Actor who plays Captain Kirk has a big uniform to fill

By Rick Bentley

Chris Pine channels William Shatner for the role.

LOS ANGELES — Chris Pine’s life will never be the same.

He’s been a working actor for the past half decade, with credits that range from a guest appearance on “ER” to a starring role in the movie “Bottle Shock.” Doesn’t matter. Everything the 28-year-old actor has done to this point is a distant second place to his current role in “Star Trek.”

The blue-eyed Pine has slipped into the “Star Trek” captain’s chair to take on the role of the swaggering, woman-crazy, ripped-shirt-wearing James T. Kirk. He’s the first actor to play Kirk since William Shatner originated the role back in 1966. Pine has a big, gold uniform to fill.

During an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about the movie that opens this week, Pine explains how he used the script by Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci as the main source to understand the background of the character. He even watched some of the television episodes.

He knew there was no way he could play the role without channeling at least a little bit of Shatner.

“What appealed to me about Mr. Shatner’s performance, and things that I felt that I could use without hitting people over the head with a bad impersonation, I felt were little physical characteristics,” Pine says. “What really appealed to me was the way that he moved about the deck of the ship. He’s got a very theatrical quality, just his physicality, that made me smile every time I watched it. And then there were things about how he sits in the chair that are very small.”

Shatner’s acting style has been the fodder for many a parody. It would have been easy for Pine to slip into a comical impersonation. The actor relied on “Star Trek” director J.J. Abrams to make sure there were small elements of Shatner’s Kirk in Pine’s performance. But he never wanted those elements to get too big.

Pine did not get to meet with Shatner until after filming was completed. Pine describes the meeting as positive.

In all honesty, Shatner won’t be Pine’s biggest critic. The legions of fans — many who embrace “Star Trek” as if it were a religion — won’t hesitate to judge. Pine knows that. He’s just not losing any sleep about it.

“I have no control over what people think. If I were to spend energy on that I would be a lifeless deadened human being. So I hope that they like it,” Pine says. “I’m proud of it. I hope that they’ll accept these changes to their canon that they hold so dear.”

He won’t talk about whether he would return to the role for a second movie. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy playing Kirk, but Pine thinks such talk is presumptuous before this movie opens.

Whether he plays Kirk once or forever, Pine is emphatic about the heart of the character.

“In my mind, Captain Kirk will always be William Shatner, and William Shatner will always be Captain Kirk,” Pine says. “This was a great role. And as an actor you search for great roles. This one just happened to be named James Kirk.”

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