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INTERVIEW: Chris Pine Remains People Like Us

The hot Hollywood star discusses his new film about a dysfunctional family and his continuing commitment to stage work.

Olivia Wilde and Chris Pine in People Like Us
(© Zade Rosenthal)
So far, Chris Pine has managed to keep one foot on the stage -- including the acclaimed Los Angeles productions of Farragut North and The Lieutenant of Inishmore -- while rising to the top ranks of Hollywood leading men through his breakout role as young Captain Kirk in Star Trek and later co-starring with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in This Means War and Denzel Washington in Unstoppable.

In his new film People Like Us, co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Banks, and Olivia Wilde, Pine plays Sam, a fast-talking salesman whose life is turned upside down by the discovery of a sister he didn't know ever existed after his father's death. Pine recently talked to TheaterMania about the film's family dynamics, his debt to Star Trek, and why he'll never give up working on the stage.

THEATERMANIA: Did you plan to have a film career or were you originally thinking you'd just work on stage?
CHRIS PINE: I took part in a theater festival in Massachusetts two summers after I graduated from college. Then I was in Los Angeles, thinking "I am going to go to New York." So I bought a plane ticket and found a place to live and packed my bags. And suddenly, a week before I was supposed to leave, I had three job offers -- and one of them was my first movie. I think that when you let go and throw it all away and say "whatever happens, happens," things work out.

TM: How did making this film differ from the big budget action films you're used to making?
CP: It's the first film I've done where we got to rehearse before shooting. It's a total luxury in film-land. The great thing about theater is that you have so much time to prepare, and to fail, before presenting it to the public. In film, the high-wire act seems to be that much farther up, and the net seems to be less there.

TM: Do you think all families have secrets?
CP: We come from fallible parents who were kids once, who decided to have kids and who had to learn how to be parents. Faults are made and damage is done, whether it's conscious or not. Everyone's got their own "stuff," their own issues, and their own anger at mom and dad. That is what family is. Family is almost naturally dysfunctional.

Chris Pine in People Like Us
(© Zade Rosenthal)
TM: How much of your own "stuff" did you bring to the role of Sam?
CP: I had plenty of stuff to pull from. I'm in my early 30s and I think that as you're growing up you develop certain tools to help you deal with the world. A lot of those tools deal with a strong facade so you're not breaking down all the time. What Sam is learning how to do is pull up the shield, take off the helmet, and be authentic while maintaining a sense of self. I think we all deal with that at some point.

TM: Did the success of Star Trek affect your choice of future film roles?
CP: Star Trek gave me the opportunity to do a film like this and have it seen. But there wasn't forethought of me saying "I want to make a small movie now." The fact of the matter is, if it's a really well-told story, then the nuts and bolts don't always matter. You just hope for a good story and a good character to play.

TM: Are you still committed to working in theater?
CP: Theater will always be a huge part of my life. The high I get from doing theater is not, quite honestly, matched by many things. I like the fact that when you step out on the stage, for that given night, for better or for worse, you are the master of the boards. I love it to death.