Real life is no movie. While reality can include some cinematic flair on occasion and feature characters that inspire creations on screen or influential people who actors eventually portray, the land of make believe teases us that performers only die temporarily. They’ll come back in a different form in a different movie and thrill us again. Anton Yelchin, who died too young on Sunday due to a freak accident, didn’t waste a single second of his 27 years on Earth.
An underrated actor who will be remembered most for his role as Chekov in the new fleet of Star Trek films, Yelchin crafted a fine career for a young man. He starred in several good films and a few great ones. His innocent features built on a backbone of vulnerability that made all of his characters easy to relate to.
Yelchin burst onto the cinematic scene as the young protege to Anthony Hopkins mysterious thief in the enchanting film Hearts in Atlantis. He held his own with one of cinema’s giants at the age of 12. He would do a slew of small television roles including The Practice, Without a Trace, Curb Your Enthusiasm, NYPD Blue, Huff(David Morse played the older version of his character in Atlantis), and Criminal Minds.
I’ll remember Yelchin most for a lesser known indie film in 2007 called Charlie Bartlett. Call it a poor man’s Perks of Being A Wallflower. Yelchin was a rich charismatic kid who helped turned a school around by “listening”. His love interest in the film was the lovely Kat Dennings, and her father was played by Robert Downey Jr. Yelchin and Downey Jr. had several great scenes together and it was another example of the young actor(18 at the time) holding his own with an A-List actor. The film is a quiet gem, written by Gustin Nash and Jon Poll. Check it out sometime. Anton was great.
He would go on to make other gems like the horror remake Friday Night, Like Crazy, and a great film about music called Rudderless with Billy Crudup. When you were done watching the kid, Yelchin lingered in your mind afterwards. He didn’t have Oscar worthy talent at the time of his death, but if he had a few more years I could see him developing into that type of performer. That isn’t important right now. What is important is that Hollywood lost a fine young prince.
When Le’Roi Moore, the great saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, died in 2008, my dad and I got into an argument about how much you should care about a celebrity or musician dying. Since I didn’t know Moore, my dad’s argument was there was no need to take it so hard. The thing is, you don’t have to know these people to have them make an impact on your life. Their work can leave a dent without a handshake ever occurring. I felt that with Yelchin’s work.
Yelchin made an impact on me in his 60+ film and TV credits. He was notable without overplaying a character. He was the end of innocence on the screen that didn’t seem as scary as the real thing yet made you feel all the trauma going on inside his characters. He was memorable.
His death is so bizarre. He got out of his car for some reason and the vehicle rolled down the steep driveway of the actor’s home and pinned himself against the brick pillar mailbox. An accident so freak that I can’t imagine how hard it will be for his family to get over. Sometimes in life, you move so fast that you forget the simplest of things.
Anton left too soon. He had more movies to make. The third film in the new set of Trek films, Star Trek Beyond, now feels like a special summer event. His reinvention of Chekov was one of the reasons this non-trekkie become a fan of the films. He had that power.
I say it every time an actor or musician dies. They are survived by their work. Yelchin’s films sit on a pedestal for you to pick up now. He wasn’t a household name but he was an actor who accepted a challenge with every role. There’s dignity in that.
Rest in peace, kid. Your work will live on.