Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks are both attached to huge franchises with large fan bases. Their faces are recognizable all around the world. But this summer, they broke away from their iconic roles as Captain James T. Kirk and Effie Trinket to star in Alex Kurtzman’s family drama “People Like Us.”
We recently got the chance to talk to Chris Pine and Elizabeth Bank’s at the film’s press day. They told us what it was like to break away from huge franchises and do something on a smaller scale, the importance of premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and any concerns they had working with first-time director Alex Kurtzman.
Do you think audiences will be able to identify with “People Like Us”?
Elizabeth Banks: Of course. Look, we all have daddies because that’s just reality. To me, part of the thing about this movie is that we all want to know that our daddy loved us. And at the end of this movie, we get an answer. I love that. I love the journey. It’s a very surprising ending. That’s why I think it’s so cathartic for people who see the movie. It’s relatable. We all have that insecurity.
Chris Pine: It’s been interesting going around the country talking about the film. Without fail, in every city, someone has had the same story happen. I originally though that it might not be all that relatable because who’s got secret families? But a lot of people have told me this has happened to them. Even if it hasn’t happened to them, we all come from families where there are problems. We come from fallible parents who were kids once, who decided to have kids. They had to learn to be parents. And in the learning process of becoming a parent and raising a kid, faults are made. Damage is done, whether it’s conscious or not. Hopefully that’s the resonant pitch of the film.
Elizabeth (Banks), how much fun is it to kick his ass?
Elizabeth Banks: People ask me that. I wish that that day was fun, but it was a very hard dance.
You both are part of huge franchises, what does it mean to be able to break away and do something like this?
Chris Pine: “Star Trek” gave me the opportunity to do a film like this and to have it seen. I owe “Star Trek” the pop in my career and the ability to make choices. I’m very thankful for it. Just because this is a movie about family and a small-character driven thing, it’s not necessarily why I picked it. The fact of the matter is that it’s a really well told story. When you’re choosing a project, you just hope for a good story and a good character to play. The nuts and bolts don’t usually matter. You want a good story to tell, with a character that goes from A to Z.
Elizabeth Banks: To me, I don’t do this job for myself. I do it to connect with people. When you’re in a big franchise, you connect with a lot of people. Hopefully it means that more people see the work. That’s why they let the two of us make movies like this, because they think people will come and see it.
What does it mean for you to have this film premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival?
Chris Pine: I’m not the person to ask about festivals. My knowledge goes as far as like Toronto, Sundance maybe Tribeca and Cannes. I don’t know much. For me, it’s like, does that mean people are going to see our film? Does that mean that it’s artsy? I think it’s great that it’s happening in LA. Look, the fact that so much production is leaving Los Angeles is a testament to the fact that Hollywood is no longer really Hollywood, except for maybe some television shows. I love the facts that “Star Trek,” a film that would have very easily been made in Vancouver, Canada was made right here at Sony. I think it’s a great thing. This is an industry town and some people knock it for it. There’s some bad things associated with being in Hollywood, but damn it we’re Hollywood. That’s what we do, we make films. Anything that highlights that is fantastic.
Were you concerned at all, working with Alex Kurtzman, that it might not go as well as you hoped?
Chris Pine: My concern, early on was that, because he’d spent so much time writing the film, that it could very well be precious to him. It would be something that he would want to protect with too much control. For an actor, that’s no fun because then you feel like you’re constrained and constricted. Alex very graciously and without fail, every step along the way, gave up his script to us and said, “Try to make it better.” It continues to amaze me how he went about doing that. He’s a first time director and the story is personal, he could have easily gone the other way.
Can you talk about the wonderful fall out from being in “The Hunger Games,” Elizabeth (Banks)?
Elizabeth Banks: Um, I got to meet the president. Does that count? I don’t know what that means. It’s also about young people. I love that so many young people love “The Hunger Games.” I mean, I loved “the Hunger Games” when I read it. I fell in love with it. To have so many people embrace a character as well as the whole movie is why I do it. They’ll be a lot of Effies at Halloween. I think it’s great. It’s why I do it. I do it to impact people’s lives.
Chris (Pine), is theater going to stay a part of what you want to do?
Chris Pine: Theater is a huge part of my life and will continue to be. It’s why I got into this. The high that I get from doing theater is not matched by many other things. Film is a very different medium which you have no control. I like the fact that when you step out into the stage, for that given night, you are the master of the boards. For better or for worse. I just love it to death. It makes me happier.
Is there any pressure on you both for the sequels in your franchises to be good?
Elizabeth Banks: We are cogs in a very large wheel. When there’s pressure on a lot of people, it is shared. I certainly don’t take “The Hunger Games” on my shoulders.
Chris Pine: Generally speaking, the more money is involved, the more people are expecting and hoping that it’s not going to fail. If you’re a part of that process, of whether it’s going to fail or succeed, you hope that it does well. There’s only so much as an actor you can do. People are either going to respond to it or not, and I would drive myself crazy if I tried to control it any more than that. I just want people to come and watch it and like it. On the second “Star Trek”, we tried to do a really good job. I often think that critics think we try to make bad films. They think we want to spend five months of our lives making something bad. We always go out with the best of intentions, whether it’s fluffy comedy, drama or whatever. It’s always in the effort of, “Please come, like it, enjoy it, take something away.”
“People Like Us” is in theaters June 29, 2012.