EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Anton Yelchin | TrekMovie.com
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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Anton Yelchin May 8, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Interview,Star Trek (2009 film) , trackback

Even though he just turned twenty, Anton Yelchin has already built over two dozen acting credits in less than a decade, including two big movies this month, Terminator Salvation and a certain Star Trek movie. In our exclusive interview we talk about how this Russian-born actor shaped the role (and accent) for the new Chekov and much more. We also have a new image of Yelchin as Chekov.
[interview contains SPOILERS]

 

TrekMovie interview with Anton Yelchin
 

TrekMovie.com: I hate to do this but I am going to start off with the accent.

Yelchin: Well the accent is what makes it.

TrekMovie: In my review it is one of the areas I had some difficulty with. I am one of those who would be OK with things being different. How much of a discussion with JJ was there on the level of genuine ‘Russian-ness’ to put into it?

Yelchin: I wanted it to be close to the Chekov accent, I guess that is where our opinions differ. I have no problem doing a real Russian accent, but that wouldn’t be Chekov to me. The interesting thing about it is that his accent is a cold-war stereotype of a Russian person. And when I watched the series and the films, that is what I found interesting about it. And I adjusted it, it is not entirely the same, but Walter [Koenig] came on set and was like "that sounds like me." And that is what was fun for me. As a person familiar with a Russian accent, and someone with Russian roots who can speak Russian and knows what Russian people sound like, it was fun to purposefully mess around with the Russian accent — to purposefully change what I thought a Russian accent was to suit that stereotype they had in the sixties.

TrekMovie: What does your family think of your version of Chekov’s Russian accent?

Yelchin: They think it’s great. We’re Russian, but not very Russian at the same time. There is no nationalism, there is no pride. It is a very difficult country to come from. I think they find it just as amusing as I did.

TrekMovie: I noticed that for the world tour you only did one stop, Moscow.

Yelchin: [laughs] Yeah, that was a no-brainer.

TrekMovie: What was the reaction from the Russian press to your portrayal?

Yelchin: They love it. There are certain things in the movie that are very Russian that is difficult for an American audience to pick up on. Like when [Kirk and Sulu] freefall and I capture them and I say something in Russian….[says Russian phrase]…it means "Oh man!" basically, which is something I ad-libbed. Which goes back to what I was saying. Chekov never speaks Russian in the series, and that was Russian slang. And that that is something I decided to add just for the hell of it, because JJ [Abrams] said ‘throw in some Russian, let’s do it for fun.’ It was just a moment that needed some kind of reaction, and they loved it out there. It is one of those things that Russian people get. I think Russian people are very happy with Chekov because he is one of the few Russian characters in American pop culture history that is not the Red Dawn kind of Russians.


Yelchin as Chekov at his station on the bridge – a positive view of a Russian (with a 60s stereotype accent)

TrekMovie: Right, there is nothing villainous about him. In fact there is something new about this Chekov that I liked, which is that he is this kind of genius. He is seventeen, but already out of the Academy, so he must of gone in when he was pretty young. And Chekov figures out how to save them from the freefall and how to get onto the Narada. So this Chekov knows his physics and science, did you do any research to help you understand that angle?

Yelchin: No, most of my research involved reading the Star Trek Encyclopedia and watching the series and doing Trek research.

TrekMovie: You did a lot of that, Chris [Pine] said that after watching the first half of the first season he stopped.

Yelchin: I kept going. I loved it. I even watched the episodes that Chekov wasn’t in. The ones that he was in I found interesting, like when they go to a bar in "The Troubles With Tribbles" and they have a drink, I liked that. And that one with Apollo and the hand ["Who Mourns for Adonais"], I thought that was hilarious. I really got into the show.

TrekMovie: Which one was your favorite?

Yelchin: Probably the one with Apollo. I think is such an intelligent episode. It is an episode where the basic point is that humanity — looking at it in terms of the 60s when men are their own gods and look at where they brought their universe to. It was such a fascinating, touching, weird thing to have an episode where men come to a planet where a god wants to be a god again. I also love the episode where Spock is PMSing and where Kirk has to fight Spock ["Amok Time"].


"Who Mourns for Adonais" – Yelchin’s favorite TOS episode

TrekMovie: Now in this film you never get off the ship…

Yelchin: I barely get off the bridge!

TrekMovie: So what would you like to see for Chekov’s arc going forward.

Yelchin: I don’t know, I haven’t given it much thought and I agree with Chris [Pine] that it is kind of presumptuous to sit around and think about sequels before this comes out. It would be great to play this character again and I just got started with it. I got to do what I got to do, but it would be fun to see where I could take it.

TrekMovie: You are in two big May movies. How would you describe the differences between working on Terminator Salvation and Star Trek, and the differences between McG and JJ.

Yelchin: Well first of all the visions between the two movies is so different. The universe of Star Trek is a very positive, optimistic universe. And in Terminator it is just the most f–ked up universe, to put it bluntly. So it was two totally different characters and two totally different looks. The closest this Trek movie comes to Terminator is Nero’s ship, but even that is not as disgusting as the filth-ridden universe of Terminator. The sets, costumes, and the philosophy behind it is totally different. The philosophy of Terminator is: what makes us human in the face of us losing all humanity and being destroyed — how can we preserve our humanity? With the characters, Chekov is like the Star Trek universe, joyous, fun. Kyle Reese is anxiety-ridden, paranoid, angry, unhappy, the list goes on — vulnerable, not to say Chekov isn’t vulnerable, but just in a different way. And that is just the difference between the films.

The sets were different, but I had a great time working on both. There is a great cast and crew here with Trek. JJ is a wonderful filmmaker to work with. I really think he makes these kinds of films so well. I am so happy with this movie. And it is a cast of similar kind of young men and women. It’s funny though, on Terminator for the first time, I wasn’t the youngest member of the cast. There was girl that was seven, and I was like "yes, finally!" McG and JJ are very different people. JJ is very funny and very intelligent and witty, but not does not nearly put as much of himself out there as a human being. When he walks into a room, you may not know it. But when McG walks into a room, you hear McG right away. That was really different, but they are both really collaborative. If you offer an idea to JJ, that idea will get on film, and the same with McG. They are both really enthusiastic of what they are doing. They both love the franchises they are working with and want to honor them and do the best possible job with them.


Yelchin as Kyle Reese in the very different future of "Terminator Salvation"

TrekMovie: You mentioned bringing ideas. Can you talk about some examples of things that you brought that ended up on film.

Yelchin: Well that one Russian line and idea. And [in the scene running towards the transporter room] the freedom to run how I wanted to or to yell what I want to yell as I am pushing people out of the way. A lot of their jump sequence was ad-libbed. JJ was like ‘just throw stuff out’. He just fully embraces your understanding of the character and works with you to achieve his vision, but factors in your vision as well.

TrekMovie: You spent a lot of time at your console on the bridge and the console in the transporter room. Did any one of the set designers ever tell you ‘this button does this, and that button does that’? So when Pike issues an order, you know what button to push?

Yelchin: Me and John Cho kind of sat down the first day and talked to JJ said that because this is going to become the way for us to do things, we need to figure out what is what. We really kind of stuck to doing the same things over and over again. We also got these neat little space pens, like when I come up with the solution. No one sat us down so it was up to us and John and I really coordinated what we were doing to make sure it looks legitimate.


NEW IMAGE: Yelchin’s Chekov works out the solution with his cool space pen

 

Up Next – Romulans (Bana and Collins)
This week’s series of Star Trek interviews will conclude a couple of Romulans, Eric Bana and Clifton Collins, Jr. Look for that by Saturday.

Other final pre-movie exclusive interviews at TrekMovie:

 Also check out:

 

Comments

1. Hungry Tribble - May 8, 2009

Keptin Kurk!
Class!

2. Harry Doddema - May 8, 2009

It’s a geek thing, and not that important in the overall scope of the movie.. but I was so glad they actually used those glass walls for once, and that they weren’t just meaningless set pieces.

Those walls seem to be like general purpose blackboards to scribble ideas on and get all sorts of information from. I might sort of believe in them as useful interfaces now.

3. Christopher Matthews - May 8, 2009

We’re approaching wulcan, complete genius, one of the highlights of the film. Chekov and McCoy now battling for my favouritism, even though I was alway a Picard or Data person.

4. That One Guy - May 8, 2009

“Nuclear wessel” must be included in the next movie.

5. Selor - May 8, 2009

The accent way maybe a little bit overdone but overall I really liked his Chekov!

6. John James - May 8, 2009

I LOVED Chekov in this movie!!! What a nice surprise!! The single biggest laugh during the entire movie (at least in my theatre) was for those two words in russian that mean oh man! I dont know what he said, but it sounded hilarious and had the theatre cracking up!!

Although I loved all the characters, I wish they all followed Anton and Karl’s lead and watched TOS for pointers. These guys seemed to actually want to BE those characters, while the others wanted to take the characters off on their own. Both methods are fine, but I think Chekov and McCoy are by far the closest to the originals in this movie.

7. Colonel West - May 8, 2009

wictor, wictor…

absolutely brilliant stuff from Anton, funny but doesn’t fall into parody or take the mick. I thought he might end up as Wesley mark II (sorry Wil!) but he doesn’t. Now that we’ve got the band back together hopefully in the next film we’ll get more into the characters. As the saying goes:

Every character get’s their page…

8. Pragmaticus - May 8, 2009

Chekov was great – wide-eyed and full of wonder and enthusiasm.

9. RoobyDoo - May 8, 2009

I enjoyed Chekov as well. Sulu and Uhura were fine, but lacked Chekov’s spark.

10. george matthias - May 8, 2009

I really liked this Chekov, very much in the spirit of the old, Anton made him fun, intelligent and that ad-libing was brilliant. It’s interesting how first of all people began by laughing at his accent and then by the end of the film it was accepted as his intelligence and spirit shone through, you can really see how Star Trek is so important, more today in our multicultural lifestyles than ever before.

11. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - May 8, 2009

he did a great job. He sounded a lot like Walter from the Tos. he has a bright future ahead of him in acting.

12. AJ - May 8, 2009

I mentioned it in a previous thread, but Anton’s little contribution, which he translates as “Oh, Man.” actually translates more as “Holy F*ck” (Yo Mayo!). Either a joke on JJ, or on us, but I can discuss the etymology ad nauseam.

I thought Anton’s contribution to the film was terrific. He was underused, but far from extraneous.

Also, Walter Koenig speaks native Russian. He had a line in STIII: TSFS: “Ya ne sumashedshii! Nu vot!” (I’m not crazy..take a look!) when he discovered someone had entered Spock’s quarters, and showed Scott on his screen.

Trek lives. Big time.

13. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - May 8, 2009

As great as this Movie was and is ju8st think how much better the next one will be. With everyone in there place and with all of the elements together the next movie will be one even more wild ride. I hoe they do something with the doomsday machine. But thats just wishfull thinking.

14. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - May 8, 2009

Okj. Bad Typing Sorry!. To the Agoniser booth for me!!!!.

15. Snowy Brighton - May 8, 2009

Have to agree with everyone, Anton Yelchin did a fabulous job in the film, he made Chekov stand out in a way the character hasn’t done for me before, and would love to see Chekov solve a few more problems if a sequel does happen.

16. Leonel - May 8, 2009

You know I should’ve taken off of work after all.. a bit of a challenge with Trek on the brain! At least I had some Trekkie friends I could chat with. Even if they hadn’t seen the movie yet..

One of the things I just couldn’t get out of my head was this new Chekov. At first, I admit having mixed feelings.. I have a vague memory of slapping my face a couple times.. but when my boyfriend suddenly burst out laughing while uttering “nuclear wessels” (I forget the scene) I was beginning to enjoy him.

Guess I did love Yelchin in this role after all. Slightly over the top, yet very, very fun. Awesome job!

17. Capt Krunch - May 8, 2009

Spot on !! Keptain!

18. Bennie - May 8, 2009

I just seen the movie in the Netherlands, and I must admit that I love it. It rocks. Thanks tot JJ and the team.
All the actors are great and it all comes together very well.
Can’t wait to see it again. Cheers!

19. Saavik001 - May 8, 2009

I think Anton did a great job with Chekov. Really made him real and it felt good to hear all those W’s again :) I knew he’d be good when I watched House of D and Charlie Bartlett. He’s a good kid and I can’t wait for Terminator in a few weeks. Seeing Trek again on Sunday!

20. Kirk's girdle - May 8, 2009

His accent was great even if it did sound like Borat.

21. DavidJ - May 8, 2009

I cringed the first time I heard the accent too, but I have to say by the end of the movie it didn’t really bother me.

Yelchin is just so damn endearing that somehow the cute accent kind of fits him.

22. Star Trek » Comics Worth Reading - May 8, 2009

[...] Anton Yelchin as Chekov. I already liked him from Charlie Bartlett, but he does a great job as the math prodigy (and putting echoes of the much-despised Wesley into the character was clever!). The actor is also Russian by birth, a nice touch in casting, which makes the accent more palatable. [...]

23. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - May 8, 2009

Just seen the Movie for the 2nd time. Wow. What a Movie. my record for any Trek Movie is at 9 and thats for Trek 2. Could be that record will be broken.

24. Chris Miles - May 8, 2009

Good on you, Anton.

I wanted to prejudge/dislike and just be a Hater.

Nope.

Although I think a new (next) adventure would be crafted better- and I felt that there were moments when a bit of exposition(small) would have gone a long way.

Comic book prequel does make the movie make more sense- whether one is an old or a new fan.

Nero’s [on screen] motivation to do what he did, IMHO was simply not strong enough.

I grudgingly liked it at first- then liked it a second time.

Good Job on Chekov (writing and acting) Good to see him competent again- Treks V and VI had taken that away from our beloved Comrade.

25. C.S. Lewis - May 8, 2009

“Yelchin: Me and John Cho kind of sat down … ”

Oh my. I see the Ruskies have slipped in their English language training since the end of the Cold War.

Sincerely,
C.S. Lewis

26. Todd - May 8, 2009

I was pleasantly surprised by the portrayal of Chekov in this film. Loved the voice verification sequence!

27. Raphael Salgado - May 8, 2009

I thought his performance and acting were both refreshing and extremely entertaining. Simon Pegg definitely shares the comic relief with Anton, as the audience and myself found all of Chekov’s scenes were hilarious yet showing his youth and genius.

Well done!

28. John Gill - May 8, 2009

Just saw the movie. I, too, was uncomfortable with Chekov’s accent at first, but by the end of the movie it fits perfectly. This must have been what it felt like back in the sixties to hear Walter do it for the first time…
BTW, the movie is EXCELLENT, especially the last scene when Pine says “Bones” for the last time in the movie, GAWD that delivery was BRILLIANT, pure Shatner-esque.

29. Sci-Fi Bri - May 8, 2009

26:

that scene was flippin funny. whole theatre got a laugh out of it.

30. Jeff - May 8, 2009

When is Paramont going to to greenlight a sequel ?

31. Bill Peters - May 8, 2009

I love Chekov I hope he gets more line in a Squeal! here is to hoping we see more of the Enterprise Crew sooner rather then later!

32. Scott Gammans - May 8, 2009

@30: Jeff, there was an article in Variety a few weeks ago stating that Paramount already has greenlit the twelfth movie for a summer 2011 release.

33. Scott Gammans - May 8, 2009

Oh and p.s., Anton’s Chekov was one of my favorite parts of the movie.

34. S. John Ross - May 8, 2009

One thing that came to mind during the voice-verification gag (which I thought was cute, btw), was the stuff that was being discussed back when the movie was being made in the midst of the writer’s strike … the notion that the writers and the director weren’t allowed to mess much with the script, but that the actors could ad-lib because that didn’t step on anyone’s contractual toes (pardon me if I’m misremembering the details).

And then remembering that Abrams had apparently given the crew license to choose their own level of homage to the old performances … and that it was said that Yelchin made a conscious choice to do the V/W swap.

… And then concluding that if it’s true that Yelchin made his own choice, and that it wasn’t scripted assuming that he’d make one choice or another, that the verification gag must either have been an ad-lib on set or something that they added/finished later in the process (post writer’s strike).

(Or maybe that it was scripted that way, but had Yelchin decided to go another way with an accent they just would have dropped the gag).

There’s a question lurking in this mess of a post and I’ve lost track of it, but if anyone knows the answer that’d be cool :)

Also: Enjoyed all the performances, including Yelchin’s (even if it felt like virtually everyone had only three minutes on screen each!). Will probably catch him in Terminator next week.

35. Kon (D-SF) - May 8, 2009

Yelchin = Sexy, can’t wait to see this guy grow up ;)

36. Buzz Cagney - May 8, 2009

I posted as much yesterday but its worth repeating- Anton is terrific in the role of Chekov, really properly good. He’s clearly a very talented young actor.

37. Anthony Thompson - May 9, 2009

After seeing the movie, Yelcin’s performance was probably the only disagreement I had with Anthony P.’s review. I liked him (and got a sense that the audience liked him as well).

38. pock speared - May 9, 2009

i marveled at his performance, and found the “accent” (although the way an actor uses his voice can be much more than an accent, as was the case here) to solidify the film in a good way. this was new, this was strong, and this was a clearly defined character as opposed to a haircut and some lenigrad jokes, as the original chekov tended to be.

also, chekov’s part seemed very well written, as if they were having fun with the possibilities, creating the “best crew in the fleet.”

39. Nate - May 9, 2009

Yelcin was one of the highlights of the film and it is evident that he took the time to actually watch the original series. His performance was both fun, comical, and enduring.

A great touch was the ship wide briefing he presented through those translucent displays -a nice update to Kirk simply speaking into the intercom!

Yelcin appears to be way more intelligent that the average thespian.

40. FreddyE - May 9, 2009

He´s great. Although he´s not quite right that Checkov never spoke Russian before….he did in one of the movies…..sounded like “mi kalerma” or something like that

41. BesterGirl - May 9, 2009

On Yelchin’s accent. I heard him say “ze” instead of “the” like I’ve heard a lot of Russians do. And the inversion of V’s and W’s like Koenig. (And, by the way, I have heard other Russians invert V’s and W’s. Just check out the Washington Capitals hockey team web site for some interviews and you’ll see what I mean.)

42. Andy Patterson - May 9, 2009

Yelchin….
If you’re reading this (don’t listen to those Hollywood people that tell you never to read press on you – you’ll like this one)

You were the best thing in the movie! Your characterization of Chekov was great. There was depth in the brief lines you had. Just as I always thought Keonig was underrated, I thought buzz on you has been WAY underrated. Have to admit I didn’t see or feel this deep characterization I’ve heard the movie has from the rest of the crew. Don’t get me started on that. However, I really felt if from you. And in the very brief moments you had on screen. I enjoyed you. Good job.

43. Andy Patterson - May 10, 2009

Let’s have a Chekov moive next time around.

44. 790 - May 11, 2009

Didn’t do it for me.
He was miscast for the role.

45. Marulya - May 18, 2009

“Yo mayo!” Does mean something closer to ‘holy shit!’ or the like, but still quite appropriate.

Genius, I love Anton. He was hands down my favorite.

46. Cassidy - June 12, 2009

Anton was wonderful. I enjoyed the movie as a whole, but his portrayal of Chekov had me smiling the entire time. Being so adorable helps, but hey.. it was a good performance. The accent fit perfectly. I know it’s been out for over a month now, but I feel like seeing it again. I can’t wait until the DVD release before Christmas!

47. Emily - December 30, 2009

I absolutely loved Anton Yelchin’s Chekov! My brother and I are die-hard trekkies, and I’ve seen the movie a couple of times now. I wasn’t expecting much from the movie, as far as it being accurate and true to the series, but I was pleasantly surprised. I love how Yelnich watched the whole series (glad you enjoyed it!)

I’m only fifteen, and I have a huge crush on Chekov!!!

48. Emily - December 30, 2009

sorry! i spelled it yelnich the second time. please forgive me!

49. KMILA - August 15, 2010

I LOVE ANTON YELCHIN HE IS GREAT

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I like the picture 3

52. Rick - May 26, 2012

17 year olds in active duty starfleet? Geez another friggin doogie howser.

“Oh great, he’s 17!”

53. Trekgirrl - June 16, 2012

Nuclear wessles is form the trek movie the voyage home basically Spock and cap’n Kirk save the humpback whales so many funny lines

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