“You’re just going to have to see the film,” Chris Pine laughs when hit with the most obvious question regarding his featured role in the new sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. During the course of director Patty Jenkins’ blockbuster superhero 2017 hit, Wonder Woman, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor – the brave military man who wins Wonder Woman’s heart – is killed in a massive explosion. Yet, here he is in the 1980s-set Wonder Woman 1984. Is he Steve Trevor’s grandson? Did he somehow survive that enormous aerial blow-up? Is he brought back through magic? Another dimension? “These are all very valid questions,” Pine smiles. “But I’m just the hired gun.”
Though he won’t reveal how he manages to return in Wonder Woman 1984 (which introduces Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig as two new villains), Chris Pine – the in-demand star of films like Star Trek, Hell Or High Water, People Like Us, Into The Woods, and A Wrinkle In Time – does admit that his return in the sequel did not come as a surprise. “No, I wasn’t surprised, because I happen to be friends with Patty Jenkins, the director and the writer, and she made it clear at the end of shooting the first one that she had ideas about the second one,” Pine reveals. “Her mind’s always going. I know that she’s probably working on the third one in her brain. She’d pretty much laid out the general idea for the second one somewhere during the production of the first one.”
When did your friendship with Patty Jenkins begin? You did the TV project Into The Night with her as well, of course…
“She was going to direct a film called Jackpot, right before we talked about Wonder Woman. I really liked the script, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. Another director was initially attached to Wonder Woman, and it just wasn’t for me. There was no script, and then you have to sit down with someone who can tell you about it. But then in order to tell you everything, you have to sign out parts of the script [for security reasons], and there’s just too much nonsense. Then Patty came aboard, and I still wasn’t really interested. But I eventually sat down with Patty at a cafe in Silver Lake and she spent an hour and a half describing the entire film for me and acting out the different parts, and by the end of it, I was pretty sure that I was going to do it. My friendship really began with her at that initial meeting. I loved her passion for it. I’m a director’s actor, in that I really like to follow my director. ‘What do you need? What do you want?’ I come with my tool bag. She’s just a great General Patton. She’s like, ‘I know what I want, and I know how I want to do it. I know what qualities I want to get from you.’ I really appreciate that. It just makes my job a lot easier.”
What do you remember of the 1980s?
“I remember, unfortunately making my friend Andrew cry outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre after seeing E.T! I didn’t think E.T. was real and he was pretty convinced that he was. I feel badly about that. I remember having to leave the room during the sex scene in Top Gun, until I stepped back in and watched it. I was obsessed with the movie Bugsy Malone and had my mom buy me a three-piece suit. And then my neighbour, Mr. Legman, had a fedora that his father had in the 40s that he gave to me. I’d walk around the house pretending to be Bugsy Malone. I loved The Goonies, I loved Indiana Jones, and I had every piece of Star Wars bedding that a kid could have. I remember my dog Lucy, and I remember the sycamore tree outside of my house where I grew up. I loved baseball. Don Mattingly was my favourite baseball player. I am a kid of the 80s, and I love the 80s over all things.”
Your character in the first film was different because he was kind of the partner, the sidekick of the female hero, which is something that we don’t see often. How comfortable were you with that?
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do the movie if I thought that I was just there as eye candy or to make a joke of the man not being the lead. I’m all about gender parity, but I wouldn’t put myself through that. It’s a nice talking point, being the second banana or whatever. What it highlighted for me is what it must be like for a woman when you’re playing the girlfriend or whatever. And there are scenes where I would be like, ‘What the fuck am I doing in this scene?’ It was eye opening in that regard. But the pitch that Patty had was so buoyant, it was so alive, and it was so fun. It reminded me a lot of Romancing The Stone and Kate Capshaw and Harrison Ford, or Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, or Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. It evoked these seminal, fundamental, onscreen romantic relationships that we’ve seen since the beginning of film. I never really had a chance to do that, and the fact that Patty was thinking about marrying a romance with a $200 million action film was fascinating. The thing that I was really interested in was making an electric and alive romance on screen. That’s a gamble, but Gal is just so bright and so lovely. It’s easy to fall in love with Gal Gadot, and that’s my job: to fall in love every day. It’s a really nice thing to do. I really wanted to be a part of that. I’ve done enough action films…I’m so happy to let Gal have to get up at five in the morning to go do all of her stuff!”
Why do you think we don’t see so many romantic movies anymore?
“I don’t know…the $40 to $50 million budget romance doesn’t seem to be picked up by anyone. With the streamers, they’re doing like $3 million indie rom-coms. But like the classic, bigger budget romantic movie…I don’t know. And then also it’s interesting too that we live in a time of such alienation where – not to drag it all the way down – but suicide rates are high, and loneliness is an epidemic and romantic films are all about connecting and that intimacy and vulnerability. I don’t know…good question!”
How do you feel about the effect that the first film had with boys and girls?
“When we were in New York doing press for the first one, we went to one of the first screenings of it, and to walk into a room with straight men, gay men, black, white, all colours of the spectrum, all wearing Wonder Woman gear, was awesome. As filmmakers and storytellers, our job is to let people know that they’re not alone, and that we share in this experience called life. To see everybody wanting to be this female superhero was pretty cool. It was really a fun experience to see how unifying it was.”
How does the inclusion of Kristen Wiig change the tone on set? We’re used to her just making us laugh…
“Any director worth their salt knows that the actor’s job is easier when the film is cast really well and the ensemble rolls like a machine. The introduction of Pedro and Kristen was easy, and it felt like we’d been together for a long time. I think Kristen really enjoyed the opportunity to kick some ass and be a superhero and train every day and do things that maybe she hadn’t been asked to do before, while also bringing all of her incredible strengths and talents, comedically speaking. We had a great time, and they’re just lovely people and fun to be around. We laugh a lot.”
Quentin Tarantino was recently quoted saying that you are his favourite Chris…
“That’s very cool. I’m very flattered. My grandmother, Anne Gwynne, was an actress in the 30s and 40s. And I took my mom to the Academy Awards once and we saw Quentin, who I’d met before at a party, and my mother wanted to meet him to ask him, I think, where to get a poster of my grandmother’s reframed, because Quentin is all about old movie posters. Of course, he knew the place to go to. He knew all about my grandmother! Everything! That made my mother’s day. And then in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood…, I forget the particular scene, but playing on the television in the background is one of my grandmother’s old films, which I don’t think was happenstance. I have yet to get in contact with him for doing that, but that made my mother’s year…actually a couple of years!”
Are you talking with him for a possible collaboration?
“No, I haven’t talked to him. The last time that I talked to him was when I was with [director] David Mackenzie and him at The Sunset Tower watching a 40-minute dialogue, an exegesis, on the differences between film and digital. It was quite extraordinary.”
What’s next for you?
“I have a film coming out at some point that I just filmed called Violence Of Action that Tarik Saleh directed. He’s an Egyptian Swedish filmmaker who did a beautiful film called The Nile Hilton Incident. It’s me and [Hell Or High Water co-star] Ben Foster again, along with Gillian Jacobs, Fares Fares, Nina Hoss, Eddie Marsan…a bunch of great actors. I’m going to film Newsflash, where I’m playing Walter Cronkite…hopefully without too much prosthetic work…there’s only so far you can go before it becomes prosthetic pornography. It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read, and it’s about a really important subject, which is integrity in journalism.”
In 2016, we saw Sulu coming out as gay in Star Trek Beyond. Do you think that society is ready to embrace more queer characters, especially in this genre?
“I don’t know. That’s a great question. I would hope so. It certainly would be a great time for it. The fact that we had a gay man running for President was pretty cool. There’s no higher authority or office in the States, so that says something. I don’t think we’re totally there yet, unfortunately. There’s a lot of xenophobia, and a lot of homophobia, and a lot of phobias, period. And this is coming from a straight white man, but there are great movements and positive steps forward. We’re seeing greater representation in the Academy, and more female directors too. So, I think so.”