The modern Renaissance man and new Mr Armani
Aged just 33, Chris Pine is already a Hollywood darling, with the role of Captain Kirk already under his belt. He talks about his new 'Code' role
CHRIS Pine has the voice of a cowboy. It's a low, baritone, rolling drawl – masculine like John Wayne but chilled like a California beach bum.
One doesn't like to swoon too much in interviews, of course, so let me just mention fleetingly that Pine is probably the most classically handsome man I have ever seen. He possesses a kind of square-jawed, clear-eyed, all American beauty, and would make Michelangelo blush at the perfection of his proportions.
This is why Armani has chosen him as its new "Armani Code man", which, judging by the fuss at the Saatchi gallery on the day Pine is in town, is quite the honour.
Armani is, to say the least, exacting about its aesthetic standards. The décor here is monochrome and crisp, a group of international journalists are at sea in a world of clean lines and pristine white walls, attended to at all times by male models dressed as waiters. The hacks look like a crumpled horde of irregularly shaped humans who have found themselves stranded among extraterrestrials from planet fashion.
Pine is the reigning king at the centre of this improbably attractive alien hive. He is 33 years old and a contemporary Renaissance man. As the face of Armani Code, he is expected to embody an awful lot of hyperbolic adjectives. Sample quote: "The Code man, a man with an impeccable allure, a strong, naturally magnetic personality... innate confidence and masterful elegance, etc etc." He seems to find this hilarious, but then also achieves it quite effortlessly. He has a remarkable gift for converting marketing speak into what seems like normal conversation without sounding like a douche bag.
He's reached the top of his game as Captain Kirk in the JJ Abrams Star Trek redux, but as Armani is keen to point out, Chris is, like a good fragrance, a man of layers. He's reflective and well-educated. He likes (and can talk articulately about) culture and wine. And he's got just a touch of danger. Last year, he was stopped and arrested on DUI charges when driving in California with his girlfriend, an Icelandic model, Iris Bjork Johannesdottir. And charged.
Pine was born in Los Angeles into a showbiz family. His father starred in Chips, and his mother, originally an actress and acting teacher, later retrained to be a psychotherapist. That he would end up as an actor was not exactly inevitable, he says, but always likely. "In hindsight it makes a lot of sense that I did it," he says.
It is late in the day, and having given his press conference he has changed out of his crisp Armani suit into pristine Armani casuals (T-shirt and jeans) and is spread out across a jet-black couch.
"I fell into it. I think it makes a lot of sense for me, for who I am and what I need to grow. It works for me right now, I don't know if it will work for me forever.
"Round the dinner table you'd talk about a day's work as people do – my dad worked on TV sets so we talked about that. It's nice to be able to share that with my parents. I can call them and talk about a day's work and they understand."
His mother's intellectual approach to the craft of acting and the study of human behaviour seems to have rubbed off on him too.
"She's actually a fantastic resource. She's just wonderful, a very smart woman. And if you want to get intellectual with her, you can talk Stanislavski and Boleslavski and Chekov and Kazan. And then you can also talk Melanie Klein and Freud and Jung and get all of that shit," he says.
He's also claimed before that his mother gave him dating tips. "It's just growing up," he says. "I have a mother. What do mothers do? They mother you. There are certain ways I wouldn't treat a woman just because my mother would not."
Pine is a reader, by the sounds of things. And a committed, earnest student.
He almost ended up in Trinity as a foreign exchange student, which would have put him not only in my year, but also in my class, as we both studied the same subject. Instead, he submitted his application too late and ended up at Leeds – the Californian hunk adrift in the lanes of northern England.
"When I first got there, I was like, holy shit, it's Trainspotting. It's so grey. But I love the northerners, because they are a completely different breed of Englishman.
"There's a complete carpe diem attitude. And also, too because I love the school, it was incredible for English, and I took these seminars, it was a completely different way of learning that I really appreciated too. So I had a great time."
In the past, he tended to take things too seriously: "I was a serious sort of kid," he says. "Hard on myself and wanted to do well and do right, and I'm caring less and less about doing that. I'm kind of going the opposite way, I suppose. I think I want to cultivate a little bit more of a European sensibility about life. Let's take the three-hour lunch, because it's kinda nice. I don't know how much more money I need, I don't know how many more titles I need. So that makes a lot more sense to me."
So these days, he's focusing more on having fun. He's got a new project due out next year, which he co-wrote with a load of his mates, just for a laugh. "I was travelling a lot for work and I never saw my friends, and I came home one time and a buddy of mine wanted to write a script and I was like, 'why don't we all get together?'" he explains.
"So we got five of all our friends and went to an improv studio, and did improv for three hours and recorded it, then improved on the best little pieces and then all of sudden started getting these nuggets of sketches and scenes, and then came up with an idea to meld all of them together. It took forever and it's completely not probably the right way to write a script – five guys all of whom have separate lives and careers. It's really funny, my boys are really really funny. Ultimately I wrote some of it. It was really them, but I would pop in and help out when I could."
The script is called Mantivites, and is about thirty- something men trying to grow up. He knows the concept is not "reinventing the wheel" and is sanguine about that.
"I don't really care if the movie is a success or not, I can't wait to work with my buddies. It was great fun writing it and we had such a laugh," he says.
He doesn't need to care, either. Because at the age of 33, already into his stride as a Hollywood darling, Pine doesn't have much left to prove.
"The thirties are great," he says. "I'm so happy to be in my thirties – it's so much more fun than my twenties. And I think as you sit with yourself a bit longer things just aren't as hard as they were in many ways – you get used to yourself a bit more. So I enjoy that.
"And this," he says gesturing around him "was a great opportunity for me. I respect Mr Armani as a man and an artist himself. I'm so happy that I'm being exposed to this world that I don't really know about but that I have great interest in – fashion and fragrance. I love detail and I love craftsmanship and this is a world I don't know – but I get to work in this world now and I get to ask questions of people like Mr Armani and the people at L'Oreal that are really really educated in this world, and I'm having great fun doing that."
Armani Code Ice will be available from June 1. www.armani.co.uk
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