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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Last year, up-and-coming actor Chris Pine was transported to a new frontier, professionally, when he played the leading role of a young Captain Kirk in the blockbuster feature film, "Star Trek."
Now in his first movie since becoming a much sought-after Hollywood commodity, Pine has chosen to star opposite a high speed train in filmmaker Tony Scott's adrenaline-fueled flick, "Unstoppable."
But it was less the movie and more his chance to work with two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and director Scott that Pine said was the real catalyst to climb aboard the thriller about a runaway train.
"No matter what I was doing, I was constantly overwhelmed by the fact that I was working with two people who for so long seemed out of my reach," Pine told Reuters. "That, for me, trumped everything else."
Due in theaters on Friday, "Unstoppable" sees Washington play a veteran engineer and Pine a rookie conductor who are paired together on the latter's first day on the job.
When an unmanned, out-of-control train carrying hazardous material heads toward a populated area at 150 miles per hour, the duo must race against the clock to stop it.
Pine holds his own opposite the powerful Washington, but he knows he is still considered a newcomer when cast against a veteran. He also is aware that the opportunity to star in "Unstoppable" came his way because of "Star Trek."
"It's a business, and the bottom line is money," Pine said, matter-of-factly, about Hollywood moviemaking. "'Star Trek' made a lot of money for people, and I just happened to be part of an ensemble that made it work. I'm still riding the wave."
After wrapping "Star Trek," Pine took a year off "because I was so burned out." Not only was the four-month shoot physically grueling, also heaped on his shoulders was the stress of satisfying legions of "Star Trek" fans while still appealing to mass audiences.
With ticket sales of more than $385 million at worldwide box offices, it's clear "Star Trek" accomplished both and luckily, Pine said, he was prepared for the stardom and massive following of new fans, thanks to his upbringing.
"My dad is a blue collar working actor," explained Pine. "He goes out and auditions. Sometimes he gets them, sometimes he doesn't. There are dry years; there are flush years. I knew very clearly what I was getting into."
One might think acting was something Pine would have fallen into naturally. His mother, Gwynne Gilford, was also an actress and his grandmother, Anne Gwynne, was one of the original 'scream queens' working in horror movies.
Yet, acting as a career didn't occur to Pine until after he enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley.
"I didn't join a frat, so I was trying to find a social group," recalled Pine. "Theater seemed like an interesting thing. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense."
It took a few years to get the ball rolling. Small breaks came in films like "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" with Anne Hathaway and "Just My Luck" with Lindsay Lohan.
At the time, Pine was clearly second fiddle to two actresses who had more box office clout than he. But today, he is keenly aware of how Hathaway grew up to become an Oscar nominated star while Lohan's career sank under the weight of drug and alcohol abuse from which she has yet to rebound.
"It reminds you of that saying, 'you never know who you'll see on the way up or down,'" said Pine, adding that because he grew up in L.A. "there was never that rush of excitement" to hit the Sunset Strip or Hollywood Boulevard clubs to party.
In the meantime, Pine's focus is on work.
"I don't know what's going to happen in two years. But right now, I'm going to enjoy it and do my best to create a career of longevity."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte