By Lindsey Bahr
AP Film Writer
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Looking at Chris Pine’s career, it’s hard to imagine that he hadn’t always harbored a lifelong passion to be an actor.
In a little over a decade since his first big screen role (the sequel to “The Princess Diaries”), Pine, 35, has established himself as one of the most recognizable stars of his generation. He’s got his third “Star Trek” movie coming this summer, followed by “Wonder Woman” in 2017. His latest, “The Finest Hours,” is out Friday.
Stardom of this kind doesn’t come accidentally to anyone, but to talk to Pine is to realize that he truly thinks of it as a lark.
“I don’t even feel like I picked it,” Pine said in a recent interview. “I just started doing plays in college. And then I went to LA. Then I got an agent. It just sort of rolled like a very slow snowball into what I’m doing now. It’s very weird.”
Pine did come from acting stock, however. His father, Robert Pine, is a journeyman working actor best known for “CHiPs” (Sgt. Getraer). His mother, Gwynne Gilford, was also an actress, as was his grandmother, Anne Gwynne. Growing up in Los Angeles meant he was even closer to the business. He did production assistant work on Ryan Murphy’s show, “Popular,” and then on a Roger Corman television show that his father was working on.
“Just regular old nepotism,” Pine said, laughing.
That’s not to say he’s not deeply serious about his profession, accidental or not.
In “The Finest Hours,” Pine plays a real life hero who led an impossible Coast Guard mission in 1952 to rescue three dozen men stranded on a wrecked oil tanker that a terrible Nor’easter had torn in half. And it’s a bit of a departure for Pine.
Sure, it’s a nail-biting adventure, but Pine’s character, the late Bernie Webber, doesn’t exactly have the confidence of, say, Captain Kirk or some of the other cocksure extroverts he’s played in the past.
“Bernie struck me as someone who experienced great insecurity, anxiety, about his own ability and asked himself many times: am I good enough?” Pine said. “If you’re human and alive, I think we’ve all felt that intensely at one point or another.”
To prepare, he listened to audio recordings of Webber to nail his thick New England accent. He studied his memoir and went out with the Coast Guard in Los Angeles to try to get a sense of their lives.
On set, too, director Craig Gillespie said Pine helped set the tone for the difficult shoot by being on time, prepared, and ready to bear anything — even being cold, wet and miserable for three months — with a sense of humor.
“He can be such a chameleon. He has great comedic timing, and then he can be this leading hero with swagger and then he can do character stuff. Because he’s so handsome, sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle. But it really is amazing to see the nuances that he brings to his characters,” said Gillespie.
He’s excited about the “Star Trek Beyond,” even without J.J. Abrams at the helm, and is very over the Internet backlash over that first trailer.
“Seriously, who cares? This fan base… We’re going to (expletive) up. It’s like, of course we are. How are we going to please everybody?” said Pine. “It’s too bad that they didn’t like it, but I’m pretty sure we made a great film.”
Pine is also playing the male lead opposite Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman” — one of the first modern era superhero films to be focused on a woman, which he’ll be shooting until late Spring.
Director Patty Jenkins convinced Pine to come on to the project, but it didn’t take much persuading. “It’s about time we have a strong female energy projected into the world,” Pine said.
While he might have more fame, he doesn’t consider himself the big success in his family.
“My father has had a SAG card since 1964,” Pine noted. “He was under contract at one of the last studios that had a contract system. He’s been a working actor for 50 years. He put two kids through private school. He put three people through college. And he’s never stopped working in voiceover, on stage, in film and television. THAT to me is success. That is far more difficult to do what he did than what I’ve done.”