Since playing James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Chris Pine has become one of Hollywood’s hottest actors. But after taking the title role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Pine joins the ranks of leading men for whom franchises are built: Playing the character created by Tom Clancy and popularized by the likes of Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, Pine aims to revive the series and take Jack Ryan into a new era.
Pine recently spoke to press at the Los Angeles press day for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, where he talked about his introduction to Clancy’s world or espionage, what appealed to him about stepping into the analyst’s shoes, and where he’d like to see the character go.
Chris, was this more or less intimidating to step into Jack Ryan’s fabled shoes than to do Star Trek?
Well, I think that the great thing about the Jack Ryan films is that the plot and the story kind of always take center stage, and I think if you’ve done your job as the actor portraying Jack Ryan, you are present enough to make an impact, but you kind of let the story shine, and we had a great story that David Koepp came up with and, you know, Kirk is obviously – Shatner made such a deep impression, and the zeitgeist that, it’s just a whole, it’s a different thing entirely.
How many of your own stunts did you do? How did you keep yourself safe through it?
Yeah, I did plenty of my own stunts. I enjoyed doing them, and I think most actors do it. You get to live out kind of boyhood fantasies and, you know, people make sure that you’re doing it safely. I was on a very large motorcycle for a lot of the time, which I’m not sure I would probably do again without a helmet on the streets of New York – on the first day, but it sure was a lot of fun. The most fun I had I think is the – and one of the best moments in the film, from my point of view – is the scene that I have with the security guy in the bathroom towards the beginning of the film when I first arrive in Russia. And that was, I like — I didn’t get to do much of it in the last Star Trek — I like the kind of hand-to-hand combat stuff, and I like the fact that Jack, as much as he had training in the Marines, isn’t a trained killing professional, and so it was kind of a MacGyver moment of trying to figure out how to defeat the large bad guy when you’re, you know, not quite as big and not quite as ferocious or talented, you know, with your fists. And we had a great stunt team behind us, and Vic Armstrong, who’s been around for a long time and is one of the best in the business was our second unit guy and our stunt coordinator, and that was a lot of fun.
And after Star Trek, you’ve always got to be thinking a little franchise potential – do you think this one has it?
I think, obviously, we’re in a corporate world and we’ll see what Paramount thinks of it and if people like it and people come to see it, and I would love to do it again, and I think what a really interesting time for a spy franchise in 2014. We’ve seen it obviously done in the Cold War in the late ‘80s and ‘90s with Harrison [Ford] and Alec [Baldwin], but I think right now given the interconnectivity of the world, given the kind of – the gray morality of politics and spydom and all that, there’s great, fertile ground to be mined for good stories.
There are so many Jack Ryan movies before this film. What was your first Jack Ryan experience?
I’ve always loved the series, I’ve always loved the spy genre, fiction and films, so I was just kinda well-versed with the Clancy universe, having watched the films growing up, and looking at the character and rewatching the films, I think what I most enjoyed, for me, was the difference that I saw in how Alec portrayed the character and how Harrison portrayed the character, and with Alec in Hunt you have this – what Alec does really well, which is this confident, intelligent, analytical man who knows what he knows and is not afraid to say it, and with Harrison, with his tweed coat and his Volkswagen, you know, Jetta, he’s the humble intellect and he’s the classic what Harrison does best, the classic reluctant hero. And I thought somewhere in that was kind of a great way to begin looking at the character.
What was your chemistry like with Keira Knightley, even when the cameras weren’t rolling?
I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun with an actress. She could not have been any more professional. I mean, she’s younger than I am and she’s done probably three times more films than I have. She’d show up, super-smart, friendly, charming, in it, in the moment, and then she’d wrap and she’d take, and there was zero drama with Keira Knightley. It was the most lovely, wonderful experience you could ask for. And just present, it was her job. She took her job really seriously, so she would ask the right questions. And I think what I respond to more often than anything is just intelligence and she was just sharp, sharp as a tack. And I remember greatly – I mean, the scene that I remember most was the scene that we have with Kevin [Costner], when she kind of gets on board with our plan to take down Viktor Cherevin and it was just a great joy to work with someone like Kevin who’s been doing it for so long and with Keira who’s been doing it much longer than I have. I just felt like I was an apprentice. So yeah, no, she was lovely.
This character was really down to earth – he wasn’t flying off buildings or doing anything like that. How much of a discussion was there about setting him apart from the sexier, more glamorous spies like James Bond?
Are you saying I’m not sexy now? ‘Cause I will take you down.
Not at all!
No, I got you. But I remember in the beginning there was a big discussion about the suits or the wardrobe, our costume designer brought in all these beautiful Ralph Lauren suits and very kind of banker suits that looked awesome, and they were, you know, sharp as a tack. But the image I kept on going back to was Harrison Ford in his tweed jacket and his kind of, his misshapen tie, and his Volkswagen Rabbit, and I just thought that that, to me, was the character. You didn’t care about suits, you didn’t care about fancy watches. He had a $10 haircut and that’s the kind of guy, and that certainly gave him a kind of a Men’s Warehouse look, but I thought that that, especially given that he was working on Wall Street, he was that guy, he was the odd man out, he wasn’t the guy with the Lamborghinis and the guy that could notice a nice Ducati but didn’t have one himself. And Ken [Branagh] and I talked about that a lot, how here’s a man whose trajectory at such a young age, at twenty-whatever he was-one, already getting his PhD at LSE, I mean, that’s – we did the chronology, and it doesn’t happen often at all. He’s a man that would have gone into the private sector before 2001 and made a fortune, I’m sure. But because of the man who he was, he is selfless in nature. He’s not the kind of classic American capitalist. He’s something different.
So for me, he wasn’t Jason Bourne with all of his sexy kind of kung-fu tricks, he wasn’t James Bond with his great suits and his Aston Martin and a bevy of beautiful women. He’s a man whose virtues lay in a different ballpark, and they were something much simpler. And to what Mace [Neufeld, one of the film’s producers] said, this is a kind of an answer to your question and not, I had this argument with Ken all the time about when I’d turn to Keira and I’d say, you know, but I made a promise, that’s why I couldn’t tell you that I was in the CIA. And I was like, isn’t that the dumbest thing ever? If you were with a woman that you love, wouldn’t you just turn to her and be like, look, I’m in the CIA. And I never agreed with him, but in watching it and seeing that scene, I’d think, well, God, that’s exactly what makes him so great is because it feels so archaic, awfully and ironically, that someone would be a man of his word, who said, If I make a promise and I’m not gonna say it, well, then I’m not gonna do it, and that kind of, that simple man, even though he’s complex and intelligent, I think, related too to that, to the aesthetic and to the feel of the guy, that you could pass him in the street and really not think twice or look back. He just so happens to be the man that’s saving the world.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens today nationwide.