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On TV: New Capt. Kirk respects Shatner

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A man who wants to clear his name holds a courtroom hostage.

But he admits he wasn't a fan of the TV show.

Friday, May 22, 2009 - 12:01 am

LOS ANGELES — William Shatner's James Kirk disliked formality, always pestering people to call him “Jim.”

Chris Pine, the actor who inherited the role as brash Starfleet officer Kirk in the new “Star Trek,” likes to show respect for the guy who came before. Pine calls his predecessor “Mr. Shatner.”

He talks about paying “homage to what Mr. Shatner'd done, because by no means, at no point did I want to hit people over the head with some awful impression.”

He muses on how his young Jim Kirk gradually develops confidence in the way he sits in the starship Enterprise captain's chair, slowly “finding the physicality that Mr. Shatner brought.”

He discusses Shatner subtleties he did want to incorporate and even gives his forerunner his own adjective, noting, “There's a certain way Mr. Shatner carries himself, especially the way he walks around the deck of the bridge, the ways he sits in the chair, that are very, very Shatnerian.”

While Pine, 28, shows great regard for Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the other originators of “Star Trek,” he never was much of a fan of the “Trek” TV shows and movies.

“I'd seen a few episodes here and there over the years, and I just never got the bug,” said Pine, a veteran of live theater who had a handful of TV credits, some independent movies and a few studio flicks behind him before shooting to celebrity when he was cast as Kirk.

The son of Hollywood actors Gwynne Gilford and Robert Pine and grandson of 1930s and '40s movie actress Anne Gwynne, he co-starred in Lindsay Lohan's romantic comedy “Just My Luck” and had a role in the Vegas crime thriller “Smokin' Aces.”

“Star Trek” puts Pine and his co-stars under severe scrutiny by fans. Though Nimoy returns as the older version of Kirk's first officer and best pal, Vulcan scientist Spock, director J.J. Abrams and his crew have taken the franchise in some wild new directions.

They add surprises to the characters' relationships, twists to the crew's backgrounds and a youthful flair to the whole endeavor.

Pine's Kirk starts out as a James Dean-like motorcycle rebel who requires some heavy coaxing before he considers joining Starfleet.

“I'm sure some people will like what I did. Some people won't. Some people will think the Kirk that they see is not their Kirk, and if that's the case, that's the case,” Pine said. “The story and the message is so wonderful and positive, why not share it with a whole bunch of different people?

“If that means altering certain things in the tradition, the story line, the legacy, so be it. If that offends some people, so be it. But I really do think what we've made is very accessible.”

If there are sequels, Pine and the rest of the new cast are signed for two more “Trek” movies. All are game for a potential trilogy, but they are uncertain about anything beyond that.