When Sam finds out his father died, the fast-talking salesman is reluctant to go home where his relationship with his family had been strained for years. But when he returns to California, he finds out the shock of his life, a half-sister, Frankie, whom he never knew existed in “People Like Us.”
Pine, who plays Sam, was attracted to the film – loosely based on the life of writer/director Alex Kurtzman – because of the mixture of anger and humor and the layers of emotion, especially dealing with a father who was virtually non-existent in Sam’s life and an estranged mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer).
“We come from fallible parents, who were kids once, who decided to have kids, and had to learn how to be parents,” Pine said. “And then the learning process of becoming a parent, and raising a kid, faults were made, and damage is done. Whether it's conscious or not, whether it's abuse or not, there's stuff we all have to deal with. So I think that that hopefully is the kind of the resonant pitch of our film.”
Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) is a single mom with a young and rebellious son (newcomer Michael Hall D’Addario). When Sam enters her life, she just found out her father died, a father that deserted her when she was a child. What Sam doesn’t tell her, mainly because his father instructed him to give Frankie a wad of cash he desperately needs, is that he’s her half brother.
“I like to say about this movie, we don't get to choose our family, but we do get to choose to love our family and to like our family and to have forgiveness and grace with our family,” Banks said. “And you know, that's the place where I feel like that Sam and Lillian get to ... like, ‘All right let’s move on.’ Our past does not determine our future.”
Pfeiffer said she loved the piece and was attracted to its themes about forgiveness and that family matters and that “families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and colors and are defined in many, many different ways.”
“At the root of it is, we all want to connect, and at the same time, we’re all terrified of making that connection because it means being vulnerable,” Pfeiffer said. “So we walk around feeling alone a lot of the time, even though you’re in a room full of people, you’re in a room full of family members, and people that you love. There’s this sort of feeling of being alone. I think when you talk to a lot of people ultimately they have that feeling. I always feel like… a lot of people will say, I always feel like I’m kind of on the outside.”
While promoting “People Like Us,” Pine said he was surprised how familiar the film’s story was to people who saw the film.
“Without fail, in every city, someone has had this same story happen to them,” Pine said. “ I guess, I originally thought, ‘Well, maybe it's not all that relatable, because who's got secret families, and maybe it's like a small, small percentage.’ But even if it is, we encounter people all the time that say that it's happened to them. And even if it hasn't happened to them, we all come from families whether we know them or not. Or whether we know they're our parents or not, or if we're foster kids, or orphans, or whatever the fact of the circumstance is.”
Pine (“Star Trek”) and Banks (“The Hunger Games”) have recently come off starring in huge franchises. They both relished the opportunity to be in a small budget, character-driven movie like “People Like Us.”
‘“Star Trek’ gave me the opportunity to do a film like this and to have it seen, hopefully,” Pine said. “I owe ‘Star Trek,’ really, the pop in my career, was the ability to make choices, more than earlier in my career, is due to that franchise, so I'm very thankful for it. But just because this is a movie about family and it's a small character-driven thing, it's not necessarily the choice – there wasn't forethought there, saying, "I want to make a small movie now."
“I don't do this job for myself,” Banks said. “I do it to connect with people, and when you're in a big franchise, you connect with a lot of people, and that’s really great. It's a great feeling, and hopefully it means that more people see the work, and that's – you know, it's why they let the two of us make movies like this. Because they think people will come and see it.”
For Pfeiffer, it was a juggling act to star in the film.
“I had committed to ‘New Year’s Eve,’ and I love Gary Marshall, and then I read this, and I wanted to do this, and then there became a scheduling conflict, and it looked like I wasn’t going be able to do this film. And so the two productions got together and worked it out so that I could do it. I did ‘New Year’s Eve.’ Then I had to go back and finish this one. I hated that. So I had to go from this really serious drama to this character, this goofy character in ‘New Year’s Eve,’ and then sort of going in and out. I think going in and out of a picture like this, you can do that on certain kinds of films, but this is not the kind of movie … so that was a challenge.”
Pine said he had early concerns about working with Kurtzman, a first time director who has a number of writing and producing credits.
“My concern early on was that because he'd spent so much time writing the film that it could very well be precious to him, and something that he would want to protect and kind of navigate to with too much control,” Pine said. “For an actor, that's no fun, because then you feel like you're constrained and constricted, so I told him from the get-go, because I already knew that I felt a great attachment to the character, I said, ‘I can't do this if this is going be Alex catharsis time.’
He added, “Alex, very graciously and without fail, every step along the way, gave up his script to us and said, ‘Try to make it better.’ That continues to amaze me, the kind of grace he went about doing that. Because, as a first-time director, and with a story that personal, it could have easily gone the other way. “
People Like Us details:
Release date: June 29
Production company: DreamWorks Pictures
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Cast and Crew of Magic Mike:
Starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass and Jon Favreau
Directed By: Alex Kurtzman
Written By: Alex Kurtzman, Jody Lambert and Roberto Orci
Produced By: Alex Kurtzman, Bobby Cohen, Roberto Orci and Clayton Townsend