Jack Ryan challenges Chris Pine

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LOS ANGELES—For much of the news conference for his newest film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, opening Friday (January 17), Chris Pine displays the professional, polished attributes one would expect from a veteran actor as he carefully and articulately dispenses answers. It’s only toward the end of the session, held in a Beverly Hills hotel, upon being told by a journalist that his Ryan isn’t the sexy, stylish spy in the mould of Bourne and Bond that we’re used to seeing, that the 33-year-old actor breaks.

Stopping him midsentence and leaning out from the podium, eyebrow cocked, Pine stares down the reporter with those steely blue eyes: “You don’t think I’m sexy?”

The journalist backtracks instantly. Because, let’s face it, Pine is gorgeous. You don’t typically place eighth in People’s sexiest-man-alive issue if you are not. His age and physical appearance were what originally put him in the running to play Tom Clancy’s famed character in the first place, according to producer Mace Neufeld. What separated Pine from the other possible choices was Neufeld’s realization that he wasn’t just a pretty face.

“I saw Star Trek and was kind of blown away,” the producer says at the same conference. “And then I saw him on-stage twice, in Faragut North and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and he was something else. I found out his parents [Robert Pine and Gwynne Gilford] are both actors, and I was convinced that he was right. He’s just so dedicated to his craft.”

Pine is the fourth actor to play Jack Ryan on the big screen, following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. And although those are seemingly big shoes to fill, Pine is used to it by now, having portrayed Capt. James T. Kirk in two Star Trek films, a role that William Shatner made famous. “I think the great thing about the Jack Ryan films is that the plot and the story kind of take centre stage,” he says of the famous character, about whom Clancy wrote 16 novels. “I think that if you’ve done your job as the actor portraying Jack Ryan, you are present enough to make an impact but you let the story shine. With Kirk, Shatner made such a deep impression in the Zeitgeist that it’s just a different thing entirely.”

One might think, given Pine’s recent entrenchment as one of Hollywood’s youngest leading men, that the actor would be slightly bored by a film like this, having already tested his mettle in a big way with Star Trek. But Ryan proved a challenge for the L.A. native, throwing him headfirst into difficult action scenes and giving him experiences he hadn’t previously had. “I did plenty of my own stunts. I enjoy doing them; I think most actors do,” he says. “You get to live out boyhood fantasies and you’ve got people who are making sure that you’re doing it safely. I didn’t get to do much of it in the last Star Trek, but I like the hand-to-hand-combat stuff.”

He’s already headlining one strong movie franchise and the opportunity is certainly there to follow suit with Ryan, but Pine knows that he’ll need more than his looks to make that a reality. “Obviously, we’re in a corporate world, and we’ll see what Paramount thinks of it and if people like it and if people come to see it,” he says thoughtfully. “I would love to do it again, and I think it’s such an interesting time for a spy franchise, in 2014. We’ve seen it done in the Cold War and in the late ’80s and ’90s with Harrison and Alec, but I think right now, given the interconnectivity of the world, given the grey morality of politics, there’s very fertile ground to be mined for good stories.”

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