Fans of the long-running role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons have known for decades how the experience of playing the game is character-based and acting-friendly. In addition to fostering camaraderie between friends or family members who play together, it encourages imagination and improvisation, skills any actor learns to develop and foster as they continue to practice their craft.
It's no surprise, then, that more and more actors are getting into the D&D craze. One actor who's found himself quite literally and figuratively getting into it is Chris Pine, who portrays the bard-class Edgin Darvis in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves." Pine's character in the film is both traditionally heroic and charmingly self-effacing, allowing the actor to better integrate into the ensemble nature of the film and its RPG source material.
I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Mr. Pine about his work in the movie, his thoughts on learning about D&D, his approach to the types of characters he plays on screen, and the moment in the film that makes him giggle the most.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
'I Think It Should Be Played In Schools'
"Honor Among Thieves" is not the first feature film to concern Dungeons & Dragons. There's not just the other D&D films made in the 2000s, but also 1982's "Mazes and Monsters," which was based on the media's vilification of D&D at the time. Cut to me seeing your movie last night at a screening next to two women in cosplay who were calling out with glee every last reference to the game — the Sending Stones and so on. I was curious how you've observed this change in culture from when you were a kid yourself, and how you feel about it now.
Oh, I have no idea. I can't really answer that question intelligently. What I will say is that my understanding of Dungeons & Dragons is quite new. My entry point into it is my nephew, who's a huge player, and he's played for six years with the same group of kids, with the same Dungeon Masters. He's written his own campaigns and drawn his own maps. He took me in my family through a campaign that he wrote. And what I saw, especially for a family of actors, is how immediately accessible it is. It doesn't matter if you know the Sending Stones or the mimics or whatever, the world of Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying is acting. It's improv. It's, "Here's what's happening. This is what you have. This is your obstacle. Now go."
It was kind of a revelation for me because I think … my father's 82, my mom's 76, I had no knowledge about it, my sister has no knowledge about it. Within 15 minutes, we were having the time of our lives and we didn't have to know anything. So for me, this idea that it's like "geeky" or "nerdy" or whatever, the gospel of Dungeons & Dragons that I think is so important to know, why I think it should be played in schools, is that it immediately teaches cooperation. It exercises the imagination. It's joyous, it's improvisational. And within a matter of minutes, everybody's on the same page. You're not arguing about whether or not you're cool or not. You're arguing about whether or not you should have gone over the boulder to kill the dragon. I think it's about the coolest thing I've encountered in a long time.
'He's The Guy That Always Sees The Silver Lining'
One of the things I really enjoyed about the film and your performance in it is the way that it uses Edgin as a hero without disregarding, or dismissing, or sweeping under the rug, his "Bard" status. You've played such a great range of parts over the years, from classic heroes to kooky, laid-back dudes. Was Edgin's kind of non-traditional role in the ensemble of the film something you had to advocate much for, or was it baked in already? What was it like preparing to play him?
It was baked in already. The one thing that we had a conversation about, me and John [Francis Daley] and Jonathan [Goldstein], is I think originally he may have skewed a bit more roguish — not in terms of the character, roguish in terms of kind of gruff and easily frustrated, let's say. I guess what I found in reading it was I found Edgin to be really bright and kind of buoyant. He's the guy that always sees the silver lining. He's the guy where, no matter if there's a mudslide in the backyard of your party, it's like, "Let's go swim in the mudslide." There's always something positive to find in the thing.
Once I found that entry point into the character, it really made a lot of sense to me. I don't think I'd seen a character like that in a while. Certainly not one that I played. Maybe there's flavors of ["Wonder Woman" character] Steve Trevor in that, perhaps. But I've always kind of gravitated towards characters that are normal-ish or normal people trying to do extraordinary things. I don't know why that is, but maybe it's because when I grew up, I was watching heroes like Indiana Jones or Han Solo, or really just normal people doing extraordinary things. So I'm a product of my environment. Even like "Die Hard," those are the '80s guys that I watched growing up and who I wanted to embody when I became an actor.
Lute Playing And Magic Holograms
I loved seeing you in that third act, swinging around the lute like a baseball bat in battle. Was there much physical training involved for this?
No, I mean, I wish I could say that I really studied deep on the lute. The lute is pretty much like a ukulele, and I've played guitar for like 30 years. It's a stringed instrument, and it's not like I was playing a Bach concerto on the thing. It was like two chords or something. So it was really the one scene in particular when I'm using my lute playing and singing to obfuscate certain other things happening on the journey. Really, the most fun I had is coming up with how I was going to enter through this gate and how I was going to make this performance fun. So that day was particularly fun because I could act like a complete idiot and dance and prance and figure out how to be some sort of renaissance one-person mariachi band.
That moment you're describing leads into what is maybe the funniest visual I think I've seen this year yet, which is the hologram magic version of you that goes awry. How did Goldstein and Daley pitch that moment to you? Did you have to do any motion capture for that sequence? What was your reaction to it?
That's a good point. No, this was something they were always really excited about, and I thought it was actually kind of dumb. But they said, "No, trust us. It's going to be great." I was like, "All right. All right."
Yeah, I think they may have put green dots on me on the day. What I do remember is I did have to do a version of the "brate…brate…brate." I had to do that thing over and over and over again. But, I mean, at a certain point, there's no skill involved. It's a computer guy in Montreal or whatever figuring out how to make my face become squashed.
'It Was Put Back In And Remains One Of My Favorite [Moments]'
Finally, were there any moments or scenes cut from the movie that you were sad to lose, or something you think we might see on a future release?
I don't think so. I don't think anything was cut, quite honestly. I have to ask John and Jonathan about that.
What I can say to that is one of the things they had to fight for, and what I was prepared to pick up my phone and call the studio about, is I don't think they wanted this moment when Xenk — who was played by Regé [-Jean Page], who does an incredible job and who's so funny in this — leaves [the group] and walks in a straight line over a rock. And John, Jonathan, myself, we love this bit of straight line Xenk, which I think in some iterations had been cut. But thank god, it was put back in and remains one of my favorite [moments]. Really, it's, just for me, makes me giggle.
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" arrives in theaters on March 31, 2023.
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