‘Star Trek Beyond’: Chris Pine on Kirk’s Psychological Battle

     May 24, 2016


Last year when director Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond was filming in Vancouver, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters. During a break in filming, we got to speak with Chris Pine. During the wide ranging interview he talked about what Lin brought to the franchise, what Kirk’s dealing with at the beginning of the film, how ¾ of the film is non-stop action along with dramatic character arcs, what screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have brought to the film, and so much more. Check out what he had to say below. Star Trek Beyond opens July 22.

star-trek-beyond-posterQuestion: So does this feel in a way like a new start for the franchise, since you have Justin [Lin] now and Simon [Pegg] writing, does it feel on a certain level like a relaunch?

CHRIS PINE: It just feels different since there’s a new creative team behind it. New production designer, new costume designer, Justin obviously. So it’s that which is different, not that it’s a reinvention the third time around. I think is remarkably different because of Simon behind the wheel of the writing component of it, and Justin obviously coming from the Fast series and just knows how to handle action extremely well. This is a more action-packed film than the previous ones. And also we have the fact that it’s the 50th anniversary next year, so that kind of has weighed on this iteration of it. I think for sure there’s a real sense of wanting to –creatively speaking, with the design and with the writing- to pay homage to the 60s flavor of the series.

Simon mentioned that in this movie Kirk is dealing with the fact that now he’s older than his father was when he died, and he’s got a lot more psychological stuff going on. Can you talk a little bit about that?

PINE: Yeah. What I love about the beginning of this film is that it takes into account what it may be like if you’re on a submarine or something and you’re with the same people day in and day out for months and years. It’s the second year of a five year mission, so what is that kind of repetition like. How you kind of get out of the day to day doldrums and doing nothing but kind of flying the ship and trying to find stuff. And these films always take place during big moments of high drama, but what happens the day before the high drama? So I think there’s a lot of humor to be mined in that.

For Kirk yes, it’s like all these archetypal films where it’s the young man dealing with the spirit of his father and how do you live up to the qualities that he showed so well. And for Kirk that’s a big deal and a lot of it is about that he’s not the young impetuous man of his twenties, he’s older and he’s captain of this ship, and how do you reinvent yourself and how do you find new meaning in something that you come to everyday.


Image via Paramount Pictures

Simon mentioned that they came up with the big beats of the plot of the script, but that they mentioned to all the actors if they had ideas for dialogue or ideas for their characters since they know then so well to add. How have you taken on some of the dialogue and did you add anything?

PINE: Well it’s really nice. J.J. [Abrams] was always open to collaboration in that regard but I think when you have someone who’s also an acting partner who’s on set with you and because this came together very, very quickly, there’s a need and a desire amongst all of us to contribute even more to flesh out the story. So it’s great. It’s great to pitch stuff to Simon and to Doug [Jung] and to have Justin there and your fellow actors and to ping-pong it around. It happened the other day with the scene that we’re shooting right now, carving it up and finding what to throw out, what to include. And I’m always the big cheerleader for the humor, I just wanna throw our tonal comic flavor into things so having Simon Pegg who’s an advocate of that. There’s a lot more fluidity in this one, and I think that comes from having done it now three times but also just because you have someone like Simon around as part of the team.

You mentioned the 60s flavor and the fact that you celebrating the anniversary. Can you comment on that, in what ways we might see that element?

PINE: I think just the in the design you’ll see it, to my eye at least it just seems to be more visually of the 60s flavor to it. We’ve always tried to do it futuristic yet retro, but this one seems ever more retro.

The last time there was a Star Trek 3 with Search for Spock, Kirk has a very big arc in that film where he gets his best friend back yet he loses his son. Is there anything on that emotional scope in store for Kirk this time around, something that big and dramatic for him?

PINE: I think the issues for Kirk a bit broader, I think really what Simon and Doug have done really well in this is I think the first to films where very Kirk and Spock centric, and I think this film gives everybody a beautiful journey to go on and bring them back in the end in a great triumphant and team spirit way. But everybody has their moment to shine in this. For Kirk…What can I say, what can I say? I would say that this idea of turning a year older and realizing he’s surpassing his father in years but not knowing quite if he’s surpassing his father in terms of the kind of man he is, that weighs more heavily on Kirk in this one.

We heard about the sets that are 360 this time and move, so we said it’s not J.J. giving the camera a handjob…


PINE: [Laughs]


Image via Paramount Pictures

Can you sort of talk about working on these sets that really move and do you miss J.J. giving the camera a handjob?

PINE: There’s still plenty of the camera handjob happening on top of the fact that these sets move 360 degrees. It’s super fun, man. What did we do the other day? We were in some dark places of the ship and it was slanted 65 degrees so you had to run up and being tackled by someone, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s actually way more physical in that regard than the first two films, something I could equate it to would maybe be in the first one when me and Sulu have this fight outside in this giant –I don’t even know what it was but… It’s definitely the most physical film, I would say ¾ of the film are –once the setup is established, ¾ of the film is just non-stop action beat after action beat. I wouldn’t wanna scare anybody, I don’t think it’s kind of senseless blowing shit up for blowing shit up’s sake, but I think it has a real drive to it and I think that Justin’s aware of not wanting to dumb the audience down that way. I’ve spoken a lot to him and everybody knows him for his Fast movies but he started out in grad school making small budget films and he has a really keen sense of how to move the camera and why he’s moving the camera. There’s a reason behind everything, so I think there’s a good kind of dramatic and character push in the arc to all this action.

Simon spoke about how the narrative is completely fresh this time around and how he’s not drawing story beats from like Wrath of Khan the way Edge of Darkness did. Is that particularly exciting and liberating for you as an actor because you won’t find fans drawing comparisons between your performance and the previous captain Kirk?

PINE: I mean, that’s always gonna happen, so I’ve given up on trying to worry about that. Again, what’s nice and what I always loved about J.J., and perhaps we went more in one direction because of the Khan aspect of the second one, but again we’ve said this every time we’ve talked to you guys, there’s enough kernels in here for the true fans that I think people will really appreciate. You have Simon who’s a huge fan, you have Justin who grew up watching it, so it’s really in safe hand in that way, but it is very, very fresh. One of my favorite parts of the film is the opening where you get a sense of what it’s like, because you have question like, do they eat on the ship? Do they play ping-pong, hang out? What are the down times like when they’re not fighting Klingons and stuff? I love having that reality, but without that that very Marvel trope of being too self-aware. I think what we do really well is that we give it that kind of 80s big blockbuster wink of “we’re having a great time” but we never sink into that postmodern 21st century trope of really nudging the audience and “Look at what we’re doing”, which I’m exhausted by. The earnestness is still there, which I think is refreshing.

The first two movies had you dive into something, do you do that on this one, and if not, can you tell us about your big action scene?

PINE: I can’t tell you about the big action scene, other than there is one action beat in this that I don’t think anyone has ever seen before that Justin was incredibly stoked about. I think it was the first thing that –I think it was the first thing that he pitched to the studio and J.J. that got them excited. It closes half the film and it’s gonna be pretty fun, I don’t know how much more I can take.


Image via Paramount Pictures

Do you dive again in this movie at least?

PINE: No, most of it is kind of that 360 and running on different levels and trying to maintain balance.

Can you say if you spend most of the film in this costume or if we’ll see you in more?

PINE: Yeah, yeah. I think there’s plenty of –Again, to pay tribute and homage to the first film, there are very, very minor tweaks in the design of the costumes, but the structure of them is very, very –It’s not 21st century, it’s 60s seen through a 21st century lens.

How is it working on the set and scenes with Simon who’s the writer and also contributing ideas?

PINE: It’s super fun, it’s like…You know I did Wet Hot and it kind of had a similar vibe to Wet Hot where it’s like you’re in this soup of creativity and you have to figure out the scenes. So it’s like if one person has a great idea then you go with that, if the script that’s written is great then we go with that. If Karl [Urban] has a great easter egg he wants to throw in from the original series we’re like, “Oh that’s fucking great!” If I wanna do like a side gag or something, you just kind of –There’s a lot of trust I think, there’s a lot of trust to Simon, Simon has a lot of trust in us, and Justin as well, that we know where the characters are, what in the dynamics work, and what might be fun to do. I guess it evens the playing field and everybody has the room to play.

At the beginning of the film Simon told us about the York Town Starbase and that obviously it’s gonna have a lot of aliens in it. What was it like filming that and what can you tease people about this Starbase?

PINE: I haven’t filmed anything on it yet. We’ve seen it through a green screen. I would say that it’s the new world, it’s the Federation, it’s the pinnacle of the kind of utopian alien/human environment in that a lot of people are working together perfectly, a humming, thriving, confederation of different parts. There’s always someone who’s trying to make sure that doesn’t exist and people that are trying to make sure that it does.


Image via Paramount Pictures

Is his name Idris Elba?

PINE: I can’t tell you that. Idris is potentially the main guy in this film.

Because there are so many different races and aliens represented there, do we get to see a different side of Kirk in the sense of his politician side or his diplomat side?

PINE: I would say getting over growing up in a militaristic environment there’s a hierarchy of what one does, you’re a private, then you’re a corporal, then you’re a sergeant, and all that. I think Kirk getting older and having a certain amount of success in the fleet, sees the potential or rather kind of meditates on what his future is. Does he wat to retire? Does he want to continue? Does he want to go out for another five years? He definitely sees I guess what we saw on the GOP, debates, a bunch of older men and women in suits and ties and is like, “Am I gonna be that, or am I gonna be the dude on the motorcycle?”

Captain Pike was a big important relationship for Kirk in the first two films and he’s gone now, Is there anyone who fills that role?

PINE: Oh, man, no one can fill Bruce Greenwood’s shoes, I miss him dearly, he just left actually to L.A. to shoot something. No, I think that thank God for me as an actor, I’m now like 35, so I think I’ve hopefully outgrown the father thing so maybe I can play a father now and not be the young man too much longer. But I think you’re coming upon Kirk and there are meditations about his father and people in his life that have stood for something really great and there have been idealogs in the best sense and stood up for something what is right, and Kirk has a dangerous streak and he’s trying to figure out what kind of man he wants to be and what mold he fits or whether he’ll create his own mold.

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