The Chosen One: Chris Pine
Credit: Photograph by Max Vadukul

The day after his bar crawl, Pine sleeps until noon, and is still waking up by the time we meet an hour later at the Punch Bowl, a faux-traditional pub owned by Guy Ritchie. He's hungry, and we quickly switch venues to the nearby Soho House, where he's a member – we're seated at a plush booth with magical speed. He's also close enough pals with the stylish young maître d' that he asks about Pine's night out – until Pine points, with reflexive caution, to my digital recorder. Pine is wearing a white T-shirt over what appear to be the same black jeans and boots from the night before, plus a blue leather jacket ("That must have been a weird-looking cow," he says). He's not particularly hungover – he paced himself. And many of his nights out are even more civilized: Friday evening was spent with co-star Emily Blunt and her husband – they saw a Hollywood-themed play, 'The Drowned Man,' which he'd already caught in New York.

Pine's politics are far left even for Hollywood – he's bookmarked Truthdig and 'Mother Jones,' and has grown disillusioned with Obama, whom he went door-to-door for in Nevada in 2008. Despite Tom Clancy's obvious right-wing inclinations, Pine always had a soft spot for the Jack Ryan movies. He went to Alec Baldwin, the first actor to play Ryan (and not exactly a Tea Partier himself), for advice. Baldwin simply grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "Just do it, and don't look back."

Pine particularly liked that, unlike the brash, un-cerebral Kirk, Ryan's defining trait is intelligence. Instead of guys wanting to test his toughness by fighting him in bars, "maybe they can just throw me a puzzle. Like, solve this Sudoku, asshole. You think you're smart? Solve this algorithm!" 'Shadow Recruit,' set mostly in Moscow, brings the Jack Ryan character out of the Cold War and into the present day – when the story begins, Jack isn't even a CIA analyst yet. "Jack Ryan isn't a paid assassin," director Kenneth Branagh has said. "He's not a man coming off a program. He's got his brain, and he's got a desire to do something, to serve in some way."

The movie has all the action you'd expect from a spy thriller, but for Pine, the physical demands are the easy part. What's hard is bringing depth to Jack Ryan, who's a blank slate, a heroic everyman figure who's there to react to the excitement around him.

"Oftentimes, what you're asked to do is just be, which is hard because as an actor you want to do things to get noticed. You have to hold those things back to be an anchor, without getting in the way of the bad guy doing the accent or whatever."

We finish lunch and walk around Mayfair, the ultra-upscale neighborhood where Pine is renting an apartment. As we pass a bar's courtyard, a slim twentysomething brunette in blue vinyl pants looks up from her cellphone and gives Pine a huge smile, with meaningful, almost hungry eye contact. It's not altogether clear whether she recognizes him, but it doesn't matter: He smiles back, as pleased as if it were a rare occurrence.

Pine ended a relationship with model Dominique Piek last April and then was spotted out with another brunette model, Amanda Frances. He once half-joked that he'd like to be a George Clooney–style perpetual bachelor, and then backed away from the quote. Now he says, again, that he's not ready for a relationship.

"I have a lot of fucking growing up to do," he says. "I'm a relatively young guy and I feel like I'm hitting my stride with my work. I don't know if I have the capacity at the moment to be a good partner to somebody. I could meet someone tomorrow and change my mind, but that's how I feel on this Sunday afternoon." (A month later, pictures appear of him in Paris with one Iris Björk Jóhannesdóttir, a blonde, 23-year-old former Miss Reykjavík.)

Truth is, he does admire Clooney – but who doesn't? "I don't know him at all, but I enjoy watching him. He takes it seriously, but he's not gloating down the red carpet. He's a movie star – and there's something glamorous and wonderful that we all kind of buy into. People enjoy George Clooney, and he's enjoying it."

Lately, Pine is doing his best to walk that path. "When Heath Ledger died," he says, "I was making the first 'Star Trek,' and I didn't know him at all, but it really hit me. He was my age, basically, 28. Life is so short. It's obviously a trite thing to say, but it could not be any truer. It would be such a waste given all the opportunities I've been given not to have as much fun as I possibly can."

So for the first time in his life, he's letting himself be a little irresponsible. Hence the drinking, the girls, the sleeping until noon. "I feel like I'm Benjamin Button-ing myself," he says with a laugh, "It's like as I get older I'll be the guy with the Lamborghini." In fact, he already has a Porsche 911 Carrera S, which makes it hard to obey speed limits. "It's the architecture of the car – it wants to go fast." Three years ago, he bought himself a $3 million house in Los Feliz as well, with a view of the Hollywood sign.

He wishes he could go back and shake his 18-year-old self, and tell him, "Have fun." "For whatever reason, I didn't misbehave as a kid. I studied hard, did my homework – and it's all unraveling as I get older."

Pine has been careful about the roles he takes – but if anything, he wants to be less cautious in the future. He doesn't want to get trapped in what he calls "the bubble life of movie stardom."

"I've always just been very cognizant of how easily it all can be taken away," he says, standing under the gray London sky. "You may be great-looking, you may be charming. But it doesn't fucking guarantee squat." He says it again, as if the idea pleases him, as if he's picturing that bubble popping: "It's just not guaranteed."