In between their sweeping cinematic jaunts into “space, the final frontier,” filmmaker Alex Kurtzman and actor Chris Pine are exploring an intimate, deeply personal story of “People Like Us.”
About eight years ago, Kurtzman — who with his writing partner Roberto Orci has penned screenplays to action-packed blockbusters like “Mission: Impossible III,” the first two “Transformers” movies and J.J. Abrams' 2009 “Star Trek” reboot — encountered a woman at a party who introduced herself as the half sister he'd never met. The experience helped inspire the fictionalized “People Like Us,” which also marks Kurtzman's directorial debut.
“What excited me about this was the idea of getting to do a movie where you couldn't cut away to a robot or a spaceship, where the scenes between the characters had to be as alive as anything. And I loved that challenge,” said Kurtzman, talking about the new film with Pine by phone from Dallas.
“I did meet my half sister when I turned 30, so I was drawing from a lot of personal experience for it. And the whole thing was extremely cathartic and a lot of fun.”
Building on his cinematic breakthrough portraying Captain James T. Kirk in “Star Trek,” Pine plays Sam, a self-absorbed salesman whose recently deceased father tasks him with delivering $150,000 to spirited single mom Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her troublemaking son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario), who turn out to be the half sister and nephew Sam didn't even know he had. Deep in debt, Sam is reluctant to turn over the cash, so he conceals his identity and sets out to get to know Frankie and Josh.
“He's a complete BS artist in the beginning of the film and for much of the film, and he does a great job — or at least he thinks he's doing a great job — of spinning all the plates at once until things start to unravel,” Pine said of Sam.
“Anytime you take on a character ... you just have to find the parts of the character that you can understand. I mean, no matter how bad the individual, everybody has reasons for why they do what they do. Sam unfortunately at 30 is a really emotionally disconnected man who spends the length of the film trying to become a better person.”
Although he and Kurtzman conversed briefly during the making of “Star Trek,” Pine, 31, said they bonded much more intensely with “People Like Us.”
“He called me on a Thursday and asked me to read the script. On a Friday, I got it. I read it on a Saturday, Sunday I called my agent, and by Monday it was basically a done deal. It was something I responded to immediately, and it was a beautifully written story and a much smaller story in terms of scope and the slice-of-life quality that it had than I'd done before. And that interested me greatly,” Pine said.