Remembering Anton Yelchin 1989-2016
By Scott Kurland
Of all the actors I've encountered in my travels through the entertainment industry, I think the one I’m most fond of is the one who, unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting. All of my friends who worked on films raved about one actor in particular; Anton Yelchin. They tried to describe him and his generosity, but always had to start over because they kept reiterating that fact that he "was the coolest dude”. Sadly, On Sunday June 19th, Anton Viktorovich Yelchin passed away at the age of 27. Yelchin’s death was caused by a freak automobile accident which occurred on the grounds of his Studio City home. Yelchin was one of Hollywood’s most talented actors but, to me, he showed the world what young Hollywood was capable of becoming.
Anton Yelchin first caught my eye when, at the age of ten, he played Bobby Garfield in Scott Hicks’ “Hearts In Atlantis” . That performance announced Yelchin’s arrival into Hollywood. From there, he’d go on to have roles in “House of D”, “Fierce People”, but got his breakout role in Nick Cassavettes’ “Alpha Dog”. What Yelchin brought to every early role was the developing mentality of his generation. He depicted several teenagers in many different films, and they were always different. Bobby in “Hearts in Atlantis” was on the cusp of manhood, and Yelchin conveyed that lost adolescence that only Stephen King knew how to write. What separated Yelchin from every other young actor in Hollywood was his consistency. His talent grew at the same steady pace as he himself did.
In 2009, Yelchin started balancing his roles between indie films and Sci-Fi fan films. Yelchin will probably be best known for playing Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot. You could always tell Yelchin was getting a kick out of saying ‘Nuclear Wessels’ or ‘Wictor Wictor Two’. For me, Chekov was one of the best things about the newer films. We all know that Chekov was suppose to be a caricature of Russian engineers; an irony that Yelchin relished as he himself was Russian.
As the indie world knew him, Yelchin was a star. This is where a good chunk of my friends met and worked with him on a film called “Like Crazy”. Every time I’d ask them how the film was going, they’d go on for hours about Yelchin’s performance and how he wasn’t simply Chekov. When the film came out I was floored by Yelchin and his chemistry with Felicity Jones. From there, Yelchin would star in several indie sleepers like “5 to 7,” a film I raved about last year. There was also his role as Quentin, a soft spoken musician who forms a partnership with an aged rocker in William H. Macy’s “Rudderless”. No matter the role, Yelchin always found a way to convey some sort of realism to every character he played.
The film I loved Yelchin the most in was Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”. Yelchin played the role of Ian, who served as Tom Hiddleston’s character's Renfield. Ian would fetch guitars, cars, albums and other sundries for Hiddleston’s Adam. What I loved about Yelchin in this film was how much he wanted to be a vampire, without realizing he wanted to be a vampire. He tried mimicking the nonchalance and aloofness of Adam, not understanding it was due to his permanent state of suspended age. Yelchin brought so much to the role of Ian that clearly wasn’t on the page which is why it’s my favorite performance of Yelchin to this day.
The cause of Yelchin’s death was due to a defect in his Jeep’s parking lock. It’s a downright shame we lost such a talented young actor to something that could have been easily prevented. Yelchin was a chameleon on screen, and his gift will surely be missed by the world. Several tweets about his death from Anna Kendrick, Kat Dennings, Bad Robot, and Tom Hiddleston in particular pulled at my heartstrings. Anton Yelchin was taken too soon from this world, and his work will always be with us. However, we lost a great man who was kind, talented, and filled with nothing but admiration for his craft. Rest well Anton, you are truly missed by this world and this film critic.