Chris's new role is light years from Leeds digs

The latest captain of the Starship Enterprise may hail from Los Angeles, but Chris Pine tells Jeff Dawson how a year in Leeds gave him a taste for Tetley's Bitter and late night pasties.

There's a far-flung corner of the cosmos that will be forever Yorkshire.

After Mirfield-born Patrick Stewart's skippering of the Starship Enterprise – a vessel he guided through seven series of Star Trek: The Next Generation – comes an unlikely Tyke tie to the great Captain Kirk.

Chris Pine, the 28-year-old Los Angeles native, who stars as the young spacefleet chief in the eagerly awaited new Star Trek film, spent a year at Leeds University during 2000-2001.

"It wasn't like I picked Leeds off the map," laughs the leading man, who's right out of the Matt Damon mould.

"I was studying English Literature at Berkeley, California. You guys take the gap year, we study abroad in our junior year.

"I decided to go to England and ended up at Leeds. I lived at 79 Brudenell Rd and had a wonderful time. I loved it. I loved it.

"I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed myself. Beyond having a pub on campus and the nightlife and all of that,

I mean, academically I had a good time. I met a bunch of great people."

There were bad habits to be picked up, too. "Rollies... rolling cigarettes," he recounts.

"And I lived on late-night pasties. I still really don't understand bangers and mash for the life of me.

But Tetley's bitter? Oh my God. I gained 10 pounds."

Weighing in at $150m, the new Star Trek film touches down amid

fevered anticipation.

Directed and produced by JJ Abrams, best-known as the creator of TV's Lost, it re-boots the 40-year-old TV/film

franchise. "My first ever experience with a big-budget movie," says Pine, best known, till now, for the film Smokin' Aces and the recent independent flick Bottle Shock, about the rise of the Californian wine industry. Here, as James Tiberius Kirk – the role made famous by William Shatner – he stars

in this prequel to the landmark '60s series.

While recent superhero films and the like have tended to wallow on the dark side, here it's mercifully light – "a great fun popcorn summer movie," as Pine puts it.

We follow cadets Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and

co through Starfleet Academy before they are assigned

to their fabled five-year mission aboard the Enterprise.

It was in the early Sixties that writer/producer

Gene Roddenberry proposed a bargain- basement space drama, doing away with the traditional galactic gimmicks of spacesuits and weightlessness – the crew only going boldly where the atmosphere was breathable.

Rather than battle little green men, Roddenberry based his stories on the pioneer spirit of the Old West – the final frontier – with worlds to be explored rather than conquered.

"When it was first shown,it was a time of civil unrest, there was a war in Vietnam and the Cold War was raging," says Pine.

"Here was this crew in outer space made up of an African-American, a Japanese-American, there's a Scotsman, a

Russian. There is no question of class, race or colour. I mean it's a utopian vision of humanity."

Unfortunately Star Trek proved a little too cerebral and, in 1969, after three years, the series was phased out. In the early '70s, however, the repeats proved extremely popular both

in the States and internationally, prompting parent studio Paramount to dust off the concept for 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The latest instalment combines a brand new, hi-tech adventure with those old familiar characters.

In futuristic Iowa, the juvenile Kirk "the only

genius level repeat offender in the Midwest", is reluctant to seek a career in the heavens.

"I certainly didn't impersonate Mr Shatner at all," says Pine. "But there was a conversation between JJ

and myself about how to drop little hints of what Kirk might become."

Despite huge security, it has been an open secret that the film features a cameo by the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy.

The hardcore fans lobbied for Shatner too, though it was deemed gratuitous to shoehorn him in, something said to have left the venerable thesp somewhat disgruntled. "I wrote William Shatner a letter and just explained who I was because I heard there was bad blood between him and the studio,"says Pine.

"I said, 'I'm just an actor that happened to get a role that happened to be James T Kirk and I'm not trying to usurp your status or anything.'

"He replied very promptly: 'Thank you very much for the letter, I wish you the best of luck, Bill.' I have it on my fridge at home."

If Pine still has regrets about not having had the chance to meet the great man, there's a bigger regret he still harbours. "I cannot believe I did not make it to a Leeds United game," he sighs.

"It's unfortunate."

Star Trek (12A) is out in cinemas on May 8.

The National Media Museum in Bradford will preview the film on the giant IMAX screen, at one minute past midnight on May 7.

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History of a cult classic

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry.

It was hardly an overnight success, the first series, which was first screened in America in 1966, had such low ratings many were calling for it to be axed.

By the end of the second series the first generation of Trekkies made their presence felt, writing more than a million letters to the broadcaster demanding the show be kept.

Written during a time of Cold War politics, and the Klingons and the Romulans are believed to symbolise the then Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.

A 1993 study found that children in the USA learn more about science from Star Trek than from any other source.