Meanwhile, Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces) nearly sabotaged his big break. His Kirk audition, he recalls, required him to bark ''Trek jargon'' as he led the Enterprise through a space skirmish. ''It was very hard to take myself seriously,'' says Pine, 28, with a laugh. ''I'm six-foot, I weigh about a buck sixty-five, went to private school, and grew up in the [San Fernando] Valley I wouldn't follow me into battle.'' But Abrams was impressed by Pine's charisma and invited him back, along with two other Kirk candidates, to test with Quinto. The duo's chemistry was undeniably bromantic, and Pine was offered the role. Still, Pine had a caveat for Abrams. ''I said to him, 'There's going to be a lot of people on your ass about all kinds of things. I just need to know, if I have a question, you will be there for me,' '' Pine recalls. Abrams remembers that conversation more like this: ''He asked, 'You're not going to put me in a leotard, are you?'''
Nope. Kirk spends much of Star Trek dressed in respectable black space-cadet colors in Abrams' Trekverse as he undertakes a perilous, destiny-seeking journey. The actor says he got over his Kirk-comparison insecurities, but that didn't mean mimicking Shatner's much-mocked halting cadences. For his part, Quinto shaved his eyebrows and grew and dyed his hair, and found that the makeover helped him connect with Spock's angst. ''I never anticipated how alienated I would feel because of the physical alteration,'' he says. ''That's appropriate, because Spock is really alienated from himself when we meet him. He's constantly questioning his place in the world.'' The ears? ''I'm endeared to the ears,'' he says, smiling.
NEXT PAGE: ''I didn't love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey,'' says Abrams, ''but I love them now.''