LOS ANGELES – William Shatner’s James Kirk disliked formality, always pestering people to call him “Jim.”
Chris Pine, the actor who inherited the role as brash Starfleet officer Kirk in the new “Star Trek,” likes to show respect for the guy who came before. Pine calls his predecessor “Mr. Shatner.”
He talks about paying “homage to what Mr. Shatner’d done, because by no means, at no point did I want to hit people over the head with some awful impression.” He muses on how his young Jim Kirk gradually develops confidence in the way he sits in the starship Enterprise captain’s chair, slowly “finding the physicality that Mr. Shatner brought.”
He discusses Shatner subtleties he did want to incorporate and even gives his forerunner his own adjective, noting “there’s a certain way Mr. Shatner carries himself, especially the way he walks around the deck of the bridge, the ways he sits in the chair, that are very, very Shatnerian.”
While Pine, 28, shows great regard for Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the other originators of “Star Trek,” he never was much of a fan of the “Trek” TV shows and movies.
“I’d seen a few episodes here and there over the years and I just never got the bug,” said Pine, a veteran of live theatre who had a handful of TV credits, some independent movies and a few studio flicks behind him before shooting to celebrity when he was cast as Kirk.
The son of Hollywood actors Gwynne Gilford and Robert Pine and grandson of 1930s and ’40s movie actress Anne Gwynne, he co-starred in Lindsay Lohan’s romantic comedy “Just My Luck” and had a role in the Vegas crime thriller “Smokin’ Aces.”
“Star Trek” puts Pine and his co-stars under severe scrutiny by fans. Though Nimoy returns as the older version of Kirk’s first officer and best pal, Vulcan scientist Spock, director J.J. Abrams and his crew have taken the franchise in some wild new directions.
They add surprises to the characters’ relationships, twists to the crew’s backgrounds and a youthful flair to the whole endeavour. Pine’s Kirk starts out as a James Dean-like motorcycle rebel who requires some heavy coaxing before he considers joining Starfleet.
“I’m sure some people will like what I did. Some people won’t. Some people will think the Kirk that they see is not their Kirk, and if that’s the case, that’s the case,” Pine said.
“The story and the message is so wonderful and positive, why not share it with a whole bunch of different people? If that means altering certain things in the tradition, the story line, the legacy, so be it. If that offends some people, so be it. But I really do think what we’ve made is very accessible.”
Should there be sequels, Pine and the rest of the new cast are signed for two more “Trek” movies. All are game for a potential trilogy, but they are uncertain about anything beyond that.
“We always get asked the questions: Are you prepared to do 100 years of ‘Star Trek’ conventions? Are you prepared to be associated with this role for 70 years?” said Pine, who next will be seen in the viral-pandemic thriller “Carriers.”
“Look, I had a lot of fun making this. . . . But I hope my career is defined by its longevity and the diversity of roles that I’m able to bring to life. I have no problem being associated with these people, this role, this story, this series, but it’s certainly not the only thing I want to do with my life or my acting.”