Last year, when he was Anton Yelchin was promoting the movie Green Room at the Cannes film festival, he gave an interview to writer John Bleasdale that seems especially poignant now. It gives great insight into Yelchin’s background, his goals, and his appreciation for the franchise that was so fun for him to be a part of.
“There are certain things about the Russian culture and the Russian ethos that I can relate to. It’s an overabundance of emotion.”
Bleasdale only spent 20 minutes with him, but he describes them as “optimistic” and very much enjoyed the company of Yelchin, a “charming and confident young man.”
When they met, Yelchin’s voice was a little raw from a late night party, where he’d been celebrating Green Room. He told Bleasdale that working with Patrick Stewart was very inspiring, not in terms of Star Trek specifically, but in terms of how Stewart carries himself, and what his values are. Plus, both actors are fans of Russian novels. Yelchin came by that one naturally, of course; he was born in Leningrad, then was raised in the U.S. He was proud of his heritage, and loved a good Dostoevsky novel, films by Tarkovsky, and cited Rachmaninov as one of his favorite composers.
His parents were figure skaters, and wanted him to go into sports as well, but he knew by age 9 that acting was what he wanted to do. When his parents saw what a terrible athlete he was, they got the message. In addition to being an actor, Yelchin was also a musician. He used to play in a punk band called the Hammerheads, with Tom Petty’s son, and was a big fan of thrash and hardcore. His music appreciation went beyond that too, as he admitted his love for B.B. King and Ray Charles.
He told Bleasdale that it was hard spending all that time with Nazi paraphernalia on set during the shoot for Green Room, but was proud of the film, and felt that it was really important to look at the historical and ideological roots of the beliefs behind them, to truly understand them.
Yelchin was enthusiastic about all the movies he was making, from a movie produced by indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on a tiny budget to the Star Trek franchise. He loved his Trek co-stars, and said that they made the whole thing worthwhile.
Yelchin became most enthused about the Star Trek franchise not when he spoke of the technical training he had absorbed just being on set. “It’s a good group of people. I’d feel differently if it wasn’t. If it wasn’t JJ [Abrams], I’d probably be less inclined to feel that way but I still think everything is something you learn from, even if it sucks. Especially if it sucks.”
Sadly, he was about to direct his first movie, called Travis, when he died, but he will still leave us with a legacy. He has five more movies (including Star Trek Beyond) that have yet to come out.