ATLANTA -- During a recent stop in Atlanta, writer and director Alex Kurtzman and actor Chris Pine sat down to talk about their new movie "People Like Us," which is inspired from a true story -- Kurtzman's life.
Although the flick isn't a play-by-play of the director's life, he did grow up knowing that his father had two, much older children from his first marriage. He was an adult before he met them.
With that in mind, Kurtzman ("Cowboys & Aliens" and "Star Trek") and Pine ("This Means War" and "Star Trek") came together for a dramatic comedy surrounding a dysfunctional family that is reunited after the death of the patriarch, a rock 'n' roll producer who emotionally neglected his son Sam (played by Pine) and disowned his daughter Frankie (Elizabeth Banks).
But neither Sam nor Frankie know the other exists.
"On one hand, as an audience member, you're rooting for them to be together because they need each other so much, because they've been alone their whole lives and because really, they are the only two who understand each other at their core," Kurtzman said of the two characters. "They were both dismissed by the same father. On the other hand, I was equally interested in the tension (in the audience)."
With this drama, there are many levels of tension, including with the characters, just as Kurtzman wanted it.
"Some of (the writing) was separating truth and fiction in terms of my own life, but it was also a complicated story filled with complicated people who make tough choices and I think it felt so instinctively that in order to make it work, you needed to feel that you were discovering another layer about every character in every scene and that's not always the case when you're writing a big action movie -- you try for it, but you don't always have room for that," he said. "Since we couldn't cut to a spaceship or explosion or a robot, every scene had to fire and be there for a really specific reason."
To keep Sam on point, Pine worked to figure out his character's strengths and flaws in the family, since he is portrayed as the black sheep that ran away.
"I think what was important for this movie in going into it ... that we knew what the family dynamic was like," he said about rehearsals. "We (Sam and Lillian, played by Michelle Pfeiffer) both came from a shared knowledge of what that household was like."
No matter how many twists and turns the movie takes, Kurtzman thinks people will walk away with a message about family.
"I think what audiences are taking away from it, from the conversations I've had with people, is that it is really a story about family, finding your family and about how complicated families can be and the tough choices that families make that aren't always the right ones, but they're ultimately coming from a place of ... protect(ion)," he said.
Since the story stemmed from Kurtzman's life, he made sure to honor his kin instead of shining a bad light on their lives and decisions.
"I wanted to be utterly respectful, but I have a supportive family," he said. "Everyone felt proud of the fact that I was going down the road and indefinitely, I felt a huge responsibility to make sure I was honoring them in the right way and doing right by them."
"People Like Us" opens today.