With a worldwide box-office haul of $384 million, “Star Trek” was one of the biggest movies of the year. But more important than its cash haul was the mere fact that director J.J. Abrams pulled the franchise from the cinematic dustbin and gave it a sleek, big-budget sheen. “Trek” was finally back, and perhaps it was cooler than it’d ever been. A lot of the credit for the cool factor goes to Chris Pine, who took on the iconic role of James T. Kirk and made it his own.
We at MTV News couldn’t be more grateful that the U.S.S. Enterprise is once again patrolling outer space, which is why Abrams and Pine are two of the entertainers we’re most thankful for in 2009. In a recent chat with MTV News, both these guys reflected on the experience of making “Trek,” revealed some secrets about the project that we never knew and talked about the future of the franchise.
MTV: Congratulations, you represent two of the people we are most thankful for this year! This is the first twosome we’ve ever honored. Do you have any speeches prepared?
J.J. Abrams: Chris does.
Chris Pine: What? I will say I feel pretty honored because I know you’ve done Harrison Ford and Robert Downey Jr. and a bunch of people I really love, so thank you â€” this is pretty big for me.
MTV: Be honest, Chris, did you think your career had peaked after starring with Lindsay Lohan in “Just My Luck”?
Pine: Well, when I started out, I never thought I’d do romantic comedies or action films, so to have done both and to be part of a franchise that’s been around for so long, it surprised me more than anyone else.
MTV: So I am a born and bred Trekkie. I want to thank you on behalf of every “Trek” fan. You made “Star Trek” for the first time cooler than “Star Wars.” Would you agree with that?
Abrams: You’re asking a dangerous question, my friend. I don’t know how you respond to that without sounding like a douche bag. Why don’t you just put a bull’s-eye on my head? You know, making a film knowing there were so many fans out there was nerve-racking. I was behind the camera. Chris, Zach [Quinto], Zoe [Saldana], John [Cho], Simon [Pegg], Karl [Urban] â€” everyone in front of the camera â€” they were the ones literally putting themselves out there and asking for it. The fact that we were accepted and helped by [original Spock] Mr. [Leonard] Nimoy building that bridge between what was and what is now, it was incredibly gratifying to see it was well-received.
MTV: Chris, it’s an amazing year for you. Is there one moment that you can pinpoint that is the most gratifying or surreal?
Pine: Working with Leonard. I remember doing the whole ice-cave sequence. It really wasn’t anything that happened in the scene so much as sitting down next to Leonard and passing the time and talking with him about his experiences. It was a real honor to work with him.
MTV: It obviously all turned out well for you guys â€” we’re celebrating what you have accomplished â€” but if it didn’t turn out well, you would have been eviscerated. Did you both share equally in angst and worry, or were you both relatively calm over the last several years?
Abrams: Because we had an ambitious shoot, the good news was that often drowned out the din of naysayers and the suspicious fanbase and even the enthusiastic supporters. We were so busy, we were just trying to focus on that and not let the nerves of “What are they going to think?” get to us.
MTV: Chris, when if at any point did the nerves kick in for you?
Pine: After I got [the part] and then talking to J.J., the nerves kind of slowly built, because as an actor, and as someone who wants to make a living doing what he loves doing, I was happy to get the part, and that lasts for about 15 minutes, and you call everyone you know and make plans to move out of your parents’ house. And then the reality of the situation sets in. Not only is it a tremendous amount of responsibility because of all the money involved, but it’s also a franchise that’s beloved and it’s [original Kirk] William Shatner to boot. After being scared sh–less, I let it go. The fact that we could be eviscerated or succeed was actually liberating.
MTV: There was all this talk in terms of when you guys were starting to nail down casting. Everyone from Matt Damon to people we haven’t heard of were in the running. How much of that was true? Did you ever consider going with a big name like Mr. Damon?
Abrams: I did, but not for the role of James Kirk. I went to Damon for the role of Kirk’s father, and he declined in the most gracious and understandable and logical of reasons. We lucked out with Chris Hemsworth, and he did a great job. Maybe it would have been distracting to have someone as massively famous as Matt Damon in that role. … The decision was made very early on to have actors who were not necessarily the most famous but the most right for the role.
MTV: It’s worked out pretty well for you, Chris.
Pine: At least for the time being, “Star Trek” has given me the luxury of choice in terms of what I want to do and where I want to take my career. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but certainly I’m enjoying that immensely.
MTV: Have the two of you had any talk about the next “Trek” film?
Pine: None. As it always is with J.J. and his crew, it’s secrecy all the time until you get the script. So I have no idea.
MTV: J.J., if the planets align, will that be the next thing you direct?
Abrams: I don’t know. We have no script yet. We have no specific story. We’re at the starting gate of the process. All I can tell you is that working with Chris and the whole cast was literally the most fun thing I’ve ever been able to professionally be part of, so the chance to work with them again, I can’t tell you how devastating it would be to pass that up. I couldn’t be more excited about the next adventure.
MTV: Chris, have you practiced your “Khan!!!” scream?
Pine: Yes, as I do every night before I go to bed. I practice my Shatner. I pray to Shatner.