Though he only lived for 27 years, actor Anton Yelchin left a huge mark in cinema — both for fans of his work and with the people he loved and worked alongside.
Three years after his tragic death of blunt traumatic asphyxia, a new documentary “Love, Antosha,” which opens in Los Angeles on Friday, offers insight into the charismatic young man who began as a child actor in such films as 2001’s “Hearts in Atlantis,” and played the vital role of Chekov in the recent big-screen revival of the “Star Trek” franchise.
The documentary, produced by his “Like Crazy” director Drake Doremus, features healthy amount of clips from Yelchin’s features, home movies, his photography, his original music, as well as heartfelt interviews with his parents — former ice skaters Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchin, who left the Soviet Union when he was a baby — and numerous co-stars and filmmakers.
Several of those collaborators — including Doremus, J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”), Jodie Foster (“The Beaver”), Chris Pine (“Star Trek”), Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”), Joe Dante (“Burying the Ex”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek”) and Bryce Dallas Howard (“Terminator Salvation”) — spoke with The Times about their favorite Yelchin performance and why they were moved by his work.
“Like Crazy” (2011)
Simon Pegg: “I really loved ‘Like Crazy.’ I thought that was a great movie and a really sweet, bittersweet touching romance, which he played so well with Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. It was a genuinely sort of touching movie. It was a grown-up film. Even though it was about young love, it was a mature movie. It was a very mature performance. It was really well-measured, and he played a real person. It came to him very naturally.”
Jodie Foster: “It really felt like Anton to me. Obviously, he’s playing a character, but he was such an amazing improviser and [you see] how playful he was especially with whomever his co-star was. The film captured both sides of him. I mean it captured that playful little boy that you see in ‘Love, Antosha’ and then he also had this — like my sons do as well — darkness [in his performance] that comes with wanting to engage with life, feeling passion about life and wanting to do meaningful things, to talk about meaningful things, wanting to make things work.”
“Charlie Bartlett” (2007)
Bryce Dallas Howard: “With that movie, it lived and died on the genuineness of that central character. So a movie like that will suffer so greatly if they’re not able to cast an actor that embodies that supernatural sparkle. When I say supernatural, it’s not literally supernatural, but when the characters have this sort of sense of optimism and a sparkle to them.
“You have to find an actor who has that within them. That’s not something that you can manufacture at all. I am trying to think of performances like that — Emma Stone, for instance, was like that in ’Easy A.’ There are a handful of iconic performances and the actors who inhabit those characters and they become one and the same and inform one another.”
“Star Trek” (2009); “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013); “Star Trek Beyond” (2016)
Chris Pine: “I enjoyed him really in all of his work because he always seemed to have a genuine innocence to him. He maintained this really beautiful spirit. I guess I would say that my fondest memories of Anton on screen are in the making of our ‘Trek’ films.
“In the films, we hold our kind of personifications of different — I don’t know — human qualities. Kirk is the lead, but he has a rebellious streak. Then there’s Spock, who is rational, and Scotty, who is funny and then you have the bright light that is Anton [as Chekov].
“Because John [Cho] and Anton were always sitting on front of me on the ship, whenever Anton looked back [at me], it was always difficult for me to keep a straight face because there was a quality to him that made him lighter and brighter. That’s kind of my memory of Anton — just a lot of laughs.”
“Green Room” (2015)
Drake Doremus: “It’s just like an onion. It’s just like Anton. The arc, the transition and how he goes from the beginning of the movie to the end — this man taking control of this situation and his life — it is reminiscent of him and his life. I was watching that movie after working with him so many years [before] and felt he had just grown up so much and was becoming a man in so many ways in his life and in that role. He carries the whole thing.
“He is this soft-spoken, demure character at the beginning, and basically they are taken hostage in this green room by these white supremacists. Essentially, he’s got to save the day and be a hero and he transforms into this person. He becomes this classic hero character when the time calls. He is so complex in the film.”
Joe Dante: “I thought he was particularly terrific in ‘Green Room.’ I’d always been impressed with Anton from the days of ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ and ‘Charlie Bartlett,’ but when you’ve actually worked with someone you tend to see their subsequent performances [in a different way]. His maturity and amplified acting chops were on full display here. Such a loss.”
J.J. Abrams: “Anton was so many things. He was an artist, a photographer. He was interested in music and people and exploring and experimenting. He was just a curious soul. He put himself into his roles. He was a chameleon. He got lost his roles. I would see him just absorb the material and it absorbed him. When you asked me this question [about] favorite performance, I think of films that I saw of his whether they were intense like ‘Green Room’ or sort of sweeter like ‘Charlie Bartlett.’ He would take on with real discipline the roles, the characters, he portrayed.”
Zachary Quinto: “One of the greatest tragedies of losing Anton so young is all the incredible work which we’ll never get to see. He was just stepping into his prime as a creative force, which was reflected in his boundless creativity and voracious appetite for storytelling. His performance in ‘Thoroughbreds’ stands out to me as an example of his emergence as a mature and bold young actor with confidence and freedom second to none. Watching it was so deeply bittersweet. He continues to inspire even in his absence. I miss him madly.”