Chris Pine stars as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman 1984, alongside Gal Gadot in the title role.
Knowing Steve Trevor’s fate in the first film, how surprised were you when Patty [Jenkins, WW84 director] called you back to play the character in the new film?
I wasn’t all that surprised. Towards the end of the first film, she had kind of relayed the fact that she’d come up with an interesting way into the second one and started working that out as well as how my character might return. So I was aware of it, and when she fully laid it out, I was excited to jump back in.
Having played the character before – seemingly to fruition – what excited you about returning and what did you feel you were going to be able to do differently this time around?
Well, what was so fun is that the character’s demeanor was completely different from in the first movie. In the first one, I played a world-weary war veteran, jaded, a little cynical about mankind…a man that had seen a lot in his lifetime. In the second iteration, Steve is wide-eyed and curious and excited – in many ways like Diana was in the first one – so I thought it was a great role reversal and we could have a lot of fun playing that change.
He becomes the fish out of water this time and she is the voice of experience?
Yeah, it was, I thought, a nice thing for the audience, the fun, opposites attract relationship in the first one, where you’re wanting these two characters to kiss and wanting them to get together. Will they or won’t they? And then they finally do. In this one, you know that they love one another, so you don’t get that same dynamic, but what’s really fun is that you get to see two characters who are completely different than how we met them 60-odd years previous, and that was fun to play.
Diana has gone through all of those decades missing Steve and longing for that relationship to return, and suddenly here he is, but he really can’t know what she’s gone through. That changes the dynamic a little bit.
It changes the dynamic and, again, what is great about this franchise is that, as far as I can tell recently, it’s the only superhero film whose centre point is a romance, is a love story. That’s what always interested me in this: not so much the action, because my character is human and not superhuman – I’ve thrown a lot of punches and gotten hit plenty of times – but I really liked the fact that this was a big budget, studio romance wrapped up in an action film. So we get to have another round of that.
What do you think Steve thinks about this new world he’s come into? He was a pilot, but the planes were vastly different then, as was technology and so forth. It has to be mind-boggling to him. How did you get into that?
I played all sorts of awe and being stunned and different levels of doing that humorously. It was strangely much harder to play this version than it was in the first because how do you pretend not having seen the airplane before? What would that be like? What’s the “as if” there?
That was Gal’s job in the first film.
Right. And so I understood how difficult it was. I started to rely on Patty to help modulate how much she wanted me to be in awe or surprised or excited or happy, or even fearful. Like, how do you react to a breakdancer? Is it really cool or does it look like a dangerous form of martial arts?
Patty Jenkins and her behind-the-scenes creative teams did such a beautiful job going back to the 1980s, with sets and costuming and everything visual, so perhaps it gave you, personally, the experience of walking on the sets and being a little bit in awe, in a nostalgic way?
Very much so, yeah.
The mall, for instance, was completely redressed for the era.
That mall looks like malls did back then. I grew up in the Valley of Los Angeles and we had the Sherman Oaks Galleria where they shot exteriors of Valley Girl. I know it well. That’s always the fun thing with movies of this scale, you have the best of the best, so everything looks great and real and the production design is just incredible, and the costumes look incredible.
Speaking of costumes, you get to wear a Members Only jacket and a fanny pack. Was there a fight over whether you had to wear that fanny pack?
Oh no, I mean, if I had my druthers I’d have them all. There was a denim fanny pack, there was an American flag print fanny pack. There were fanny packs of all shapes, colors and sizes. Overall, it was one of the most comfortable outfits I’ve worn in a film thus far. Very manageable, very easy to put on in the morning and easy to take off at night. It made my job a lot easier.
Easier than the World War I uniform?
The eighty pounds of wool that I had to wear? Yeah!
But it also provided, I would think, an expansion on that “fish out of water” notion, as well as great banter for the characters.
Everything becomes an object of fascination and explanation and fodder for comedy. A toaster oven, an aquarium, a stationary bike… An escalator is out of this world.
The film not only holds a mirror up to the world that we lived in visually, but the society as well, the kind of people that we were, our humanity – or lack thereof. The mindset of that era has to be interesting to revisit, although you were very young at the time. Do you remember much?
My memory is obviously pre-teen years, so birth through ten years old were my 80s experience. That’s a time of pre-adolescence and I have pretty great memories filled with baseball and watching movies like Sixteen Candles with my sister, Duran Duran playing in the car, trying to go see U2 at the Forum. As an adult and an educated man now, I know that the at the end of the ’70s President Carter gave this famous speech about reliance on foreign oil and the debt crisis of America. Then Reagan comes in and it’s about “The Shining City on the Hill” and buy, buy, buy, you can pay for it later, and we all know where that leads. Yeah, the ’80s seem to be the apex of post-World War II America, the American hegemony. This movie asks, at what cost?
And we, the audience, see it all through the eyes of Wonder Woman, who loves humanity, who believes in mankind and who is sure that they can be saved. That is, I think, the different take that you get when you see it through the eyes of a character like her.
Again, one of things that really resonated with me and that I think makes Wonder Woman a great model for anyone, but for kids especially, is that as a superhero her greatest strengths are compassion and love. Women are the beings that give life and that is one of the greatest strengths of women on planet Earth. I think to extoll those values, to say that we should have great respect for these superhuman strengths of deep love, deep empathy, and deep compassion, and have respect for our protectors and nurturers of life, even in our storytelling, is wonderful. Wonder Woman’s goal is not retribution, her goal is not destruction. In this film, the bad guys’ deepest flaws are all of our own greatest fallibilities. It’s what we all have: insecurities, loneliness, not feeling we ever have enough. So there’s deep humanity at the base, at the core of this story and of the character.
You and Patty and Gal had already established such a great rapport making the first film. For those villains, Cheetah and Max Lord, you’re welcoming Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal. How was that dynamic for you?
Easy, and that’s a credit to Patty, who makes everybody’s life easier by casting well. And this is an ensemble, and an ensemble works well for people who like each other off-camera, and Kristen brings an incredible amount of humour, obviously, and great relatability, and also, I think, an incredible physicality. It’s a side of her that she hasn’t shown before, I don’t think, and I hope people are really excited about that. And then Pedro’s character, Max Lord, he just plays him beautifully in this bright, technicolor, broad way that is such a hard thing to hit, tonally, to be real but not real all at the same time. He’s having fun, he’s having a great time with it, but he also brings a deep humanity to it and you see he’s a really pained man. So there are a lot of things happening in this new film that people will be able to enjoy.
One other thing that’s vastly different for Steve in this film is that Diana becomes vulnerable in a way she really wasn’t in the first one. How does he feel about seeing her, this woman that he loves, in that unexpected way?
I think it’s distressing because it’s the woman he loves, but it’s also distressing because it doesn’t make any sense. The last time he saw her the woman had no problem defending herself from just about everything. She walked into No Man’s Land and was fine.
So it’s another aspect of what you said before, about this film being a romance as well as a big action film?
Exactly, yeah. It is a love story.