STAR TREK EXCLUSIVE: Casting Chris Pine as Captain Kirk

STAR TREK EXCLUSIVE: Casting Chris Pine as Captain Kirk

In the first part of an exclusive interview, casting director April Webster discusses the original search for actors to assume the roles of the starship Enterprise crew in JJ Abrams' relaunch of Star Trek.

As fans view the trailer for JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, there's a certain excitement generated by seeing the cast returning in their roles as the Enterprise crew - which is a fairly ironic situation considering that prior to the release of the 2009 original, there was great skepticism about anyone assuming the roles made famous by people like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley.

Now imagine what it must have been like to be one of the people responsible for finding a new generation of actors to play such iconic characters as Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. One would imagine that it could have been a situation where a casting director would feel like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

"We weren't afraid of it," offers April Webster, who, along with Alyssa Weisberg, was in charge of casting, "but we knew it was going to be a challenge. We knew we weren't going to be able to match people exactly, but we did want to give at least a close indication to people; to give a sense of the characters they've known and loved for so long. We weren't going for mannerisms; we didn't want someone doing a William Shatner impersonation, but we wanted someone who would embody that spirit."

They found that someone for Kirk in the form of Chris Pine, whose credits prior to Star Trek included Just My Luck and Smokin' Aces and, since, Unstoppable, This Means War and the forthcoming Jack Ryan. "Chris was a lifesaver," notes Webster, "because we really wanted someone who could give us the cockiness but still be likable. If you look at the old episodes of Shatner and that character, he was always snarky, but there was also something enormously appealing about him. There was this sort of evil smile on his face whenever he'd see a beautiful woman. We were looking for a quality for each person and then something of a resemblance, but definitely a quality."

As to how Pine was found for the part, she adds, "We auditioned a lot of people all over the place, both in America and internationally. But there was something that he was able to bring in, that sort of swagger. Not that other people couldn't get it, but Chris just fit the bill. Sometimes you just don't know what it is that makes it work out right, you just know it. We had narrowed it down to a couple of people and he became the guy. Just in watching him with each successive reading it was becoming more apparent to us."

Amusingly, during the audition process there were quite a number of Kirk wannabes who were "doing" Shatner. "Some of the material we used," Webster reflects, "were scenes from some of the original shows. We never use them from the script itself. What was so great and it became very funny is that we had to send them out of the room to have them try again because it's a very hard rhythm to not match. Most people were good about not impersonating Shatner, but there were definitely people doing him. Obviously that's going to be an element. I was even doing it when I was reading people. So you never know. But it’s people who make it their own. That's certainly what Chris did; he brought a freshness. He's a really wonderful character as well as a leading man. Even though he's this tall, handsome guy, he knows how to play all the different corners of himself. When you find an actor like that, they bring that uniqueness to who they are and sort of interpret it through the character."
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Solitario - 12/12/2012, 5:03 AM
6of13 - 12/12/2012, 5:06 AM
All the actors did a great job without impersonating the actors/characters from TOS.
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 5:10 AM
At the same time, I did think that Karl Urban kind of channeled DeForest Kelley. It was kind of uncanny.
BackwardGalaxy - 12/12/2012, 5:12 AM
The casting was one of the best parts of the film. Everyone they chose was so good at embodying their character without impersonating the previous actor, and Pine is at the very top of the list. He managed to separate Kirk from Shatner, and that had to be almost impossible to do.
Super12 - 12/12/2012, 5:20 AM
Agreed, the casting for this was impeccable. Chris Pine and Karl Urban especially were notable. I thought Pegg's Scotty was also well done and definitely not just a mimicry of the original, but his own thing. This is what made the movie
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 5:21 AM
BackwardGalaxy, you're right. That was probably one of the biggest surrises of the film - the way that they managed to capture characters and make them their own, while simultaneously making you feel that they could indeed mature into the characters we know.
XavierLehnsherr - 12/12/2012, 5:22 AM
It was Chris Pine vs. Joshua Jackson from Fringe, right?
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 5:23 AM
The brilliant touches, I thought, were those moments when Pine paid homage to Shatner - first sitting in the command chair before Spock tells him to get out of it, when he declares, "Spock! It'll work" and the closing moment when he walks on the bridge and calls out to Bones.
themcdougalbugle - 12/12/2012, 5:24 AM
I knew Star Trek 09 would be awesome and that all the actors would nail it. Heck I even used the theme in a video of mine two months before it came out.
Happy11 - 12/12/2012, 5:35 AM
ED where have you been lol
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 5:51 AM
Happy11, just tied up with other things, but I hope to be seriously updating the SciFi Media Zone page much more frequently.
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 5:58 AM
XavieerLehnsherr, I hadn't heard about Joshua Jackson - not sure how I missed that - but, you know, I could EASILY see that.
MrYurMomm - 12/12/2012, 6:00 AM
Here's my "exclusive": Anne Hathaway caught with out underwear!!
MrYurMomm - 12/12/2012, 6:04 AM
Anyways, I feel, even though I am young and have not seen the OG ST series and films, that Pine is perfect as Kirk, he has onscreen charisma, and isn't a bad actor either
Shadowelfz - 12/12/2012, 6:33 AM
Yeah the casting for this movie was inspired. Totally blew my mind how good the characters were. As mentioned before I loved how the actors/actresses took these characters and made them alone. Kirk and Spock were pretty much Kirk and Spock but Uhura, Sulu's and Checkovs interpreations were awesome too.

I'm just infatuated with this series.
DaenerysTargaryen - 12/12/2012, 6:59 AM
Great now I'm having more Star Trek FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS. Oh and Chris pine is a total hottie. :D
polarkyle - 12/12/2012, 6:59 AM
anyone else think he would be great for the flash
pintoman - 12/12/2012, 7:05 AM
2009 Trek:

Pine good; Urban good; Zoe good; Cho good;

Quinto: SUCK! The voice is just too fem.

Pegg as Scotty? WTF? SUCK!

Enterprise exterior: SUCK!
Enterprise interior: SUCK!
Plot: SUCK

drfate - 12/12/2012, 7:30 AM
pintoman, Quinto is, afterall, a fairy, hence the fem-voice. But, overall, his Spock is acceptable.

I think Pegg did a fine job; he didn't look or sound like the original Scotty, but I think he made a "new" Scotty and it worked pretty well. The only criticism I have about that character is more due to the script: Scotty is an engineering genius, and Spock helping him with an equation, I thought, was crippling to that character.

I'm looking forward to this flick, bring it on!
cyked - 12/12/2012, 7:40 AM
Wow. Right up until the previous couple/few comments I was fairly impressed by how mature this thread was. There's a guy who types in all caps and totally ruins these things -- and then there's other cats who just like to swear a lot and hurl insults.

Overall, this thread was/is really refreshing. And the casting crew for Star Trek did a really good job.
EdGross - 12/12/2012, 7:54 AM
cyked, agreed: could live without insults or intolerance (which, ironically, goes against everything Trek has stood for since the beginning). When this film was announced, I was absolutely among the people who thought it was a terrible idea. Rather than recast Kirk and the rest, why not just launch a new ship with a new crew? Needless to say I was (happily) proven wrong. Now if I have any negative feeling about it, it's that taking four years between films is just too long. I'm hopeful it doesn't take away from the momentum that was created by the 2009 film.

I do want to say one thing about Star Wars: many people may not realize it today, but the Star Trek phenomenon in the 1970s was SO huge and SO pervasive, that I'm sure it played no small role in Fox giving the greenlight to Star Wars, with the studio wanting their own Star Trek.
DrRockso - 12/12/2012, 7:54 AM
Joshua Jackson was a finalist for Anakin Skywalker. The other guy that was up for Kirk was Mike Vogel. Supergoodlooking guy.
CaptainPresley - 12/12/2012, 8:24 AM
Joshua Jackson was up for Kirk also.
Alaba - 12/12/2012, 1:11 PM
Only character that didn't work for me was Quinto as Spock! Nimoy had this frowny emotionless wicked look and his voice and charisma made him robotic and all. Quinto was a bit too human for my liking

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