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January 05, 2009

The stars of the new ‘Star Trek’ movie on reviving a much-loved franchise
The coming movie “Star Trek” is meant to completely reboot the science fiction franchise — which may be why the title doesn’t sport Roman numerals. Director J.J. Abrams recruited a new crew of actors to portray characters that have long been linked to the cast of the original “Star Trek” TV series, which first aired in 1966. Inheriting the role of space explorer Capt. Kirk from William Shatner is relative newcomer Chris Pine. Zachary Quinto, best known as a villain on the NBC series “Heroes,” plays Mr. Spock, a half-human alien who champions logic over emotion. The character was first embodied by Leonard Nimoy. The new movie focuses on the volatile youth of Kirk, Spock and their crewmates. The stakes are high: The property has been moribund on screen since the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” was canceled in 2005. In separate interviews, we spoke to Messrs. Pine and Quinto.

Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk
WSJ: J.J. Abrams has said he’s making the movie for future fans, not necessarily veterans. What’s he doing to freshen the story that might rattle Trek fans?
Mr. Pine: I’m not well-versed in the Trek canon, but we’re venturing into territory that’s only been covered in these paperback novels they sell. It’s definitely not going to please everyone. There’s a scene where my character is in a bar and he’s definitely inebriated and under the influence of his own arrogance. It’s him becoming the Kirk everyone knows. In my book that makes the journey a little more interesting. If he’s a clear-cut leader from the beginning, you don’t have anywhere to go.

Why has this character become so mythic?
Kirk is still a little elusive to me. But what I think is so unique about this story is that, unlike other genre movies, “Star Trek” has always represented an incredible amount of optimism. In the late ’60s, in a time of unrest, it represented this utopian world. As opposed to “The Dark Knight,” which I enjoyed, but was so bleak and didn’t speak kindly of humanity. Kirk is so iconic because he’s the head of this fantastical utopian team. They aren’t superheroes, they’re men and women trying to achieve something good.

A lot has been made of the differences you bring to the Kirk character, but what aspects of the original did you keep?
There’s a lot of humor, arrogance and decisiveness. I tried to bring in these qualities, but with this new element of a young man coming into his own — he’s a leader who doesn’t know he’s a leader yet. But the speech pattern? Absolutely not. In that territory it becomes an impersonation. I can only do my version of it.

How would you describe your version of the Kirk/Spock dynamic?
My secrecy contract means there’s not much I can say. But this version is very contentious, with Spock and Kirk not enjoying each other’s company at first. The arc is that they find common ground through great conflict.

Did you have a strategy for your audition?
It turned out to be very Hollywood. [Zach and I] work out at the same gym and I had heard from our trainer that Zach had the role. We met before I went into the audition, and he read the scene with me before I went in. He could not have been nicer and more supportive. It made the prospect of getting the part something other than a battle of egos.

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