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January 12, 2008

chris-pine.jpg HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) Stardate – Chris Pine, who plays the young Captain James T. Kirk in the upcoming $150 million movie “Star Trek,” is starting the new year with his own five year mission. To boldly go where few actors get the chance to go, or dare to.

“It brings a big responsibility,” Pine said on the importance of being Kirk, whom generations of fans know as intimately as a family member. “It’s not your standard tentpole movie. It has a 40-year history attached to it. These are iconic roles that have been done, and done well,” he told Hollywood Today.

It is indeed a big responsibility, and one that will be judged under a microscope. Trekkies are the most rabid of all fans, have always had the largest conventions, most enthusiastic collectors and those who will examine every nuance, line and action of their revered Captain Kirk and the cadet who dares to play him. Not only against how William Shatner played it on TV and film, but against the canon of Trek lore, which adherents believe in almost religiously.

An informal radio survey once reported that a third of the people polled believe the government is capable of producing warp drives, or already has. This is indicative that fantasy passes to belief if you’ve seen it on TV and movies often enough since you were a kid.

Pine, who is white hot right now and taking time off the Trek set shortly to attend his first Sundance premiere, “Bottle Shock” (more on that later), is not on this daunting journey alone. At the helm of Star Trek XI, set for release Dec. 25, 2008, is J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Lost”) whose job includes making it less daunting for the Enterprise actors. ““When you are attached to something of this scale, you have more attention on you than you’ve ever had before,” he said. “JJ is able to make such a big experience seem small. You never get the sense that you are working on this grand event, you just focus on that scene,” Pine said from the hush-hush set of the 11th film outing of “Star Trek.”

Pine explained the film to Hollywood Today thusly: “It’s a ‘Batman Begins.’ You get the birth, the childhood and beginning of the main characters before the Five-Year Mission. “That’s what is going to be great. You get a sense of where they came from and how they began. Plus anyone who is a lover of big action films is going to love this.”

So it seems we will be seeing his Star Fleet Academy days and when he took over the Enterprise from Captain Pike, plus the famous time Kirk cheated the Kobiyashi Maru test by re-programming the computer to let him win what was otherwise an un-winnable character test. It’s these little flashes of creator Gene Rodenberry’s Trek history should make the film come alive for fans.

“What I will say is that I really think fans will enjoy this new installment. It’s not like anything they’ve ever seen before: the humor, production, effects and action blend into a great package. There’s enough humor and drama and action to satisfy everyone. This is movie for fans and non-fans alike, it’s going to create new generation of fans who have never been exposed to it before – for my generation and younger, said the 27 year-old actor (“Smokin’ Aces, “Princess Diaries 2”). “I remember the original TV show re-runs from when I was a kid, though I never watched all the movies. So for many people from my generation it will be a brand new experience.”

He said his scenes did not call for him to work with Winona Ryder, cast as Mr. Spock’s human mother. She plays opposite Sarek, Mr. Spock’s Vulcan pop, portrayed by British actor Ben Cross. Winona is also Kirk’s mothers name in the Star Trek world, played in the movie by Jennifer Morrison.

Of course there is lots of interaction with young Spock is played by Zachary Quinto (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”) who had his eyebrows shaved off and spends three hours in makeup each day for his pointy ears – no plastic clip-ons here.

Photographed here at an ST panel, Leonard Nimoy as an elder Mr. Spock meets Quinto’s young Spock, courtesy of a little time travel that is a Trek plot device familiar to fans. Shatner does not, prompting him to make no secret in the media of his disfavor. “How could you not put one of the founding figures into a movie that was being resurrected? That doesn’t make good business sense to me,” the 76-year-old actor told TV’s “Extra,” saying he was more popular than ever. “But, they are going in a different direction and it’ll be a wonderful film.”

Pine had to chose his words carefully as the studio jealously guards any information being released about one of its most important and lucrative franchises. “I’ll be arrested and strung up by Paramount security,” Pine said.

Karl Urban, who plays Dr. McCoy told “There’s a level of security and secrecy that we have all been forced to adopt. I mean, it’s really kind of paranoid crazy, but sort of justified. We’re not allowed to walk around in public in our costumes and we have to be herded around everywhere in these golf carts that are completely concealed and covered in black canvas.”

So Pine, who turned down an offer to play against then-cast George Clooney in “White Jazz” to take on Trek, is aware that this is a huge opportunity, or the opportunity to screw up on a huge scale. Abrams knows it too, and is acutely aware of continuity and the Trekkie community. “Being involved with a series that has a passionate and vocal following makes me incredibly sympathetic. They have put up with so many incarnations along the way. These fans, they are a smart bunch. They are an intelligent group. We are very respectful and we have no intention of subverting the material,” he told the Irish Times recently.

Yet Pine has another trek in three weeks that also means a lot to any young actor. His film “Bottle Shock” is a featured premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. “I’ve never been there before and I wanted to go with a film, instead of attending for swag. It means a lot.” It’s an indie film, but has some blockbuster-friendly faces in it from other sci-fi/fantasy mega-hits: Alan Rickman (“Harry Potter”), Bill Pullman (“Independence Day”) and Rachel Taylor (“Transformers”).

This role is decidedly down-to-earth compared to galaxy-hopping as he moves from Kirk’s Iowa farm origins to the farmlands of California. He plays the scion of the Napa Valley wine-making family involved in the scandalous pivotal event which led to the creation the $50-billion dollar California wine industry.

Back in 1976, a blind taste-testing was held in Paris when the French invited the upstart Napa wines to a challenge against their legendary noble rot. When the judges, to their own shock and dismay, came down in favor of the Napa area wines, the scandal rocked the wine world.

You’d have thought Germany had suddenly been declared winner of WWII. Protests erupted, judges tried to backpedal on their opinions, but the die had been cast. Pine said “It’s pretty much due to that pivotal wine-tasting that careers were made, fortunes were made and prosperity came to the region.”

Pine portrays party/surfer boy Bo Barrett, who had to grow up in a flash when his family’s struggling vineyard, Chateau Montelena, is suddenly ranked world-class for its Chardonnay. “I talked to Bo Barrett and asked him about growing up the 70s and the movie from aimless childhood to finding his niche in the wine business.” Pine also had to take a crash course in all things wine, even though he went to school in nearby Berkley, California.

“Alan (Rickman) is very knowledgeable and the winemakers from the film up there taught us even more about the proper ways to sip and appreciate wines,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad gig, I can tell you that.” The film is from director Randall Miller and writing and producing partner Jody Savin,

He explained “Bottle Shock’ deals with culture shock, from that of his character being a pot-smoking surfer living in Southern California and being summoned up to the farm up North, from the California blue-collar wine business to the posh palaces of the French wine community, from Napa then to Napa now.

“In the pre-Renaissance period, Napa was not the upper-middle class area we know now,” Pine said. It was rural California and nothing was up there except farm workers and a couple of big commercial vineyards. It was the Wild West up there, very different than what’s there now that it’s become a $50 billion business.”

“’Trek’ takes me until April 1, so thankfully they are giving me the time to go to Sundance with “Bottle Shock.” After “Trek” I just want to take a little time off and hopefully get involved with something just as rewarding. Hopefully, I won’t just be flavor of the month.”

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