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August 06, 2008

MoviesOnline sat down with Bill Pullman and Chris Pine at the Los Angeles press day for their new movie, “Bottle Shock,” directed by Randall Miller and shot on location in California’s wine country. Based on a true story, the film reveals America’s initiation into and contribution to vinification, along with the enterprising and passionate artisans who bottle it.

It’s 1976, and Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) is struggling to create the perfect chardonnay at Chateau Montelena, his vineyard in the not-yet-famous Napa Valley, where he has jeopardized everything for a dream. His son, Bo (Chris Pine), at first glance doesn’t seem to have inherited his father’s love for the family business, and the two of them are often found duking it out in the backyard boxing ring, each trying to knock some sense into the other.

Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a British expatriate living in Paris who owns the strugging Academie du Vin, develops an idea to educate Parisians on the new wines coming out of California. A twist of fate along a dusty road brings the floundering vintner and the struggling shop owner together and forever changes both their lives and the wine industry.

Here’s what Bill Pullman and Chris Pine had to tell us:

MoviesOnline: I love the parenting in this movie, the idea of boxing your kid, (laughter) I was wondering where that came from.

Bill Pullman: Oh, that’s why I took the part. You can’t really do that to your own kids these days, you know, people find it old school or something, but the hard know, as they used to say.

MoviesOnline: And look what’s happened to this generation because of that. (laughter)

Bill Pullman: Yeah, they want the soft chair, you’re getting it for yourself, they think, oh, he’s getting me the chair. (laughter)

MoviesOnline: Is that something that really happened, because your character is obviously based on a real person, so did he really box with his son?

Bill Pullman: He didn’t literally, he did figuratively, but you know, it’s a very tough environment there. They’re real people with a great business that they run together and they work things out but it’s tough you know, and there’s times where they push and shove each other kind of figuratively and I think that’s what Randy was doing.

MoviesOnline: Alan had sort of implied that facts in the story are true, but maybe a lot of it isn’t. From your point of view, from speaking to them and making the movie, how much of it is the real story?

Bill Pullman: Well really, how do we make that question specific and interesting, because so many movies now, you know, are based on true stories. We like them now, I think, you know, and there’s always a question, where do you draw the line, and do people expect a documentary? No, they want it well told and then when do inventions start to call attention to themselves? I think that’s the trick with this kind of thing, and hopefully you know, the boxing thing has felt really organic to me, and maybe it’ll stick out to somebody else, I don’t know, but you’re trying to… I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit around. You know, to be physically tired with each other and arguing in a literal way is such a great relief, to have that avenue as actors, then you’re less likely to be phony or whatever, because you’re like literally tired, and you say things when you’re tired, or you say things when you’re mad, and you know, we’re fighting with each other and it’s hot and we’re uncomfortable and Chris had the wig (laughter) and I had the age. We were both trying to be good sports and everything, but it’s coming out this thing you know, and so I was glad to have that, cause it felt like ah, okay, so not another scene sitting around, saying, you know, you’re selfish and you don’t appreciate me, (laughter).

MoviesOnline: Chris, how much say did you have in your look? Also, did you chat with Bo Barrett and is that really what he looked like?

Chris Pine: Well yeah, you know, actually, I only saw a picture of what he looked like when we were up at the chateau for the premiere, and there’s a picture of the whole Barrett family on this old truck, that actually looks exactly like the truck that he drives in the movie, and there’s all the brothers and the sister and there’s Jim, and then there’s Bo on the back of the truck in a top hat, and this huge wavy Farrah Fawcett hair (laughter), with a huge Tom Selleck moustache. I usually have my hair short and it was I think the hair (laughs) as cheesy as it sounds, I mean I think the hair was a major part of the character to kind of give him that, it’s thoroughly 70s, it’s a kid that followed The Dead and you know, he’s not the clean cut kind of dude, so I think that was important for the character.

MoviesOnline: Did shooting in Napa Valley enhance your characters or add to the experience that you brought to the roles?

Bill Pullman: Yeah, you meet the people that are there and they’re working hard at a profession that they’re honored by and they’re you know, like all people in that kind of environment, there’s a certain suspicion that we’re gonna tell lies about them or whatever, and we do (laughter), but they, I think also, you meet them, and you don’t want to dishonor them, you don’t want to discredit them or look like you’re doing some shallow version of them, so that was good. And then the fact that it’s so beautiful there, where you can kind of realize that the land is the principal character in a way, of wine, and of the movie, and of why people want to make it there.

MoviesOnline: Did the two of you do any research regarding wines and vineyards, especially when you’re out in the field where you can actually touch and hold these sensitive little grapes?

Chris Pine: Really, the preparation came when we went up there and thank god the Barretts were so open and generous with their time. Not only is Jim a winemaker, as is Bo, but Bo’s wife Heidi is a world renowned wine maker, so we got, you know, not only could I talk to Bo about his family and his life growing up as a Californian and then moving up here, but you know, he’s a very much hands on person at his vineyard, so he would take us around the different grapes, from the Zinfandel to the Cabernet, etc., and then Heidi would take us through the tasting process and how she goes about creating a vintage from the different barrels of what goes into a taste, so we got, we really were (laughs) and then even from the extras that were working with us sometimes in the field, some of them had worked in the field, so to get you know, minutiae, about if you’re walking down a line in a vineyard, what are you looking for? Is the leaf shading the grape too much, should it be shading the grape too much, do you want to take that leaf off? Because any small thing can affect the taste of the grape.

Bill Pullman: Yeah, and it is curious the Latinos and the Anglos who’ve lived together and worked there for decades and through generations, and you talk to the guy who worked cutting and you see the way he holds a knife, you know, and they genuinely respect [each other]. There’s not a sense of some kind of feudal serfdom. There’s a lot of respect for each other, each other’s cultures and how they’ve lived together there. That was good to see.

MoviesOnline: Are you both wine snobs now? (laughter)

Chris Pine: No, far from it. I mean, there’s so much knowledge that you can have of wine. My knowledge is a small, small, small percentage. I know what I like, and I know what I like to drink, but you know, we were only up there for a month, so I can’t claim to have any kind of snobbery.

Bill Pullman: Things that are specifically discussed are always interesting to actors. I think whenever you get somebody who can really nuance and parse some, you know, [looking at the journalists’ recorders on the press table] I’m just looking at all these different things and I see there’s one Apple thing and then there’s all different makes you know and you think well I would love to hear somebody discuss about why they have this one that looks from the 50s (laughter) you know. I mean that’s instantly engaging.

MoviesOnline: Usually because it’s the only one they had at had at Radio Shack. (laughter)

Bill Pullman: Yeah, can’t there be a wine like that?

MoviesOnline: So what do each of you look for when you’re looking for a role? I mean, you’ve made some very deliberate career choices in your short career and I suspect your dad may have influenced your path, in your, you know, growing up.

Chris Pine: Yeah, you know, my parents, I guess really the one thing that I was taught by growing up in a family that was in the business, and my family was particularly, you know, my father was like a working class actor, he’s worked for 40 years, and he’s had some fame, but he’s really seen the ups and downs, I’ve seen it all as a child of that environment, so going into the business I never had, I never looked at it through rosy colored glasses. I mean I knew exactly what I was getting into, from that standpoint, so that was for me probably the most effective part of growing up in my family, but the choices I’ve made (laughs) you know, range anywhere from like, I haven’t been working, it would be nice to work, and I’d like to work, to yeah, you know, I think in this particular situation I was working with someone like Bill and Alan, people that I’ve grown up watching, that I respected, and every time that you work, you hope to raise your game and the only way you can raise your game is by working with people that you respect you know, to get to that A-level. I knew that coming to work everyday would be a challenge and you know and certainly that story and that dynamic between father and son really fascinated me cause you know, I have such a good relationship with my own father that I knew it would be hard to find whatever that kernel was between this relationship and explore that.

Bill Pullman: And Chris’ dad was in Independence Day, so it’s really interesting (laughter) too. Now I’ll be in Chris’ war room (laughter) so I’ll be weaving this tapestry.

Chris Pine: Yep, yep.

MoviesOnline: What do you look for, Bill?

Bill Pullman: It resonates, and usually when they say, “Oh, you’re a father.” I think I don’t want to play a father. I do that too much at home. I’m tired of that. But in this particular case, I thought there was some real great things that – – normally now in stories, fathers are the villains. Most of the scripts, they say, “Here’s a father part” and it’s like you’re the asshole, you’re the unbendable one, then it takes the child’s wisdom to deliver you to a more enlightened place. It’s such a bullshit thing as any parent knows. The real fortitude of life is not enduring your own arrogance or our illusion of central position. It’s like trying to work with the child’s thing to make them comfortable and secure and all that. So in this particular case, to read this relationship where I didn’t have to think about all that shit, just say, “You know what? You’re fired. I drew a line, you went over the line, goodbye.” You can’t do that anymore.

MoviesOnline: What did you bring to Star Trek because J.J.’s been marveling about the character relationships?

Chris Pine: I think what’s new about this particular version of Star Trek and what J.J. and Bob and Alex were able to bring to it that’s new and really exciting is an incredible amount of humanity to the roles. For a project that can be so, there’s a lot of spectacle to it, there’s explosions and graphics and computer graphics and that. There’s a lot of, it is really character driven. You really get to see why Kirk is Kirk, why Spock is Spock, how this crew got together. He, I think they did an incredible job of casting. Really to make something like Trek work takes an incredible like – – Bottle Shock is a good ensemble that works well together. You have to believe that these people would fight and die for one another. That’s what made the original series so good and I think they did that. When people see what Zach did with the role and what Karl did with his role, what Zoe did with Uhura, she really expanded on a role that I think people will be really surprised and really excited.

MoviesOnline: Did you try and emulate William Shatner?

Chris Pine: I think what J.J. set forth in the beginning of the whole thing was to pay tribute to what was done before, to respect what these men had already given us in terms of creating their characters and then to bring our own unique take on it. I think that opened up just really myriad possibilities. I never felt in particular, I don’t know about Zach but I’m sure he would say the same thing is, I never felt encumbered. I only felt, “Thank God that we were given such a great foundation for these characters because I don’t really have to do all that much different from what they’ve given us.” Then J.J. being the kind of wonderful, positive creative force that he is kind of let us do whatever we wanted.

MoviesOnline: Bill, is there a franchise you’d love to be in?

Bill Pullman: Meet me by the bridge.

MoviesOnline: Kirk’s father.

Bill Pullman: Yes, crawling out from some merchant galaxy where I live.

MoviesOnline: You’ve played on space ships before.

Bill Pullman: I was so lucky I got to do the satire first. I didn’t have to be earnest. I did Spaceballs as a second movie and we were spoofing Star Wars and it was fun. It was weird to kind of then have to do the real thing. “Isn’t this a spoof?” “No, you’re really worried about the aliens.”

MoviesOnline: Congratulations on your doctorate.

Bill Pullman: Yes, thank you.

Chris Pine: What? In what?

Bill Pullman: I keep these things secret from you. No, I just want to tease him. You’ll get one too. Really, they’ll want to give you one. In fine arts, doctorate in fine arts.

MoviesOnline: I saw Your Name Here.

Bill Pullman: Did you get it? How did you get it? Oh, good. This is my little movie, little, little, little movie but it’s also a science fiction kind of. The Philip K. Dick one. This is the snake bite movie of all snake bite movies but somehow it’s living and it got premiered at CineVegas and we got a jury award for it so somehow it’s not going underneath the rug.

MoviesOnline: That and Alien Autopsy.

Bill Pullman: Oh my God, you are watching the obscure ones. Yeah, but this is Fantasia on Philip K. Dick. It’s not just some thing. It’s very different. I think, it’s nonlinear which immediately in this difficult world, everybody says, “Aw, fuck, we aren’t going to touch it.” But it’s really, it’s a beautiful little mind bending, what reality are we in story that’s true to his nature and everything. It’s like the I’m Not There is to Dylan, this is to Philip K. Dick. Waa?

MoviesOnline: How did your character get the passion to make wine? And why did the son have passion to work for his father?

Chris Pine: I think for my character, it was really a matter of, I think really at the end of the day you kind of figure that the two blonde people will end up together, even though I think really at the end of the day, Sam probably should have ended up with Freddy’s character in a heartbeat over Bo. That’s a different story, probably more credit to the great job that Freddy did. But I think it was really a love story between the kind of, for me between a man and his father. Really the whole time, I just want my dad to say, “Good job, well done, you did a good job.” Like when I go get those oak barrels, all I want him to say is, “You did a good thing and thank you.” I think really I found myself in the business because I want my father’s approval and I think that’s what I essentially hopefully get in the end is it’s really not spoken. It’s that kind of, we do that little jab thing pretending that we’re boxing out in the fields. That’s his way of saying, “Well done, good job, good work.” He’s not a vulnerable man so he’ll never say that. I probably will never get that, the I Love You speech kind of thing or the moment, but that to me is good enough and that’s what was important for Bo.

Bill Pullman: And I have a ranch in Montana, or my brother. There’s a moment in this movie that just oh God, how do I really know I’m in my own body all the time because I had a point last year where I lost this crop of hay, this second cutting of hay. In that moment when I first walk to the horizon, realized it was gone and my hand went up like that. There’s a moment in this where we were at magic hour and Randy said, “Just go out there and walk across.” I said, “Doing what? In what context? Where?” “Just go, go, go, we’re losing light. Go, go, go, go.” And I walked over there and something about that thing about putting my hand up and I remembered, Jesus Christ, I remembered losing that thing last year. So I think in that sense of you work so hard with mother nature and you can’t get mad at mother nature. That’s just the way it is. It’s always kind of teaching you lessons but you have this thing that you think you can beat it and you just want a break and you want a break and you want a break. So I think that’s where some things must have come from.

MoviesOnline: Chris, are you ever tempted to do the Shatner dramatic pauses, just once?

Chris Pine: You know, really what Mr. Shatner did was very specific and very unique to him. All I really tried to do is do justice to what he did. I think if I went to mimic-ville, I went to try to do Shatner-ville, it would not have been smart. J.J. never really asked for that so it was finding the balance I think between what was done before.

MoviesOnline: Is the enterprise incredible?

Chris Pine: The set is incredible. The production design I think will blow people away. I think it really is enough of that kind of, it pays tribute to that ’60s look but it’s very of the now and the gadgets are incredibly cool. The production design really, what’s great about working on a movie like that is you know that everybody that’s involved is the best at what they do.

MoviesOnline: How does it feel to be on the bridge?

Chris Pine: It’s spine-tingling for sure, for sure.

MoviesOnline: Have you kissed any green girls?

Chris Pine: Oh, man, you’ll have to wait and see.

“Bottle Shock” opens in theaters on August 8th.

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