EXCLUSIVE: To most movie stars, having two movies dropping within seven days of each other would seem like they are plenty busy, but for Chris Pine, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Besides having The Contractor and All the Old Knives going day-and-date on April 1 and April 8, respectively, Pine also is deep in prep on his directorial debut Poolman, which he is also starring in, while also building out a robust development slate for his production banner Barry Linen Pictures, which he co-founded with his partner Ian Gotler. On top of all that, he has the thriller Don’t Worry Darling bowing in fall, followed by another potential franchise in Dungeons & Dragons coming out next year. Oh, and there is that potential return to the USS Enterprise as he is in talks to reprise his star-making role of Captain Kirk for a fourth time in the next installment of the Star Trek franchise.
After more than 20 years of putting all his focus on acting, Pine now is looking to start the next phase of his career as a multi-hyphenate, with All the Old Knives marking the first feature film Barry Linen will produce (the banner’s first producing credit was on last year’s documentary short My Heroes Are Cowboys). The film is the beginning of what Pine and Gotler hope is a well-rounded slate of projects that resonate — timely material that is designed to entertain and enlighten audiences. Initially drawing from the wealth of material created by their friends, a close-knit group of actors, writers and directors, Pine and Gotler want to champion emerging storytellers and established filmmakers alike. The result is a diverse slate of projects, carefully crafted with passion and intention for a wide array of genres, platforms and distributors.
The company’s name came during a quintessentially brutal L.A. heat wave. Pine had taken to wearing a rotation of linen ensembles, and when they met up one morning, Gotler jokingly referred to him as a “regular Barry Linen,” a play on the 1974 Stanley Kubrick classic Barry Lyndon. The two had a good laugh about it, and the rest is history.
Also, besides producing films like All the Old Knives, the production company will develop and produce projects where Pine isn’t front and center like the Universal comedy Doula. The film centers on a male doula and stars Troian Bellisario, Will Greenberg and Arron Shiver, with Pine serving as producer. Pine isn’t against appearing or starring in Barry Linen projects, especially if his busy schedule allows for it, but his and Gotler’s hope is that the company isn’t just producing content that will be solely used to develop star vehicles for him.
As for the projects in development, the slate so far includes a diverse body of projects that includes documentaries, series and even a podcast. Here are some of those projects:
- Long John: An animated series based on a set of Western-themed graphic novels exploring the cowboy mythos and examining what it means to be an American. From Robert Baker and Babar Peerzada. Partnered with Stacey Sher and Floyd County Productions. Set up at FX
- I/Love: An original sci-fi podcast from Troian Bellisario and Josh Close. Partnered with QCode and SALT.
- Evicted: A documentary project based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning nonfiction book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Partnering with RadicalMedia.
- Dirty Dealing: A limited series based on the nonfiction book by Gary Cartwright. An Arab-American family from El Paso finds themselves at the center of Nixon’s War on Drugs and suspects in the first assassination of a federal judge in more than a century. From Nick Massouh. Partnering with The Tannenbaum Company and Greg Yaitanes.
- All God’s Children: A searing examination of the caustic, cumulative effect of racism and violence over five generations of black Americans and how the slaying of two subway riders led to the passage of the first law in the nation allowing teenagers to be tried as adults. Based on Fox Butterfield’s seminal work of the same name. Partnered with Rob Morgan and Dawn Porter/Trilogy Films. The company owns the rights and still deciding whether to develop as docuseries or film.
Pine sat down with Deadline to talk about the future of Barry Linen’s business, including how the pandemic helped him focus on the future of the company, when he decided to take the step into directing, theatrical vs. streaming and potential next steps in the Star Trek universe.
DEADLINE: You have two movies coming out within seven days. From a talent perspective in your line of work, is that exciting that you’re going to have all these different types of content coming out or does it scare you that people are going to be sick of Chris Pine after those seven days?
CHRIS PINE: I’m trying to think about if I’ve had an experience where that’s been the case of having two films come out. I think this may be a first for me — and no, I’m excited. It’s been a minute since I’ve had something come out. In fact, The Contractor we shot around two and a half years ago, right before Covid. So that was that, and then, had a year of quarantine and went off after that year to London and shot Knives, and yeah. Look, I’m really excited about these two.
All the Old Knives is the type of film I love, type of story that I love reading, love watching. It reminds me of like an elegant John le Carre European sophisticated thriller. Beautifully written. It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read, and the opportunity to work with Janus [Metz] from ZeroZeroZero is great. All his films, McEnroe, Armadillo — he’s just a tremendous filmmaker.
He comes from a documentary background. His wife is a sociologist, anthropologist, but he’s a big observer, which I really think that this required that kind of attention to detail. Nuance was important. Then The Contractor was always something that had stayed in my mind. You know, there was something about it that I felt was something recognizable with certain genre elements to it but really, on a deeper more fundamental level, was a really interesting character study that was particularly 21st century, particularly American 21st century and what it means to be a patriot, what it means to be an honorable person, an honorable man, what it means to be a warrior.
So those kind of things really interested me, and certainly I found a lot of resonance with some of the other things that the production company found its way to, which is investigating what it means to be us right now. To your initial question, is it scary. It’s always terrifying to have a couple things come out where you finally present to the world your children, so to speak, and put them out for the oftentimes eviscerating words of critics, but I’m certainly proud of what I’ve done and proud of the intent behind them. So I’m excited to get eyes on them.
DEADLINE: All the Old Knives will mark the first feature where Barry Linen is front and center. You did have your documentary, but this is kind of like the launch of this slate that you guys are very excited about. I think nowadays an actor makes it or a director makes it, they make a production company immediately and nothing really comes out of it. Was it your intent all along to make sure you had a slate that you were proud of that you had getting into development?
PINE: This all really came about in the past three or four years. My good friend of a long time, of about 20 years, Ian Gotler — who I see all the time as a friend — but in one of our many sit-down bullsh*t sessions, he was like, “Would you ever be interested in a production company?” I just had really as more of an angle of control.
My experience in the business has taught me that on the one hand while it is the most collaborative art form in the world, in all of that collaboration there are by definition a lot of cooks in the kitchen and it’s pretty easy for your voice to get lost in the bureaucratic machine of filmmaking. So just by virtue of having a bit more control, — more, say, getting your name underneath the producer credit — just means contractually they have to listen to what the f*ck you say felt very gratifying.
When Ian came to me and asked me, I initially really had no interest. … Being an artist means in this business that, thankfully, you get paid really well to kind of go off for brief stints and get weird and get creative. … I’m not a CPA, and I don’t have to show up to work every day and look through, you know, legalese and documents and get on calls, which now I am doing more of.
I did it really because firstly I love Ian. … With any amount of success, the opportunity to get surrounded by constant affirmation is easy, so to really find someone who’s tastes you can ultimately deeply trust from a level of just a friend who has no vested interest in what you say, yes or no, to a project is very important, and Ian was always that person for me who’s taste I trusted and who’s sense of story was spot on, who’s taste aligned with my own.
He said, “Look, give me a year to present you some stuff, some ideas of stuff you could get behind.” I said sure. It started very, very easily, very kind of just casually. And then, a year went by and he showed up with this slate of material — all of which just happened to be produced by our immediate friend group, like some of our closest friends in the world. Some of our closest friends from 20-plus years. Scripts, ideas, directors that wanted to do things, and they were all really good.
The first thing that he presented me was Doula, a film that we now have coming out of Universal starring, I kid you not, all of our best friends. It’s written by one of our best friends, directed by one of our best friends, starring our best friend. It was really good, and my reps loved it, and I thought it was really interesting. It’s a female-led, female-driven, female-directed story about a male doula guiding this very reluctant mom who’d rather play basketball than become a mom. I just thought it was really f*cking cool.
It gave a chance for my friends to do something, an opportunity maybe they wouldn’t have had if maybe I hadn’t helped nudge the door open, and that felt really gratifying. The other stuff that he had that he brought me was just really interesting, and it just so happened all of this to align with the lockdown. And so, the first year of lockdown, I wasn’t doing anything, you know, whereas in the beginning part of my career in kind of down time I was still reveling in the fact I was an actor who could work for three months then not do sh*t for the other nine.
At this point, at 41, it’s like it’s akin to slamming your f*cking head against the wall. I had to have a sense of purpose. I had to have a reason to show up at 8 in the morning, and we did. We started just meeting every day at 8 and going through these things and that turned into Monday and Tuesday, which turned into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. All of a sudden, we had a f*cking job from 8 until 5 every single day of the quarantine.
We started writing the script. That script turned into Poolman. We sold the short doc to Netflix, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So, again, to your initial question, I had zero interest in a production company, just like I didn’t have much interest in directing, nor did I think I was going to write a script. It just happened to happen much like my career as an actor, just snowball-happened. I look back now and it’s like it’s a big f*cking snowball that I never would have thought would happen this way.
DEADLINE: I found that looking through the slate of stuff, you have a limited TV series; you have a bunch of docs, various things. Does this open the door for genres you haven’t dived into before — like a horror movie, maybe, or is it just script to script?
PINE: My brain doesn’t work that way. Even now I pick movies and some people looking from the outside and say, “Well, this actor is choosing a big film over a small film.” I would say for the majority of people I’ve met, actors in the business, usually just pick stuff that they really like to do and that’s really kind of been the guiding light of my career in terms of acting stuff.
In terms of material, it’s the same thing. It’s whatever I find intriguing that I can lend my name to, that I can get in the door, get in the room and talk about this project and my partners in it and they can do all they want, so long as I believe in it, that’s that. In terms of the genre specific stuff, you know, I Love, which is now a podcast, initially was something that we wanted to do as a limited. That didn’t work out, so we had to pivot and find a space that wanted it and that turned out to be a podcast.
Doula was always a small independent film. You know, we’re working on a couple documentaries that have been everywhere from scripted to longform to shortform now maybe a feature. So it’s really, as a nascent production company because we need to just get our foot in the door, we’re looking to get our stuff made at all costs without compromising our integrity.
To your specific question about a horror film, I’m not a huge horror fan. I don’t like horror movies. They scare the sh*t out of me, and I don’t want to make them, and I don’t want to bring that energy home with me. Just not my thing.
DEADLINE: Back to when you were talking about getting the stuff like Doula in the door, when you walk in and you present to that exec at Universal, Do they instantly go, “Are you starring in this?” or are they just intrigued by the pitch?
PINE: That’s the learning curve that, yeah, there’s some horse trading that has to happen. The big learning curve for me was coming into this thinking, “Look, I’ve been in the business for 20 years and people know who I am. I’m going to start producing stuff. People will want to buy my stuff.” That’s absolutely not the case. I feel like Ian and I started off as the freshmen. Ian doesn’t have a lot of experience producing, and I don’t, so it was like trial by fire and we’re learning a lot. We had to take meetings with producers just to learn about what the f*ck it means to be a producer. And I actually quite like that. You know, there’s a way that I could have started this production company that would have been getting the million-dollar overhead and hiring the person that’s been with four different major organizations in the business but that doesn’t hold any appeal for me.
I like this. This feels kind of like a DIY. I like being an underdog. There’s like a fire that it gives to me. And so, unfortunately, oftentimes in the room then, yeah, I have to, whether it means, schedule permitting, I’ll do something. If there’s something I really feel like I can do, I’ll do it if I’m interested in it as an actor, but what I’m working towards clearly is a place where I can just have a production entity that functions in and of itself as its thing where I don’t have to horse trade myself so much.
Deadline: As for this foray into directing, you kind of answered my question about wanting to direct for the first time when it came to you during a quarantine-type situation. But now that it’s about to happen, have you been picking other directors’ brains and trying to pick up tips on taking on this first directing job?
PINE: I think my response is of osmosis for 20 years and just being around it in work every day. Part of work is watching the director work, so I’ve picked up some stuff. But yeah, I’ve talked to Ben Stiller, John Krazinski, David Russell. I talked to Michael B. Jordan, Donald Glover. I mean, I’ve talked to a fair amount of people about directing.
I mean, at the end of the day, you just have to jump into the muck and everybody’s advice is fantastic, but it’s like if people ask me advice as an actor, there is no way. You got to figure out your own way. A lot of this stuff has been really helpful. I’ve also taken notes from Krazinski that I love. Russell, who’s a complete f*cking mensch, who spent two and a half, three hours on the phone with me being just like a Ph.D. course in filmmaking. In fact, turns out that Michael B. talked to David the same way. David is wonderful that way with young directors. So yeah, I will take all the advice I can get. I can stand behind two things. One of which is like, I’ve lived with this now for two years of having written it and rewritten it, probably three-plus years of having lived with the idea of it.
DEADLINE: Is Poolman the first thing you’ve written too?
PINE: Yeah. Me and Ian co-wrote it.
DEADLINE: How was the process of coming up with the story you wanted to tell?
PINE: So the drop in the water for this idea was like I was shooting Wonder Woman with Patty [Jenkins], and we were having cocktails somewhere after work. We were shooting the sh*t with Patty and Sam, her husband, and having a laugh and the name and the title of movie came out of this conversation. I was doing a bit just trying to make them laugh or whatever, and we just all started really laughing. I was like that’s f*cking funny.
I call it “just follow the giggle,” when I keep coming back to an idea that excites me. Follow that giggle. It still made me giggle a month later. Started coming up with little things like what if he lived in a trailer by the pool? Kept on going and going, going, going, going, going, going, going. Then quarantine hit and I’d met with a writer about writing it, and I had a couple really good meetings. I was like, “I think this is going to work out.” Then he just got busy, and life took its course.
Quarantine was in many ways the best thing that ever happened to me because I really had to create my life. I had nothing. I had to create what I was going to do with my life because I didn’t have a project to lose myself in, and finally, I wasn’t getting much of any place with this writer because he was doing his own thing. I finally called Ian. I was like, “F*ck it. Ian, what’s the best script ever written in your life?” Citizen Kane and Chinatown. He says Chinatown. We took Chinatown. We got the script. We read the script. We broke down the script as if we were writing Chinatown. We did the board with all the note cards and just studied it like a f*cking Ph.D. class. We watched it, talked about it and then, like simpletons, we were like, “OK, our story is about this.” Then we transposed our story onto Chinatown and then we were just off to the races. Then we just made it our own and we wrote it, I think, in a deep month and a half of just like, again, follow the giggle.
The first draft of it was very much whatever made us laugh. I think the first draft was really, really good. Now that I think back on it, it’s probably not the best thing that was ever written, but it was funny. It was probably more like a Big Lebowski rip-off than anything. That was two years ago, and then, we lived with it. Lived with it. Put it down for about six months. Lived with it. Lived with it.
Then I had this meeting with this DP who I worked with, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, on All the Old Knives, and it was the last day of filming and I was telling her about the script. She asked what it’s about and I opened my mouth to talk and I hadn’t really ever thought about it before because I was so just chuffed by how much it was funny. The first thing that came out of my mouth was it’s about being alone. Like, oh sh*t. That surprised me. I went, “Huh?”
Once that nugget came in, then all of the drafts since then have really been like trying to get at something meaningful and the meaningfulness is essentially that girl. Why do some of us feel so alone sometimes even though we have friends or whatever? So that was the genesis of that, and then, because I’d been thinking about it for so f*cking long, it just seemed like a thing that I would be directing.
So again, like everything in my professional life, it just seems just to happen. Like, “Now I’m acting in it. Oh, now I’m writing it. Now I’m directing it. Now I’m producing it. I would have never defined it as a passion so much as it just seems to be very clearly fated that this is the direction it’s going to be going in now.
DEADLINE: More than likely both audiences would be consuming Contractor and All the Old Knives by streaming them even though they both will be available in some theaters. Is that now something you’re talking about as a business, streaming versus theatrical? Is it something you’re weighing in your decisions to pursue a project or not to?
PINE: I don’t think there’s any way to avoid talking about it. If I had my druthers, I’d be a film actor. Like, I wanted to be a film actor. I want my films to be on film, projected at a movie theater. I also am just kind of much like Darren [from Poolman], not into change so much. Like I just got an iPhone and it’s terrifying. That bums me out on a very kind of deep, genetic level, but it is what it is. 2022 is what it is.
So this is a competitive business, and just because I’ve had some success in it doesn’t mean that I’ll have success in the future. I need my sh*t played, and if that means it’s going to be on a streaming platform, it’s going to be on a streaming platform. If I can push to have a theatrical release, I’m going to push to have a theatrical release.
In terms of the future of the platforms as they relate to specific projects and what gets shown in the theater and not, I think we’re all, as an industry, still figuring that out and the future of, particularly, what does cinema mean? Like what does cinema mean versus television, or is there really no separation anymore? I mean, should the Emmys be the Oscars? Should the Oscars be the Emmys? How does one delineate, really?
That’s frustrating because a part of me wishes I grew up in the studio era where things were built much simpler in terms of the curation of what was seen where. Obviously, there’s a great benefit to the democratization of media and the outlets and all that, but it really makes it a bit more difficult.
DEADLINE: Now you do I Am the Night with Patty, which felt like an ahead-of-the-time moment now that so many movie stars are adding TV to their slates. Are looking to do more of projects in the TV realm? Are you looking for stuff for you to star in? I’m very curious wherever you see that going in terms of developing your own stuff and directing.
PINE: Just like I think the majority of people watching televised or screened anything, the television space is super interesting. It’s shouldering a lot of the load of a certain kind of adult dramatic fare that we do not see in cinemas anymore, so that’s a great space. That’s a great space to try to exploit and use and get some vehicles out that we really believe in.
So without a doubt, in terms of production stuff, that’s a place that we want to be in big-time. Just like I Am the Night, I did that because it was Patty and I wanted to play this weird detective, and I wanted to shoot on film in Los Angeles, and I love that time period and all that. If something pops up in that arena, that’s what I want to do, but call me a romantic and a bleeding-heart romantic, but I want to make films. That’s my primary objective. Again, if I had my druthers, I’d be in the big films.
DEADLINE: Recently it broke that you’re in talks to possibly to return as Captain Kirk in a new Star Trek film. I don’t know if you can say anything, but were you intrigued by the idea? Not much to go on at this point but always open for a return?
PINE: I’ve not read a script. I met the director, Matt [Shakman], who I really like. I met a producer on it that I really like. I know JJ [Abrams] is involved in it in some respects. I met the new people over at Paramount, which is many different kind of relations. I really liked them. Everybody seems excited about the prospect of it. There’s just simply no — I don’t have a tangible script to look at.
Conceptually, I love it. I love Star Trek. Again, I love the messaging of it. I love the character. I love my friends with whom I get to play. It’s a great gig. I mean, it’s a gig I’ve had, working and not working, for 15-plus years. It cemented the career that I have now. I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s given me so much. I think there are plenty of stories to tell in it. You know, I think Star Trek for me, it’s an interesting one.
We always tried to get the huge international market. It was always about making the billion dollars. It was always this billion-dollar mark because Marvel was making a billion. Billion, billion, billion. We struggled with it because Star Trek, for whatever reason, its core audience is rabid. Like rabid, as you know. To get these people that are interested that maybe are Star Wars fans or think Star Trek is not cool or whatever, proven to be … we’ve definitely done a good job of it but not the billion-dollar kind of job that they want.
I’ve always thought that Star Trek should operate in the zone that is smaller. You know, it’s not a Marvel appeal. It’s like, let’s make the movie for the people that love this group of people, that love this story, that love Star Trek. Let’s make it for them and then, if people want to come to the party, great. But make it for a price and make it, so that if it makes a half-billion dollars, that’s really good.
But we operate in a system now which I don’t know how much longer we have of you have to spend 500 million dollars on a film to reach …even you have to pay all sorts of people back. So to make a billion, it’s like you haven’t even — a billion is the gross. You haven’t brought your net in. So I mean, if I had my business suit on, that’s what I would do, but I don’t know where that is. That’s all above my pay grade.
DEADLINE: It’s interesting you made that point because I just thought Joker would change so many things about this tentpole of $75 million. Now, obviously, it’s adult-driven, so it’s a little tougher to do, but like it’s kind of amazing that we haven’t seen more of those kind of like grounded tentpoles.
PINE: Obviously, a thread of what we’ve been talking about in this conversation is the future of cinema and where’s it going. If you take huge risks like that, the demand to go through that eye hole of the f*cking needle is like you’re just setting yourself up, whereas I think we can learn a lot from the Blumhouse or the kind of the sub-10, sub-five-budget films, which you make a killer f*cking film with a great story in camera and you’re all in for 20 or whatever. This is obviously a certain genre, but there’s a lot to learn from that. The upside is fantastic. Those films make a lot of f*cking money.
So that one thing that Ian and I have been talking about — and something I thought ever since, strangely, I saw a Jack Reacher film that I absolutely love because I love Tom Cruise, and it was just a great throwback vehicle — is there was this great car chase sequence in it. It’s all on camera. It’s all on. It’s all on a rig on the car, and it’s about as exciting as anything I’ve seen in the past 15 years, and they must have made that film for a price.
I’m thinking to myself, “Why isn’t the mainstream action film taking a cue from that horror thriller genre?” Make it for a price and then market it really well. It seems to be this great niche market that could be exploited that could be really cool.
DEADLINE: My last question, you mentioned you’ve been doing this for 20 years, but it seems talking this whole conversation, that next phase is still fascinating for the next 20. From a broad sense or a specific sense, where are you hoping over the next five, 10, 15, 20 years the next steps in your career take you? Is it this producing thing? Directing? Or you don’t really know what the future kind of holds?
PINE: I don’t really know what the future holds. I mean, I would say really, the foundation of the production company is A) to help my friends, people that I love get a shot. B) there’s a component of making material that I think is really important and has something to say that can move the needle forward in conversations that I think are pivotal for our species so to speak. And also, as an actor, I do love the structure, otherwise I’m just kind of floundering.
So, there’s a school element to producing that I really like. I’ve got to show up at 8 ..m. I have a Zoom. I have a phone call then. Then we have to break story on this. That greatly appeals to a part of my brain that I like to be able to go back to if I’m not doing my day job.
Directing — we’ll see, man. I mean, I may fall flat on my face after Poolman. It may be something, you know, that doesn’t appeal to me, but I need to try it. There’s at least something in me that’s motivating me to try it. I think generally speaking for the next 20 or for my career in general, it’s what makes my job is so neat is I want to have the buffet of experience. I get to pursue the giggle.
If that’s really titillating me, if it’s a musical, great. If it’s a short film, great. If it’s a TV film, great. If it’s a movie, great. If it’s a big movie, even better. If it’s a smaller movie, even better. I love to be challenged and intrigued and constantly grow, and really it gets down to the basic thing. It’s like what I was talking about with reviews — it’s so hard to get out of this result-oriented modality, which is what we do.
We go make something and then say, “Where’s the result?” It’s very hard to separate yourself from that because you spent so much f*cking time, sweat, blood and tears on a project and you send it out and the peanut gallery just takes their samurai swords and f*cking does what they do.
So as much as I can remember, the best thing in the journey of it, the experience of it, that the majority of my time is spent at those 15 hours on set, very little of my time is spent at the premiere, as much as I can remember that, as much as I can curate that experience for myself, meaning just work with people that I like, the happier the human being I’m going to be.
It basically gets to the deep genetics of what I learned in the motion picture company, which is you’re going to have to giggle. You know, we got to like you. We have to like you. We have to like the material. We have to like jamming about it. It has got to be a part of it. I’ve made enough money. I can’t believe the amount of money I make compared to how I grew up. Anything else is just icing on the cake.
If I can help my friends make some money, if I can help my friends not worry about the future — that is very meaningful to me. That gives me a lot of pride. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. If this turns into a Plan B, fantastic. If it doesn’t, whatever, we’ll be fine because I know that our intentions are right. Our intentions are good and clear.
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