Chris Pine has become Paramount Pictures’ go-to man for action franchises. The actor has taken to the stars as Captain James T. Kirk in J.J Abrams’ Star Trek movies and now he is set to slip-into the suit of Jack Ryan, the popular character created by late novelist Tom Clancy in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Pine follows in the (not insignificant) footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck to bring the earnest CIA analyst to the screen in Kenneth Branagh’s franchise reboot.
I met with Pine on the film’s London set, where he discussed what it was like taking on such an iconic role, and also how he wants to bring something different to the character which has been played by such well known actors. Chris Pine exudes and all-American charm, which is perfect to play a younger (and less wise) Jack Ryan in a movie which Paramount hopes will launch a whole new set of Ryan adventures.
We were just talking with Kevin Costner and he was telling us about the challenges about playing the Everyman hero, of playing the Gary Cooper role, the challenges that people just might not get. What challenges are you feeling?
Hmmm… That’s a good question. You know, with Bourne, for instance, Bourne has his body. He’s physically very adept at kicking ass. And Bond looks great doing it and he’s kinda brooding and complicated but he wears a suit well and he drives great cars. I think you’re right in say that… I think the challenge with Jack is how do you make dynamic his smarts? His weapon is his brain. He thinks and moves with his mind faster than other people. I think with the kind of Clancy world and the Clancy plots, oftentimes kinda the lead of the story is the story itself. Even with like Hunt for Red October, I thought the plot with Connery with even more fascinating than any one of the particular characters and I think with the Ryan character, the challenge is to… You have to excitingly move the plot forward. So maybe the challenge is… you can’t rely on anything in particular and you kinda just have to let the thinking do the work, I guess. I think with this film we tried to give him a substantive enough background and backstory so that we understand why he moves and thinks the way that he does and why that is appealing to him and why perhaps in this particular circumstance, he doesn’t initially… maybe is hesitant to jump right into the story. Anyway, this is a long-winded answer. I don’t really have an answer for you, but maybe there’s something in it.
We know kinda the man that Jack Ryan becomes from the previous films and all the books. Can you use that as a reference for playing the young version? Or because he doesn’t know exactly what kind of man he’ll become, do you really have to start from Square One?
I love the stories that have come before that we know of. I think, for me it’s always more interesting to kinda start from square one and you take the kinda fundamental pillars of the character and, around that, try to create something new and different. Just like with Kirk, for instance, I can’t do what came before and who these other guys are as Jack Ryan and kinda only do my version of it, but there are certain things that are kinda fundamental to Jack. Like I remember in Clear and Present Danger, I always love the fact that it was… Anne Archer who’s driving the Porsche and he’s driving the VW Bug. He’s kinda frumpy and she’s kinda the wunderkind doctor. I like that about Jack, that he’s more comfortable in his study. He’s comfortable with his books. He’s more comfortable putting a puzzle together. He’d rather spend a Sunday at home than go out. He’s a homebody. There’s a comfort in isolation, but there’s a really intense confidence in his own abilities to figure stuff out and to work through things in his own mind. So it’s balancing that kind of Everyman with the thoughtfulness and the ability to be by himself and the comfort in isolation and then also that kind of intense confidence in his own abilities. And above and beyond that, you kinda wrap it around and create something.
Now that “Trek” is a franchise and this is obviously what Paramount hopes to be another franchise, was there a lot of hesitation to sign on to something that could be bouncing back and forth between two different franchises?
There is a lot of time involved in it and nowadays especially, too, just with publicity, you have an incredible time making the film and then there’s an incredible responsibility to go out and to sell the film to the world. And especially because I’m not an actor commodity yet — People don’t really know me other than Kirk — there’s a responsibility to kinda introduce myself to the world, so there is a lot of time spent on that. But I’ve been very fortunate that I think the two franchises that I’m involved in, I really like the characters, I like the world, so I certainly want to do things outside of these two things, but for the time being, I’m very happy with the work that I’ve been given. But certainly, I’m 32 now and a minute ago I was 27 doing the first “Trek,” so it’s like, “There are other things in my word besides Jack Ryan and James Kirk,” but um… yeah.
I’m curious about doing scenes with Ken when he’s both acting and directing.
I have yet to do it. We’ve yet to work together. I’ve worked Keira quite a bit and Kevin. What I would say about Ken is that he’s incredibly, incredibly focused. I was talking to Lorenzo about this earlier, but Tony [Scott] was very much like this, I guess, but Ken, I guess even more-so, is very specific about what he wants. We don’t spend much time… There’s maybe three takes and then we’re moving on. Oftentimes there’s one. He knows what he wants, how he wants it and that’s not say that he’s not open to collaboration, but he’s not shy from, if we get it in one, we’ll move on. And in those scenes where it demands some colors and really getting to the core of it, he’ll stay with it. And what I love about his set too, and it’s probably because he’s an actor directing actors, is that there’s actor-focus and a lot of times with big films, I think because there’s so much responsibility elsewhere in the film, what with CG or effects or the visuals of it, he’s very happy to kinda sit in a scene and talk with the actors. He’ll oftentimes stand right next to the camera and watch us work, which is great. He’s not hidden in video village all the time, which sometimes can happen. So I appreciate that.
Can you tell us what’s going on today? What’s happening?
What’s fun about this movie is that it’s very Three Days of the Condor, very kinda All the President’s Men. Again, it’s a puzzle. There are little tendon pieces to create the plot, so it’s a ostensibly very small scene… I don’t want to give too much away. What can say about this? S***’s gone awry. S***’s hit the fan. Jack’s trying to cover that that s***’s hit the fan and he’s working very fast to figure things out. But anyway… A more interesting answer, maybe, is that it’s just these fun little pieces. Our movie may not have the biggest set-pieces in the world. It’s not Star Trek, in that there’s an incredible amount of visuals, although Harris is shooting this incredibly well — visually, it’s very very stunning, even some of the shots in there, just the geometry of the building itself I think… it’s really beautiful — it’s a thriller, it’s a plot thriller. It’s kinda building up tension piece-by-piece, moment-by-moment and I look forward to seeing what it turns out to be, because I know a lot of it will happen afterwards in the editing process.
We’ve been hearing about how intelligent the character is and how it has to do with finances and global economies. He seems like has to be an accessible character so that the audience can understand him. Are you working to make him that way and how are you really doing that?
First of all, we can’t have a plot that is inaccessible. People have to understand what’s going on, so I think our plot is interesting and kind apropos to what’s happening in the world, but not overly convoluted so people will spending time figuring out what’s going on. Jack’s experience is an experience that many people share. I don’t share it. I don’t know if anybody here has. He’s been to war. He’s seen war and it’s affected a lot of people and I don’t think we take that lightly in the film and how that traumatized him and how that kinda pushed him in a different direction in his life. And also, he shares what we all share, which is 9/11, which is going through a major turning point. It’s Pearl Harbor for another generation. So what is it like to live in that world after such an effect. Even though he is smart and he is going to save the world, he’s got a lady in his life and he’s got a lot of troubles with that relationship and he’s trying to figure that out and they’re trying to work on their communication skills. It’s a lot of very kinda accessible, human stuff that we all deal with, I’m sure.
Where do you see Jack Ryan going, either by the time this film ends, has he changed from the very beginning? Can you see another chapter beginning if there is a sequel to this?
I haven’t spent much time thinking about where the story could go. Obviously in the series, he becomes president and has many stories to be told from that perspective, but off what I’ve seen in characters that are like the genesis of and the birthing of the character story — Kirk and here — is characters, they can get comfortable with what their responsibility in this world is and I think Jack is younger in this and he’s figuring out what his best place in this world is. He has a need to serve and that is the Jack Ryan character. That is the Clancy character is this kind of patriot. I personally had issues of the idea of “patriot,” but what I do connect to is a man that wants to be selfless and he sees something happen that is so devastating and he gets outside of himself and feels the need to serve, but in doing that, there are many, many real, awful complications to that and many, many real things that can affect a relationship with a woman that he loves. So I think by the end of the film, I think he gets to a place where he, strangely given the events of the film, has found more stability with the lady in his life and more comfort in what he’s doing for his country.
[Pointing to his splint on his hand.] I wanted to know what happened there.
I broke my finger in a stunt in a very not-too-romantic way. I was just trying to tackle someone and I just flicked his forearm and then screamed in pain.
You’re talking to the press. If you want to make the story more exciting…
I”m an actor, but I am an awful liar.
Kevin’s a fascinating guy and he really knows a lot about the business, inside and out, and he really had some interesting things to say about being a lead actor. Have you had a chance to talk to him and get a lot of stories?
Yeah. Kevin and I, I think, really hit it off. I love any chance to talk… Here’s a guy who the top movie star in the world for a long time and he’s got great advice. I love watching him in a close-up. For someone who’s done it for so long, there’s just such a comfort in the knowledge of what he’s able to do and how to do it and how to sell a moment and just a comfort in front of the camera. Look, with a close-up and the camera’s right there and it’s a 15-hour-day and it’s all about you, sometimes it’s not the best feeling to have in the world, that kind of responsibility. But man, he’s a cool cat. He’s just a really knowledgeable guy and he’s got his hands in so many different things. He’s writing all the time and the way he talks to Ken about a shot or how that’s going to move into the next sequence, I love listening to it, because watching my director, who’s, you know, Kenneth Branagh, and then I’m watching my fellow actor, who’s Kevin Costner, and I’m learning an incredible amount just by kinda being there.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens in the US on January 17 and the UK on January 24.