(Photo: Anatoliy Vorobev, Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions)
The actor is starring for the second time as Enterprise captain James Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness due out May 17. And on Christmas Day, he'll step into the title role for the action thriller Jack Ryan, based on the character who frequents many of Tom Clancy's novels.
The CIA analyst role has been played by a who's-who of Hollywood leading men, from Alec Baldwin (1990's The Hunt for Red October) to Harrison Ford (1992's Patriot Games, 1994's Clear and Present Danger) and Ben Affleck (2002's The Sum of All Fears).
"It's always a bit overwhelming," admits Pine, 32. "What I do know is my job is to do my best to bring whatever new colors I have to these franchises."
In Jack Ryan, directed by Kenneth Branagh, Pine takes the character to its beginning, where the injured Marine is recruited by CIA vet Kevin Costner to work as a high-level analyst. The two are pitted against a Russian oligarch (played by Branagh) who is pulling the strings of the financial market and delving into international terrorism with potential global catastrophic results.
The Russian angle might sound like classic Clancy, who set his novels during and in the shadow of the Cold War. But this original story has been brought to the present.
"We cheated a little," says Branagh. "Mr. Clancy is very aware of and very behind the concept, but we put Jack Ryan in the here and now."
"We take the fundamentals of the myth of Jack Ryan and do an original film that was never a book," says Pine. "We're making our own story in a modern-day 2013."
Of vital importance for Pine was keeping Ryan very much the everyman, with his greatest asset being his analytical brain.
"He doesn't drive great cars, he doesn't know five different martial arts," says Pine. "He works in the CIA, but he's a normal guy with a normal wife (fiancée, actually) thrown into these extraordinary circumstances."
Costner's character "shows him right away that it's not physical prowess or shooting a gun that's Jack's weapon, but it's how smart he is," adds Pine.
It's this everyman quality that Branagh believes has made Ryan such an enduring film and literary hero.
"We're probably not going to be James Bond or Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt," says Branagh. "The audience feels they could just be Jack Ryan and they like him for that. If you ever wanted to be involved in global conspiracies and espionage, then Jack Ryan is the way in. And it puts us in the center of the story."
Branagh, as Viktor Cherevin, was eager to take on the villain role even if it meant juggling his directing duties while tangling with the difficult Russian language and its Cyrillic alphabet.
"That was certainly challenging. I'm not a man who is good with languages," says Branagh. "But I enjoyed going up against the Cyrillic alphabet. I think the alphabet probably won. But I had fun trying to hold my own."
The film also stars Keira Knightley as Ryan's fiancée, Cathy, who does take away, slightly, from the everyman concept
"That part is about aspirations," says Branagh about casting her. "I was thinking if Jack Ryan can get Keira Knightley, maybe we all have a chance."
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)