BEVERLY HILLS, California — On Thursday, 28-year-old actor Chris Pine walked the black carpet at the Hollywood premiere of "Star Trek." Surrounded by stars from his film and the original "Trek" series, he went over to a gray-haired veteran actor and gave the man a hug. In the eyes of this talented, pop-culturally aware actor, life as Captain Kirk had finally elevated him to the same iconic status.
"I come from a long line of actors — my grandmother was an actress, my father's an actor, my mother was an actress — so I've been around it for a long time," explained the son of "CHiPs" actor Robert Pine, who was all smiles as he hugged his son on the "Trek" carpet. "I never thought about it as something I wanted to do for my career until I got to college and went to a really big university and had to find my way, find my niche.
"It was just what my dad did for a living — he'd come home from the set and talk to us at the dinner table," Pine remembered of his father, who has appeared in everything from "Gunsmoke" to "24." "I was so close to it that I just didn't think [it was a career possibility]. I wanted to be everything from a jet fighter pilot to a baseball player to a basketball player to a garbage-truck driver.
"Basically, I found the theater department and started doing plays there," the Los Angeles-born star remembered of his eventual collegiate epiphany. "And I found that I really enjoyed myself." These days, Pine is plastered all over "Trek" posters and magazine covers and has been rumored for such high-profile gigs as the "Green Lantern" movie. But for the first half-decade of his career, the actor struggled with being typecast as just another pretty face.
"[I've] done a couple romantic comedies, which I had a wonderful time doing, but there is a role that the boyfriend/husband part plays," Pine said of his movie debut opposite Anne Hathaway in "The Princess Diaries 2" and the 2006 clunker "Just My Luck" that put him alongside Lindsay Lohan. "[Those] are fine, but it's very 'show up, do your role and go home.' "
Also in the mix was "Bottle Shock," a warmly reviewed little film that Pine best remembers for the terrible wig he was forced to wear. " 'Smokin' Aces' was the first time that I got to do something that not a lot of people thought I was going to do, or could do," Pine said when asked about the moment he considers his breakthrough. "And I thank God for Joe for giving me that shot."
The Joe he's referring to is Joe Carnahan, the gritty "Narc" director who let Pine steal scenes alongside an all-star cast that included Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Common and Alicia Keys. "I played a neo-Nazi redneck hit man, which is about the farthest thing from me you can get," Pine remembered of "Aces." "It just was the most fun I'd ever had, because it was such a character."
With the eyes of Hollywood finally seeing Pine as more than just a beefcake, the young actor soon landed the audition of a lifetime. "It was an extraordinary situation, potentially latent with a lot of expectation and responsibility," Pine said of J.J. Abrams' high-profile selection of him as the new Captain James T. Kirk. "But J.J. always created an atmosphere on set that was one of absolute fun. He always reminded us that what we do was very fun — and it should be that."
At the "Trek" premiere Thursday, it was hard to find anyone having more fun than Pine and his dad — both now memorable pop-culture icons. "My mother actually played my father's wife [on 'CHiPs'] and was pregnant with me during a couple of shows they shot," he laughed, remembering what could be considered his first appearance in front of the cameras. "I was there — but I don't remember it very clearly."
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