note that we should be hear­ing is: that is pre­cisely what we’re all used to and isn’t it kind of in­ter­est­ing that it’s so skewed that way, that any no­tions of ten­der­ness or love­mak­ing on screen be­comes un­com­fort­able? I think that’s prob­a­bly the mas­cu­line and the fem­i­nine out of whack in this big, wide uni­verse.”

Out­law King, which de­buts on Net­flix and in select the­atres Fri­day, is the stream­ing ser­vice’s first big swing at that clas­sic big-screen thing: the his­tor­i­cal epic. It re­unites Pine with Macken­zie two years after Hell or High Wa­ter, a high-wa­ter mark for both the Scot­tish film­maker and for Pine, who calls the Os­carnom­i­nated neo-Western “one of my most cher­ished ex­pe­ri­ences mak­ing any­thing.”

While they were still mak­ing the pub­lic­ity rounds on Hell or High Wa­ter, Macken­zie slipped Pine the screen­play. When the two sat down in Lon­don to talk about it, Pine ac­knowl­edges he had some is­sues with the script but that they quickly found com­mon ground in the de­sire to make a film not over­whelmed by Scot­tish na­tion­al­ism but about, as Pine says, “a

Lit­er­ally, it’s like talk­ing to a bunch of 14-year-olds, whereas be­head­ings and all that kind of vi­o­lence we’re so in­ured to that we don’t even ques­tion it.

— Chris Pine

rich man who de­cides to throw it all away to do some­thing self­less.”

“I mean, I pretty much wanted to do it the mo­ment he said ‘his­tor­i­cal epic,”’ Pine adds.

Pine, with his shin­ing blue eyes and a fil­mog­ra­phy lit­tered with block­busters, might not be the first ac­tor one would think of for a blood­ied, mud-caked Robert the Bruce. But Macken­zie saw some­thing of Bruce in Pine’s des­per­ate bank rob­ber in Hell or High Wa­ter, a per­for­mance that seemed to un­lock Pine’s full power as a movie star.

“There’s some­thing about both char­ac­ters: peo­ple strug­gling, peo­ple deal­ing with un­cer­tainty and not sure whether or not to act,” Macken­zie says. “One thing Chris brings bril­liantly to the work he does is the ca­pac­ity to han­dle that un­cer­tainty and a char­ac­ter who’s work­ing his way through things.”

After Out­law King pre­miered to largely poor re­views in Toronto, Macken­zie cut about 20 min­utes from the film, which he had rushed to ready for open­ing night at TIFF. The 52-year-old film­maker co-wrote and pro­duced the film, which fol­lows a pair of ac­claimed re­leases from the di­rec­tor – the fa­ther-son prison drama Starred Up and Hell or High Wa­ter – that like­wise an­a­lyzed mas­culin­ity.

“It needs to be de-con­structed, doesn’t it?” Macken­zie says. “At this point in time, it feels like mas­culin­ity is com­ing un­der a lot of ques­tions and it seems ap­pro­pri­ate, as males, to be deal­ing with the sub­ject of mas­culin­ity, try to find some nu­ance in there, try not to de­mo­nize or hero­ize.”

In the 65-day shoot in Scot­land, Macken­zie and Pine hoped to re­cap­ture some of the free­wheel­ing spirit of their quicker, lower-bud­get pro­duc­tion in West Texas. That Bruce was a con­tem­po­rary of Wil­liam Wal­lace has led to fre­quent com­par­isons to Mel Gib­son’s Brave­heart, though Pine says they were seek­ing to make a very dif­fer­ent sort of Scot­tish epic.

“How do you make the anti-Brave­heart? How do you make the movie that hits all the tropes of the genre with­out – and I say this with all due re­spect – be­ing ma­nip­u­la­tive?” Pine says. “Brave­heart, I love. But how do you make the non-movie movie?”

Pine saw Bruce “neb­u­lous” and “opaque” – some­one who could be politi­cian and war­rior, hero and cow­ard. “You can­not pin the guy down,” he says. Be­fore depart­ing to shake off the day’s ques­tions, Pine re­peat­edly men­tioned Yu­val Noah Harari’s Sapi­ens: A Brief His­tory of Hu­mankind as a source of in­spi­ra­tion.

“To me, the pri­mal as­pects of the film are al­most like men and women of the mud and of the dirt. It’s al­most like you see them in this amoe­bic form. The earth that we come from,” says Pine. “We as hu­mans are these du­al­is­tic crea­tures. We’re both aggressive and paci­fist. We are fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line.”

AP PHOTO

Ac­tor Chris Pine, left, and David Macken­zie, di­rec­tor of the film Out­law King, pose for a photo at the Shangri-La Ho­tel dur­ing the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val.

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