Arts

Chris Pine on Outlaw King: I felt that Robert the Bruce was tremendously human

Chris Pine bares all in his latest role as Robert the Bruce in Outlaw King, but tells Laura Harding why panting headlines about his nudity have highlighted a double standard for men and women

Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick in Outlaw King

CHRIS Pine has yellow paint flecked on the thigh of his white jeans. It's one of the first things you notice when he walks into the room, but he looks down in surprise when asked about it, as if he's taken aback it's there at all. It turns out he's an enthusiastic artist, and was just working on his latest effort.

"I'm not great but I love it," Pine (38) says bashfully.

To his chagrin, he has been navigating a number of questions about what has been going on below his waist in recent weeks. For those not in the know, Pine's latest film Outlaw King sees the Los Angeles-born star play the legendary Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce.

When the movie had its world premiere at the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival, many of the first reviews included panting references to his full frontal nudity.

"People are giggling about my penis as if we're schoolchildren," he says ruefully. "There are movies with people sawing their heads off, and you can show that to a 13-year-old in my country and it's not a problem.

"You show two people having sex and it's NC-17 (where anyone under 17 is banned) and your mother's got to hide you from it. And if you distil that down, there's something about showing intimacy which is verboten, but showing violence which is thumbs up."

The scene in question actually occurs when Robert the Bruce emerges from a lake after a bath, having seized the Scottish crown during the oppressive occupation of medieval Scotland by English King Edward I.

But it has led to a lot of innuendo and sniggering, while the nudity of Florence Pugh, who plays Robert's wife Elizabeth, has gone largely unremarked upon.

"In exploring this kind of man who is to be called king and treated like a king, I thought it was important to see the king and the animal, the man and the animal, that his feet are in the mud. That he is both violent and primitive and bestial, but also something else. So I thought to see the human de-clothed, and as his animal self is really important.

"But Florence shows her entire body in this film, and no one is talking about that.

"People want to talk about my penis as if we're a bunch of teenagers playing spin the bottle. Is Florence expected to do that because she is a woman and I'm not expected to do that because I'm a man?

"Certainly there's a lot of violence in this film and people get de-bowelled and stuff like that, and no one wants to talk about that.

"And I think it's certainly a marker of our puritanical culture where if people make love, or show what God gave us, it's somehow NC-17 and you can de-bowel, behead, you can do all sorts of crazy s**t like that and people are like, 'Yeah that seems right'.

"Lets put a big mirror up to us and say, 'Why? What's going on guys?'"

The film's director David Mackenzie, is equally baffled by the furore.

"This is the fifth film where I've had full frontal male nudity," he says. "No one's ever had such a fuss about it. And it's far less than I've ever had before, and it's totally motivated. The guy is washing himself in a loch in the Highlands, and just pops out – I don't know what the fuss is about.

"It says something about our times and I wish people would get over it."

The film actually marks a reunion for Pine and the Scottish director, who first worked together on 2016's Hell Or High Water.

"I'd had such a wonderful experience working with him last time," Pine says. "It was the fact that it was swords and horses and mud and that appealed to my eight-year-old self.

"And it was the fact that it was a big budget hero journey kind of David and Goliath story, but through the lens of David's eye, which made it incredibly interesting to me.

"I think what I liked about Robert the Bruce is that he was not William Wallace [the main character in Braveheart, played by Mel Gibson], he wasn't served on a platter in terms of his heroism.

"He was a man complicated by his own weaknesses and simultaneously strong and vulnerable, and Machiavellian and selfless, and all these great things that I felt made him tremendously human."

Indeed the film shows Robert rallying an impassioned group of men to fight back against the huge English army and provided a history lesson for Pine.

"I didn't know anything at first, but here was a story about a man who came from incredible wealth and privilege, and then decided to risk essentially all of it for a bigger ideal.

"And obviously there are certain parallels to what's happening in the world right now. But I think that story is always an interesting one to tell."

But playing a person who looms so large in the history of Scotland was not without its challenges for the American.

"Obviously I had reservations. I'd done accents before and been absolutely crucified for them. And if there was one time where it would really go down, it would be this one. But the great thing about having been crucified before about that is that it can't get any worse, so I figured I'd go for it."

:: Outlaw King is in cinemas and on Netflix from November 9.

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