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

This story first appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On the 2005 set of Just My Luck, two careers collided spectacularly. There was the 18-year-old star, considered the most promising actress of her generation, commanding a $7 million-plus paycheck. And there was the 24-year-old no-name leading man, just happy to be there. Perhaps the romantic comedy's hackneyed plotline about the world's luckiest ingenue (Lindsay Lohan) swapping fortunes with a random hot guy (Chris Pine) came true. While Lohan never again reached such heights and today is trawling for paid club appearances, Pine is one of Hollywood's most in-demand leading men.

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Lohan's tabloid-fodder antics on the New Orleans set of Just My Luck -- which led to at least one shutdown -- offer a stark juxtaposition of professionalism and the right way to build a career. "It was a real cyclone of insanity, like being around The Beatles," recalls Pine. "It was fascinating to watch, and in hindsight it's really a distinct moment in someone's life when you see what's really wonderful about what we get to do and what's really dangerous about it."

Pine put his head down and worked. But he took away a valuable lesson from the experience: Never believe your own hype.

"Hollywood is like living in a weird bubble," he says. "A bunch of people take care of you and get you stuff, and you're the center of that little microcosmic world. You start believing that it is real and … you deserve it."

Now 33, the actor captains one mega-franchise with Star Trek (at Paramount) as he launches a second (also at Paramount) with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which opens Jan. 17 after being pushed back from Christmas Day. Based on the popular spy character created by the late Tom Clancy (though it is the first film not based on a Clancy novel), Jack Ryan will fully test Pine's leading-man status and his value (Pine was paid $4 million for the film with backend compensation and will be paid $8 million and $12 million for each sequel). Although 2009's Star Trek and the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, successfully reinvigorated a moribund brand, conventional wisdom holds that the franchise rested on director J.J. Abrams' shoulders and coasted on Star Trek's built-in audience. With Jack Ryan, Paramount and co-financier Skydance Productions are taking a $60 million gamble that Pine is a star outside of Trek.

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Abrams is certain of it. "He's got an amazing, compelling watchability -- you can't take your eyes off of him," says the director. "His good looks are palatable to men and enticing to women."

But is Pine a movie star? The answer, tentatively, in the age of Hollywood's A-list deficit, would be yes. The two Star Trek films brought in a combined $853 million worldwide box-office haul, while Fox's Unstoppable took in $167.8 million worldwide -- but that 2010 film largely was viewed as a Denzel Washington vehicle. Fox's This Means War, which found him opposite Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon, earned $156.5 million (despite a critical beating). Meanwhile, other Pine projects barely registered, including 2012's People Like Us and 2009's Carriers (the two films combined for a dismal $18 million).

But in an industry now more likely to give top billing to a brand like Marvel or a toy like Transformers, the notion of actor hierarchy might be antiquated. Case in point is the teaser poster for Jack Ryan. Pine's face is obscured in shadow and unrecognizable. His name appears nowhere on the poster, while Clancy, writers Adam Cozad and David Koepp, director Kenneth Branagh and, of course, the name "Jack Ryan" -- the everyman spy previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck -- are proudly displayed. (Jack Ryan producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says that the teaser poster was meant to create an air of mystery. Subsequent trailers and art featured Pine front and center.)

Paramount president of production Marc Evans is emphatic: "I think he's a quintessential movie star. There is now a phenomenal group of actors who have the chance to be big movie stars if we continue to make movie-star movies."

If Pine feels any pressure, he shows no signs of it over lunch at The Smile, a hipster restaurant in Manhattan's NoHo neighborhood. Whenever Pine finds the time, he heads to New York from his hometown of Los Angeles. On this day, he is making a pit stop on his way back from London, where he just wrapped Rob Marshall's musical Into the Woods.

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No one appears to recognize him. No one seems to care. When I told the hostess I was meeting Chris Pine, I was met with a blank stare. "Star Trek," I offered. She shook her head apologetically. Kim Kardashian could walk by outside, "and no one would give a shit. It's too f---ing cold," he jokes of the 35-degree day.

That's how Pine likes it, eating in peace, whether here or at one of his favorite haunts in L.A.'s Echo Park or Silver Lake (he lives in Los Feliz).

But with Star Trek came the trappings of a star, paparazzi included, and the intensely private Pine was ill prepared. Although he refuses to discuss his love life ("That's something I don't really want to talk about"), a brief romance with reality star Audrina Patridge around the release of Star Trek led to him being chased by the shutterbugs.

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