In Memoriam: Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)

It feels like an impossible task to sit down and write coherent words about Anton Yelchin’s sudden and tragic death in a freak, single-vehicle accident in Los Angeles. On hearing the news, my immediate thoughts were stuck in a numb refusal to accept the idea. “This has to be a hoax.” “He’s too young.” “He has too many movies coming out.” “But his career is just getting going.” As the news was confirmed, I started to look through his IMDb credits and realized that, with 65 roles under his belt by the age of 27, Yelchin was much further along that I realized.

Yelchin's first credited roles are for an episode of ER, an independent film, and a TV movie, all released in 2000 when he was 11 years old. His first large movie role came shortly after, in Hearts in Atlantis, starring alongside Anthony Hopkins (a performance for which he would earn Best Performance for a Lead Performer from the Young Artist Awards). Over the next 15 years, he worked steadily in a wide variety of independent films and TV shows.

He played half alien / half human Jacob Clarke in the Stephen Spielberg mini-series, Taken, on the Sci-Fi Channel, the title character in Delivering Milo, and kidnapping victim Zack Mazursky in Alpha Dog. He played the romantic lead in 2011 Sundance Grand Jury winner, Like Crazy.  By 2009, he had moved onto blockbuster fare, including McG’s Terminator: Salvation, in which he played a young Kyle Reese, and, in the same year, a little movie reboot called Star Trek.  Earlier this year, he starred in the highly critically acclaimed Green Room, a horror film about a punk rock band that falls into the clutches of a murderous group of Neo-Nazis led by a terrifying Patrick Stewart. (Playing a punk rock musician wasn’t entirely a stretch for Yelchin, who was an actual member of a punk band for a short period.)

Yelchin is probably most recognizable to audiences for his portrayal of Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abram’s reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise, in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect match between actor and role.  Anton perfectly captures Chekov’s youth, energy, and brilliance as a 17-year-old member of the Enterprise crew, playing up Chekov’s Russian accent to delightfully humorous effect.

Yelchin thrived in roles that played up his gentle demeanor and soulful vulnerability. But underlying his youthful physique was a carefully honed skill that alluded to a much older, wiser soul.  Every role he portrayed, whether independent or blockbuster, horror or romantic, was brought to the screen with the same emotional veracity and honesty.

It was a skill that Yelchin spoke about with modesty. In an interview with TulsaWorld.com about his work in Green Room, he explained, "I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some talented people. You know, those people who say, ‘You’re great,’ I find that suspicious. Sometimes, I’m happy with performances, but I never think, ‘That was extraordinary.’ But I’m happy with it. It’s all about growth, and that’s how I look at my work, that you learn about yourself. I’m so young, and I’m okay with the idea that I will keep learning. We have that in life; we can keep learning."

In addition to Star Trek Beyond, we will see Yelchin in a number of posthumous releases, including Rememory, a science fiction story from Director Mark Palansky, and co-starring Peter Dinklage and Julia Ormond.

Along with so many others, we here at Fanbase Press wish to express our sincerest condolences to Yelchin’s family and friends. We wish there were sufficient words to express our appreciation for his life and career.  He will be sorely missed.

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