LOS ANGELES — Chris Pine is boldly going where Capt. Kirk has never gone before. In his sibling drama "People Like Us," he gets slapped around by his mom and pummeled by his sister.
The earthbound sibling drama is light-years from Pine's role as forceful ladies man Kirk in "Star Trek. And it's a departure for "People Like Us" director Alex Kurtzman and producer Roberto Orci, who moonlighted on the intimate screenplay for nearly eight years as they co-wrote such action epics as "Star Trek" and its upcoming sequel, the first two "Transformers" flicks, "Mission: Impossible III" and "Cowboys & Aliens."
In very un-Kirk-man-like fashion, Pine gets a sharp slap to the face in his first scene with Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays his mother, angry that it took his father's death for her self-absorbed son to finally come home for a visit.
After discovering his dad had a daughter with another woman, Pine's Sam ends up getting the stuffing beaten out of him by his newfound half-sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks).
Pfeiffer and Banks put their all into it, recalls Pine, who unlike action man Kirk, had to stand there and take his lumps.
"Liz is a tornado when you unleash her," Pine said in an interview alongside Kurtzman and Orci to promote "People Like Us," which opens Friday.
As for taking a palm to the cheek from Pfeiffer, Pine remembers it coming in the first scene the two shot together.
"I recall very, like, method-y, whispering conversations between Alex and Michelle before the first take, and then she slapped the (crap) out of me," Pine said. "There's something to be said for it, because there really is no way to duplicate the shock of that.
"And similarly, the scene with Banks, there's just no way. The way that they shot it, it was very kind of handheld, super-present, really in the room, fly-on-the-wall kind of stuff. There's no way to mime that to make that real. It wasn't going to be really violent, she never hit me in the face or anything. So you could let her go rip-riot with a certain amount of safety involved. That was important to capture, because Liz, Frankie, in that moment is rightfully, righteously angry at Sam."
William Shatner's Kirk once quipped, "I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space," and "People Like Us" takes the filmmakers back to their own down-to-earth beginning 20 years ago, when Kurtzman and Orci teamed up to write intimate, independent-style scripts.
Their first four screenplays were personal stories that resembled "People Like Us," a story inspired by Kurtzman's own chance meeting with a half-sister he had never known.
"No guns, no aliens, no jujitsu. Then we took this detour into our career, so going back to this movie was very much like going back to where we started," Orci said. "We thought back then we were going to be doing kind of festival movies for the rest of our lives."
Kurtzman and Orci are currently reteamed with director JJ Abrams as writers and producers for next May's untitled "Star Trek" sequel, and they're also working on the script for the follow-up to next month's "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Details are scarce on the next installment for Kirk, Spock and their starship Enterprise crew mates.
"A lot of it takes place in outer space," Orci wisecracked.
Pine, Orci and Kurtzman do hint that the Enterprise crew still has some growing up to do.
"What we didn't want to do was assume that just because the bridge crew was brought together at the end of the first movie, that they're now the bridge crew that you remember from the original series," Kurtzman said. "They're still working it out. Kirk is still working out what it means to be a captain and what it means to lead men and women potentially to their death."
"Shatner, by the time he started it, he was the mature captain. The guy I'm playing is on his way," Pine said. "Jim Kirk is on the way toward being the captain that we know."