Kevin Hart talks popularity, Chris Pine dishes on Wonder Woman and Holliday Granger debates risque elements with Cindy Pearlman.

There’s nothing like a little New Year box office to cement someone’s star power. Kevin Hart might not be the tallest guy in Hollywood, but he’s riding high thanks to the popularity of “Ride Along 2.” Hit films? Sold out concerts? It’s part of what Kevin Hart calls building his brand.



So is stopping, talking and acting like he’s not a big star.

“I’m always approachable,” said the Philly native who stops repeatedly at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills to pose for selfies with fans. He signs arms and hugs the kids. Why bother when most stars just race for the limo? “As I get more popular or go international, I don’t see myself putting up a fence to keep people away,” he said. “These are the people who put you there. Why not make everybody a part of it?”

The down-to-earth stand-up and actor said that he’s avoiding the pitfalls of fame. “Believe it or not, I don’t feed into the fame aspect of it,” he said. “I’m not in it for the popularity. I’m in it to accomplish new goals as an actor and its the people who go watch the work. They make sure that I get to do it again.

“And when it comes to people approaching me, I welcome it because that’s where I live. I’m one of the people,” Hart said. “So, I speak back. I stop and talk I still hang out because that’s what keeps it real. That’s where the ideas form. In this life, it’s all give and take.”

Hart grew up glued to anything comedy, so it was no surprise that he started doing his own act in elementary school. This went beyond just a love of laughter.   “I grew up loving Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy,” said Hart who was raised in Philadelphia along with his older brother Robert by a single mother. His father was in an out of jail during his childhood.

“I coped by telling jokes,” Hart said.

He also immersed himself in the acts of famous comedians.

“Murphy and Pryor. Those two were pioneers in stand-up comedy. I’d look at them and go, ‘Wow! I want that!’” he said.

“Later, I grew to love Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Martin Lawrence. But there were so many other influences. I loved Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey and Cedric. They’re great comedians who made me believe I could get up there and do it,” he said.

“The list goes on and on. You can’t beat Wanda Sykes if you want to laugh,” he said.  “I wanted to stand on a stage and make people laugh that hard.”

Now, he’s doing it on stage and in the movies including the upcoming “Central Intelligence” where he costars opposite Dwayne Johnson. He will also do one of the voices in the upcoming “Captain Underpants.”

Chris Pine from that time when he was the front man for Armani Code.

Chris Pine from that time when he was the front man for Armani Code.

WE HAVE TO WONDER: The movie is called Wonder Woman.

The star is upcoming actress Gal Gadot.

It begs the question: What is it like to be the man behind the lady? In other words: Is Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor,  her arm candy?

I caught up with Chris a week ago at the London Hotel in West Hollywood and he divulged that his role in the much awaited upcoming “Wonder Woman” is a bit groundbreaking.  “I’m roughish, cynical and someone who has seen the brutish nature of modern civilization,” he said. “I’m a worldly, charming guy dealing with life during World War 1. And, yes, I support her.”

As for life on the set, he said, “I have scenes with 500 extras in period dress and Wonder Woman. I couldn’t be happier.”

He was also happy to talk about his new film “The Finest Hours” where Pine plays Coast Guard hero Bernie Webber. It’s a timely film. During an epic blizzard in 1952, Bernie and his brave crew took their boat out to rescue man stuck on an oil tanker that was doomed.

“There was a simple elegance to this story driven by the idea of ordinary men doing extraordinary things,” he said.  “I was given an interview tape with Bernie and here was a man so bored talking about himself. He was a by the books regular Joe who believed in God and family and loved the ocean.”

The ocean for the film was a ten foot tank where over 100 harrowing storm shots were done in freezing cold water. “I was twisted, turned and dunked,” Pine said. “It was fun except the water was really chilly.”

He’s trading air for water in the upcoming “Star Trek: Beyond” where he reprises his role as Captain Kirk. “I’m a lucky guy. You can’t beat walking on the Enterprise and saying, ‘Warp speed.’”

HOLLIDAY GREETINGS: Actress Holliday Granger stars in a 2016 revamp of the classic “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” airing in March. How risqué is the newest production — beyond dresses that might be a cup size too small? “Well, it was done by the BBC and filmed for TV,” she said. “I guess it’s slightly less risqué than it could have been. I’m sure it could be shown in America on PBS.” Then the lovely Granger added, “There is nothing outrageous in it.” Pause. “Wait….I take that back.”

While she was deciding, Granger mentioned her role opposite Pine in “The Finest Hours” where she plays his love interest, a tough, capable, no-nonsense woman in the late 1940s almost willing her man back home from sea. To lose herself in the period, she first went to her own family photo albums. “There’s a picture of my own Nanna from the 1950s. I emulated her look for the movie because my character Miriam was educated. She went to college. She wasn’t just about the A line skirts, but loved high-waisted jeans that flared out with socks and these little shoes. There is a picture of my Nanna in the 1950s wearing the same outfit.”

Finally, what’s in a name? “My name was literally a last minute decision,” she said with a laugh. “My parents were on their way to the registry office in England. My name was supposed to be Billie or Molly. Something along those line. Then they decided Holly sounded like Molly. They loved Billie Holiday. Someone said, ‘How about we just name her Holliday?’ The upshot: “To this day, I love listening to Billy Holliday.”