We got to know Chris Pine, the new Star Trek star, earlier this week, but the big question on everyone’s mind is how he’s going to compare to the fantastic awesome sauce that is William Shatner in his career-making role of James Tiberius Kirk from the original Star Trek. Rest assured, that’s on Pine’s mind, too, and he speaks about the man with nothing but the utmost respect.
“Doing my due diligence, I started watching the first season of the original series pretty feverishly, just to acquaint myself with the dynamics between the characters and the aesthetic and all of that,” Pine said. “But I found myself trying to create the perfect William Shatner impression, and I felt that was not the best move for me. It really went against the mandate that J.J. Abrams put forth at the beginning of the process, which was really to reimagine these characters and to bring as unique and specific a take on them as our predecessors had done. Then it became a matter of a conversation with J.J. about what little nuances I could take from Mr. Shatner’s performance to use in my own to kind of give a sense of continuity between the characters. It was a matter of trying to strike a balance between the two.”
As for what those Shatnerian nuances might be? “You watch the show, you know what Kirk does. What resonated for me were certain physical things. There’s a way that he holds his body and moves about the deck of the ship that’s almost theatrical. You can see his theatrical training in his gait and the way he sits in the chair.”
His co-star Zachary Quinto at least got to have the original Spock Leonard Nimoy on the set to study and learn from, but Pine seems relieved that Shatner wasn’t involved beyond wishing him luck. “I know how I work,” the 28-year-old actor said. “I know that if I would’ve had the indomitable presence of Mr. Shatner, it would have been hard for me to carve my own niche, and I felt that that was the most important part of my job was to feel free enough to do my own work. What Mr. Shatner did will never be copied ever again. It was that specific and that unique and clearly that culturally iconic. Having finished now, I can’t wait to pick his brain about his experiences. I won’t lie, I am definitely jealous of Zachary’s relationship with Mr. Nimoy. He’s a fantastic, complicated, interesting, sage-like man, and I hope to foster a similar relationship with Mr. Shatner.”
Fortunately, his relationship with Shatner seems like the only Trek friendship he’ll have to pursue. According to Pine, the rest came naturally. “I don’t think any of us had to manufacture any on-screen chemistry,” he says, when talking about what he did to portray the storied camaraderie between Kirk and his erstwhile friend Dr. Leonard McCoy, as played by Karl Urban. “I love Karl. I think people will be blown away by what Karl brought to that role. Actually, the first time we worked together was that first time we meet in the Trek world, on that ship that first day. Like so many meetings on this movie – the first time I met Zach, I knew that we’d work together well. The first time I met Karl, I knew that we’d have something special to bring to the screen. I feel that way about everybody.”
Pine also found Urban’s beverage of choice to be somewhat amusing in its peculiarity. “Karl is carrying around a little gourd. Everybody drinks coffee, but Karl is drinking some kind of Argentinian Yerba Mate tea-tobacco juice thing. One of the many reasons to love Karl is because of weird idiosyncrasies like that.” After a moment of consideration, he wryly added “I wonder how that’ll translate through press.” At least on this end, it translates as nothing more than friendly teasing.
Overall, though, Pine is pleased to be a part of a project that’s full of such positive vibes. “This is not to disparage these movies, but The Dark Knight and Watchmen, they explore the darker side of human psychology, and they have way more of a nihilistic viewpoint than our story,” Pine said. “When they finish this movie, I think people will end up smiling. The crew is together, they’re working together, they’ve overcome the obstacles, they’re looking to the future. It can sound cheesy and people can laugh, but I can’t think of a movie that’s ended like that in a long time. Why not have a story that’s positive and ends with people leaving the theater smiling, especially in today’s age that’s wracked by the economic crisis and people losing their homes and wars? We try to kill each other more often than not, and there are plenty of stories to be told about that, but why not tell a story that ends a little bit differently?”