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July 08, 2010

Christopher Pine hasn’t let Captain James T. Kirk get in his way.

In fact, “Star Trek’s” gung-ho starship commander would probably admire Pine’s “I’ll do it my way” approach to his career.

Pine, 29, is a serious theater actor, and unlike most stage-trained performers who find sudden Hollywood fame, he hasn’t abandoned live performance.

Playing Kirk in last year’s blockbuster movie “Star Trek” has put the handsome Los Angeles native on a career fast track, but he’s still a regular on L.A. stages, too. In 2007 he appeared in Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” at the Geffen Playhouse; last year he starred opposite Chris Noth in the tense political drama “Farragut North,” also at the Geffen.

Now Pine will tackle one of British theater’s hottest and most challenging playwrights, Martin McDonagh, in the blood-soaked, pitch-dark 2001 comedy, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” It opens July 11 at the Mark Taper Forum.

We talked to Pine recently about “Inishmore,” his love of theater, and his career.

The Orange County Register: Did you see this play before landing the role of Padraic, its dark-hearted leading man?

Christopher Pine: I did not. I was more familiar with McDonagh from his film work, the short he won the Oscar for and “In Bruges,” which I was a huge fan of. From there I discovered his theater work. In college I had done a scene from “The Cripple of Inishmaan.” And I had heard from a lot of my friends in New York about how much they’d enjoyed (“Inishmore”).

Register: How is the violence handled? Is it supposed to be funny and queasy at the same time?

Pine: This show won’t appeal to people who are sensitive to seeing graphic violence. But I would say that there is a reason for all of it. If there’s a theme, it is the inanity of violence. The violence in this case is grossly overdone for a reason. It begets nothing but chaos, death, destruction and depravity. The fact of the matter is that all of the violence in this household is the product of Padraic’s love for his cat. If that doesn’t make you giggle, then I suppose you shouldn’t see this show.

Register: Padraic reminds me of the characters in McDonagh’s film, “In Bruges.” They’re violent thugs, but they have their strict rules of engagement.

Pine: (Padraic) has a definite moral code, but I don’t think there is much logic to it. He believes in the purity of the cause, which is the unification of Ireland as an independent republic. In the beginning he’s torturing a guy because he’s been dealing drugs to kids. If they were Protestants, he’d have no problem with it. But Catholic children should have nothing on their minds except waging violence on the Unionists and Protestants. It’s ridiculous, but he does have a certain moral code, and his adherence to it gives him this crazy extremism

Register: Does Padraic have any saving graces as a character?

Pine: I think in Padraic’s mind there is nothing wrong with what he does. The great thing about this piece is there’s a clear objective from the actor’s point of view. He wants to see Ireland free of the jackbooted villains of England’s monarchy by any means necessary. There’s a certain amount of that enjoyment to the torture in that first scene, but the fact is Padraic believes it has to be done. Once you buy into that, it’s easy to judge him objectively.

Register: Does McDonagh give us any hints about why Padraic became so violent?

Pine: There’s no mention of a mother. He clearly was humiliated and powerless from a young age. His father is as sadistic as him. He’s a real hard, harsh, judgmental, mean old man, and highly super-manipulative. Early on there’s a mention of (Padraic) wearing girly scarves and being made fun of by his cousin. He then lashes out as his cousin, beats him and steals his wheelchair. The scarf could have been from his mom.

Register: How do you compare McDonagh to other playwrights? What are his strengths?

Pine: He’s very cynical, like (Joe) Orton. There’s spectacle and violence, for sure. It’s almost balletic at times, ridiculous in its extremity. I guess if you see it without thinking about it you can watch it and leave and have a really good time. Once you start looking at it, it reveals itself to be really deep; it says a lot about how we view violence. There’s a comment there, too, about the ballet of violence, how beautiful it is and how fun to watch. We’re all waiting for the next gunshot. Violence is a computer game.

Register: How did your life change after “Star Trek”?

Pine: I’ve been really blessed from “Star Trek” to get more opportunities than I had previously in my career. And I just wait for the good material. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve gotten to play on the really big stage with Denzel (Washington) and Tony Scott (Pine will star in the upcoming Scott film “Unstoppable” with Washington). Counter that with these theater productions, which are a whole different thing. I just try to follow what’s good and what interests me and challenges me and makes me think and engages a part of me. It’s so rare to get all of your muscles firing at once. That’s what I look for in any role.


1 Comment to "Chris Pine hasn’t let ‘Star Trek’ fame keep him from stage"
  1. Holly says: