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Chris Pine Reveals His Politics Amid High-Risk 'Jack Ryan' Play

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Although Pine seems better suited for investigative reporting, show business is in his blood. His parents, Robert Pine and Gwynne Gilford, who recently celebrated their 44th anniversary, have decades-long filmographies. The elder Pine is a still-working character actor best known for his role as Ponch and Jon's boss, Sgt. Joseph Getraer, on CHiPs. Gilford, now retired, appeared in an eclectic range of productions from Gunsmoke to Satan's School for Girls. His grandmother Anne Gwynne was a Universal contract player.

"There was nothing romantic about the industry," says Pine, whose older sister Katherine also dabbled in the profession. "I grew up in a family where sometimes work was good, sometimes great, and sometimes there was no work. I learned a lot by osmosis, just by being around them."

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After graduating from Oakwood School in the San Fernando Valley, Pine desperately wanted to go to Columbia in New York but didn't get in. He went to UC Berkeley, where he first started doing theater. Upon graduating in 2002, he embarked on the family business, landing his first role in a 2003 episode of ER. Guest appearances on The Guardian and CSI: Miami led to the male lead opposite Anne Hathaway in 2004's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The following year, he was filming Just My Luck with Lohan and suddenly fielding offers.

In 2005, director Joe Carnahan needed to fill the role of a speed freak neo-Nazi in his crime film Smokin' Aces. (He had just fired Michael Shannon for being rude to a costume designer.) Within 10 seconds of Pine starting his audition, Carnahan was sold.

"Honestly, it was that quick," says Carnahan. "He brought a levity and humor that the scene needed, and he did it simply with his physical reaction, which was the key. That's just an innate skill set that Pine is blessed with and is in such short supply."

In a scene from the movie, Pine stands over a dead Ben Affleck, who has a small role as a sleazy Las Vegas bail bondsman, doing a ventriloquist routine and manipulating Affleck's body.

"I remember afterward Ben saying to me, 'If I could take 10 percent of what I'm going to make the rest of my career and bet on somebody, it would be that kid,' " says Carnahan.

But when Abrams was casting Star Trek, he admits he had no idea who Pine was. He read for Abrams fairly early in the process, but the director continued to have several young actors audition, including several relative unknowns (Abrams was intent on casting a less-familiar face). One night, Pine's longtime manager John Carrabino ran into Abrams' wife, Katie, at a dinner and began regaling her with tales of the actor and how he should be the next James T. Kirk. When Katie returned home, she mentioned the encounter.

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"I went back and watched his tape again," recalls Abrams. "And frankly, having seen so many people at that point, watching his audition was the definite confirmation that he was the guy. He was a great-looking guy but was a complete goofball. Like he was willing to be actually ridiculous."

But Pine faced a difficult choice. He already had committed to Carnahan to star in the James Ellroy adaptation White Jazz as a closeted gay homicide detective in the 1950s.

"He said to me without a hint of guile, 'You know, I was really looking forward to a long career as a character actor, and I know that's just not going to happen now,' " says Carnahan, who released Pine from Jazz. "If anyone else had said that, it would have been the douchiest thing to say. But Pine actually meant it."

The question is, will the same audiences who enthusiastically embraced Pine as captain of the Enterprise simultaneously buy him in an earthbound franchise? Only a handful of actors -- including Robert Downey Jr. with Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes and Ford with Star Wars and Indiana Jones -- have managed such a dual-franchise feat.