Anton Viktorovich Yelchin was an American film actor best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek film franchise. He died yesterday morning in a freak car accident in Studio City, California. He was 27 years old.
Anton was born on March 11th, 1989 in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. (now Saint Petersberg, Russia) His parents are gifted and very well-known figure skaters that qualified for the 1972 Olympics, but were not allowed to participate “…because they were Jewish or because the KGB didn’t want them to travel…” The Yelchins moved to the United States when Anton was six months old after receiving asylum from the United States government.
Anton began acting at the age of nine with a role in the independent film A Man Is Mostly Water. He won a Young Artists Award in 2001 for a film called Hearts in Atlantis. In 2007, he had the starring role in the crime drama Alpha Dog. His character was partially based off of real kidnap and murder victim Nicholas Markowitz. USA Today called Yelchin’s performance “heartbreakingly endearing” and Markowitz’s mother praised Yelchin’s portrayal.
Following Alpha Dog, Yelchin landed his most well-known role as the 17-year-old Russian whiz kid and navigator Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek films. Acting as the comic relief in the 2009 film and the sequel Into Darkness, Yelchin successfully pulls off being actually smart, helpful, and funny, instead of useless and insufferably annoying like some Hollywood blockbuster sidekicks.
I dare say that Yelchin is one of the better actors in these films. I do not hate them, but they are extremely flawed. Yelchin and the character of Chekov are unequivocally enjoyable, though.
Yelchin later starred in films such as Charlie Bartlett in 2007 and Fright Night in 2011. His performance in Fright Night, as well as the movie itself, received very positive reviews.Yelchin’s performance in Charlie Bartlett is noted as the best part of an otherwise mediocre movie.He also starred in the vampire romance film Only Lovers Left Alive. He played the lead role in the 2013 supernatural thriller film Odd Thomas. Based upon the series of novels by Dean Koontz, the film received mixed to negative reception, but is building a cult following after the film recently popped up on Netflix.
Anton recently came to attention for the critically acclaimed independent horror film Green Room. In the film, Yelchin has the starring role as the 20-something frontman of a punk rocker band. The band is unknowingly booked to play a gig for a group of neo-Nazis led by Patrick Stewart. The gig goes well, but after discovering the body of a dead woman in the green room, the group is threatened, held against their will, killed off in spectacularly gory fashion, etc. Released on May 13th, it would not surprise me if this film receives accolades come next awards season.
Yelchin also had musical ambitions and was once the frontman of an actual punk band called the Hammerheads. The group has since disbanded. He is quoted as saying playing the guitar “gives him a lot of fulfillment.” He was a fan of acoustic blues movement. Yelchin is known as, and seemed to be, a very personable, down to Earth, nice guy with talents and aspirations.
Yelchin was not a household name, maybe he was never meant to be one. I enjoy every performance I have seen him in, and he seemed to be a young man brimming with personality and, by all accounts, overwhelming kindness. Maybe Green Room would’ve put the kid on the radar. 2016 seems to like killing people, for some reason. I dunno why it gunned for this guy. RIP March 11th, 1989-May 19th, 2016.