Chris Pine no damsel in distress in Wonder Woman

While the actor sees humour in his character being objectified in the film, he is annoyed by queries about what it feels like to be the one getting rescued

Chris Pine plays an American spy who inadvertently leads the German army to an island occupied by an all-female tribe of Amazon warriors, including Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot.
Chris Pine plays an American spy who inadvertently leads the German army to an island occupied by an all-female tribe of Amazon warriors, including Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

As the love interest and comic foil in Wonder Woman, actor Chris Pine got to experience many of the film's role reversals firsthand.

He was often surrounded by women on set and his character is the object of a lustful "female gaze" rarely seen on screen.

He says he got a kick out of this and had no problem baring all in a scene where his character, Steve Trevor, emerges from a bath nude under the watchful eye of the movie's titular superhero, played by Gal Gadot.

"It was super fun, man. I thought, 'How cool to be the object?'. And it's funny because it's a complete flip - she's standing there like a dude, looking at me and just completely objectifying (me)."

The comedy in that moment - when a momentarily insecure Trevor boasts to Gadot's character, Diana, who had never seen a man before, that he is "above average" - appealed to the 36-year-old, who plays Captain Kirk in the Star Trek films (2009-2016).

"That was one of the first scenes (director) Patty Jenkins described to me and I thought, 'Oh, that's so good', and I wanted to do that scene really badly.

"So I had a great time. It was a great excuse to work out and try to look as good as you could."

  • What you didn’t know about Gal Gadot

  • 1 You're probably saying her name wrong

    She is Israeli, so her name is not pronounced "Gal Guh-DOUGH" - the vaguely French-sounding way many are saying it - but more like "Gahl Guh-DOT" or "Guh-DOTE", as she has clarified.

    The 32-year-old former model and 2004 Miss Israel pageant winner has also explained that "Gal" means "wave" in Hebrew and that her parents changed the original family name from Greenstein to Gadot, which means "river bank".

    2 She did two years of national service

    National service is mandatory for Israeli men and women once they turn 18, so Gadot served two years in the Israel Defence Forces, her country's military - a compulsory-conscription practice that Singapore's national service is partially modelled on. She is married to Israeli real-estate developer Yaron Varsano, 42, and they have two daughters aged five and two months old.

    3 She improvised one of the film's funniest moments

    Speaking to The Straits Times in Los Angeles last month, Gadot revealed that she came up with the part where her character tastes ice cream for the first time, is overcome with joy and tells the vendor he should be very proud.

    If director Patty Jenkins ever releases an outtake reel, there are more scenes where Gadot and co-star Chris Pine can be seen riffing off each other - for instance, during a key moment on a boat when their characters begin to fall in love.

What he enjoyed far less, though, were queries about what it feels like to be "the damsel in distress" in the female-led film, which is in cinemas now.

The question is not put to him by The Straits Times or anyone else in the small group of reporters speaking to him in Los Angeles recently about the movie, which opened last week and earned more than US$200 million (S$276 million) worldwide - a new record for a female director.

Wonder Woman is also a professional high for Pine, who is racking up some of the best reviews of his career for his role as Trevor, an American spy in World War I.

But after the long press tour for the film, he has had it with queries about being the one who is rescued in the story.

And it irks him enough that he brings it up when asked if he now feels more empathy for former female co-stars who have been similarly objectified.

"God, I wish I could say (that). I don't know - I wasn't thinking about compassion or empathy. And maybe because it was a novelty, I could have a sense of humour about it.

"What I will say is getting questions from you guys about what it's like to be a 'damsel in distress' and all that... yeah, my vanity... there's a surge of, you know, defensiveness that comes out.

"I can't fathom doing these junkets if you're a woman in that same situation. I don't think you'd actually be asked that as a woman."

Co-star Gadot, 32, who is standing next to him when he says this, nods, but adds: "We're never asked that question because it's so obvious."

Flustered, Pine backtracks on his previous answer. "So yeah, I have a lot more compassion now."

He perks up, though, when asked about the battle scene early in the film, an origin story that shows Wonder Woman being raised by an all-female tribe of Amazon warriors. The women are forced to defend their island when Trevor's plane inadvertently leads the German army there.

"I grew up with really strong women in my family so I didn't really think twice about it. It was a great gig. It's not a bad thing to be surrounded by strong, powerful, beautiful women. So I'd do it again in a heartbeat," says Pine, who is rumoured to be dating 35-year-old Star Trek Beyond (2016) actress Sofia Boutella.

The Amazon battle scenes were filmed at a resort town in Italy where "we were all thrown together and it was like summer camp or the best vacation", the actor reveals.

"On top of that, it's filled with women and, as a man surrounded by beautiful women, it was a lot of fun. I worked a week and then I travelled around Italy, so I had a blast."

He says this was a special project for the women involved.

"I could tell, as kind of an outsider watching the women, that they were stoked. There was like a real sense of 'We're doing it, this is it', there was a sense of camaraderie that I, certainly, wasn't privy to.

"There'd be a bunch of women on horseback on the beach doing fight scenes and then I would go to the gym to work out, and you'd see 15 to 20 women lifting weights or doing CrossFit. It was such a trip."

And the role reversals continued when the women's partners came to visit. Pine says: "You had all the husbands and boyfriends coming to visit and they were carrying the strollers - it was hysterical."

He believes the movie also has a particular message for men despite its universal themes.

"I think what Wonder Woman represents is an openness and infinite curiosity about mankind and what makes humans tick. She is hopeful and positive and loving.

"I think the story for the man in this, Steve, is that the masculine could use a little bit more of the feminine in their lives. The feminine is the life-affirmer, the life- giver and it is love incarnate."

•Wonder Woman is showing in cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Chris Pine no damsel in distress in Wonder Woman'. Print Edition | Subscribe