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Wild Card: Chris Pine


Chris Pine is best known as the star of blockbuster movies like "Star Trek" and "Wonder Woman." But recently, he decided to try his hand behind the camera. The result is his directorial debut, "Poolman." It's a quirky, small-budget movie about a pool cleaner in LA, played by Pine, who gets wrapped up in a mystery involving a corrupt business deal. Pine says the critical reception has been tough.

CHRIS PINE: My film got absolutely just decimated when it premiered in Toronto, just, like, obliterated.

KURTZLEBEN: But Chris Pine has used that experience as a lesson.

PINE: In many ways, this journey thus far with this has been so great to remember. I had joy. I experienced joy. It still gives me joy. That's it. That's enough.

KURTZLEBEN: That's just one of the things Chris Pine got reflective about on NPR's Wild Card podcast with Rachel Martin. It's our new show where guests choose questions at random from a deck of cards, questions about the experiences and beliefs that shape who they are.


RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: "Poolman" is so earnest and big-hearted, and it holds so much humanity. I just knew that you would be good at this game. Chris Pine, welcome to WILD CARD.

PINE: Oh, Rachel, you - I mean earnest and big-hearted, man. That is what it's - that's really what it's...

MARTIN: I mean...

PINE: ...All about.

MARTIN: That's sort of on brand for me, too. I mean, I love an earnest, big-hearted character, and I love this guy so much. Congratulations, by the way.

PINE: Thank you very much. It really means a lot.

MARTIN: So how do you feel about playing the game?

PINE: I love an existential card game like anyone else does, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter). OK, you ready?

PINE: I am ready.

MARTIN: OK. We're in round one. Round one - memories, experiences, that kind of thing. I am holding three cards in my hand. One, two, three?

PINE: One.


PINE: Yeah.

MARTIN: What was a recurring dream you had growing up?

PINE: A recurring dream I had growing up is I grew up with this beautiful sycamore tree in my front yard, and I had a dream that this elf lived in this sort of subterranean lodge that had a connection with the tree in my front yard and this, like, little door next to my garage. And I remember going in and having, like, tea with the elf. It probably was engendered by my mother, who told this fantastic recurring story about this family of mice that lived in the sycamore. So I think that's probably what dropped in my brain and percolated around and flowered into that dream.

MARTIN: I love that, though, because that - it was mostly positive. Like, there wasn't a version of the dream where the elf, like, (vocalizing), ax murderer?

PINE: No, I've never had - I don't have nightmares, thank God, and - I have anxiety dreams. I have fantastic anxiety dreams. But no, that was the one growing up that I remember the most.

MARTIN: Did you have - I won't prod into the anxiety dreams, but did you have any anxiety dreams when you were young, or that's mostly an adult experience?

PINE: I'm sure I did. I was a very anxious child and a pretty anxious young man and still am but have wrestled with that demon for long enough that I think we're in a stalemate, at least, for the most part now. But no, my more interesting anxiety dreams are now.


MARTIN: Now we're on round two. This is the insights round, OK? Things you've learned or things you are learning. Three new cards.

PINE: I'm not learning anything.

MARTIN: You're not learning anything?

PINE: Rachel...

MARTIN: Come on, man.

PINE: ...I'm a fully realized man. Come on.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

PINE: I'll go to one. I'll go to the...

MARTIN: This one?

PINE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Yeah. What's a lesson you have to keep learning over and over?

PINE: To be in awe always. In reverentia semper - to be in awe always.

MARTIN: Do you find yourself in points when you can't recognize awe and reverence?

PINE: Of course, I do. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I'm impatient, as well, and oftentimes feel this kind of, like, oblique background static energy of need, should, go, do. What's happening? Why isn't it this? Why isn't it that? All of these things that are saying the present moment is not fulfilling X. I was talking to my therapist about this, and I was, like, I want to be in flow state again. Like, making this movie was flow state 24/7, 365. Well, what is flow state other than a complete disappearance of the overwhelming reality of the march of time? We go into flow state to forget about our...

MARTIN: Right.

PINE: ...Mortality. There is...

MARTIN: No, but you can't live there forever.

PINE: Well, you can't...

MARTIN: Otherwise, it doesn't exist.

PINE: You can't live there forever and - take everything away. What are you left with? You're left with sitting here now. So you better get really good...


PINE: ...At dealing with getting good with boredom, getting good with frustration, getting good with all of that.


MARTIN: Last round. Round three. So this is beliefs. This is the stuff that helps you make sense of the world. OK, one, two, three?

PINE: Three.

MARTIN: Is there anything in your life that has felt predestined?

PINE: So the idea of predestination on a very - on topic, "Poolman" felt predestined, but let me explain that. I call it, like, a snowball. The snowball starts growing, and, at a certain point, it's just falling down the hill. So you can't do anything about the snowball falling down. You just get out of its way and let the whatever, snowball, rock, whatever fall down the hill. That's what acting has felt like. That's what writing and directing and acting in this film has felt like. That idea of it being fated I totally buy. Yeah.

MARTIN: And that compromise, surrendering - I mean, you had total agency over this film. You made this film. But in some ways, it got to a point where it took on a life of its own, and then you just let it happen?

PINE: No. Let me again explain. The process of, like, I had this idea. I tried to find a screenwriter. He fell through. I wrote the thing, couldn't stop thinking about it. I may as well direct it. Predestined? I'm not sure. Somehow fated in, like, there was no other thing that could be happening? Yes. To your second point about the - it took on a life of its own, one of my defense mechanisms is being cerebral - using words to block the emotion. And so this film, this process of making this film was a way for me to simply follow instinct, simply follow emotion. So it came out. It just - this is what my brain and...


PINE: ...Body wanted to do collectively together. It was the most harmonious in that regard, which is not an answer to your question, but I think...

MARTIN: No, but I liked where it went.

PINE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Chris Pine - his new movie that he wrote, directed and stars in is called "Poolman." Chris, this was great. Thank you.

PINE: Thank you very much.

KURTZLEBEN: You can listen to a longer version of that conversation with Chris Pine by searching for the podcast Wild Card with Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.