By now you’ve all heard the news that Anton Yelchin, best known as “Chekov” from the Star Trek reboot movies, tragically passed away following a freak car accident at his Studio City home over the weekend. At just 27 years of age, Yelchin left behind a remarkably diverse and extensive body of work that included roles in everything from kids’ faire like The Smurfs, to action-heavy franchises like the The Terminator (appearing in 2009’s Terminator Salvation), to this year’s Green Room, an ultra-violent, ultra-intense siege thriller that ranked among my favorite films of the year (if not my favorite).

And if you’ve seen our interview with Yelchin and Green Room director Jeremy Saulnier, then you’ve also been given a glimpse into just how humble, honest, and thoughtful of a person he was. It’s rare that you see an actor as young as Yelchin with such an adept understanding of not only the art of acting, but of the projects he chose as well. He may have made his name on the Star Trek franchise, sure, but you won’t see a whole lot of “safe” or “obvious” choices on his resume. Rare as it may seem, Yelchin was an actor who placed character and story before the trivial aspects of filmmaking that so often effect the choices of his peers (marketability, profitability, a third “-ability” that I can’t think of); a uniqueness that was almost certainly owed to his incredibly unique upbringing.

Born in Leningrad, Soviet Union, in 1989 to a pair of famous figure skaters, Yelchin was relocated to Los Angeles at just six months old. His parents, Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchinwere, were seeking both an economic uplift and religious reprieve from a nation that would collapse less than two years later. "We were afraid for our son. It is a very bad situation over there,” said Viktor in an interview with the L.A. Times. “I would get angry, too – I'd say, 'Why should we have to buy things on the black market? Why should we have to stand in line?’

After taking residence with Anton’s Uncle, Eugene, the Yelchin’s quickly realized their son’s potential as an actor. Although his first major role came at just 11 years old in Anthony Hopkins’ Hearts in Atlantis, most of us were likely first introduced to Yelchin five years later in Nick Cassavetes’ crime drama, Alpha Dog. As the lovable Zack Mazursky, Yelchin drew praise for the unaffected realism and he brought to the “heartbreakingly endearing” role, which likely lead to him securing the lead in 2007’s Charlie Bartlett.

Two years later, Yelchin would truly break into the mainstream as Ensign Pavel Chekov in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. Like the rest of the cast, Yelchin was given the incredibly difficult task of putting his own original spin a beloved television character without “ruining everyone’s childhood” (or whatever other garbage hyperbole we often greet remakes with), yet managed to exceed the expectations of even the most diehard Trekky. Though his portrayal of Chekov was largely overlooked in relation to Chris Pines’ Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock, Yelchin managed to steal damn near every scene he was in, through a combination of solid comedic timing and the kind of boyish earnestness that he brought to most (if not all) of his roles.


From there, Yelchin would secure rolls in mainstream projects like Terminator: Salvation, The Beaver, and the Fright Night remake, while popping up in fiercely-beloved (if lesser known) projects like The Life and Times of Tim and Odd Thomas and Like Crazy, all the while maintaining the kind of workman’s attitude that led him to success in the first place. In this year’s Green Room, Yelchin was nothing short of captivating as Joe, the quiet “philosophical leader” (to borrow a phrase from the man himself) of The Ain’t Rights, a struggling punk band forced into a standoff against a group of Neo-Nazi’s led by Patrick Stewart. If the plot sounds ridiculous, trust me that it is, but not in the ways you might expect. Like the film itself, Yelchin’s performance was surprisingly layered and realized, while almost never adhering to genre convention. It was the latest example in the already-stellar repertoire of a young actor with the world ahead of him, which makes the news of his untimely passing all the harder to bear.

In a column penned for Indiewire, Saulnier attempted to convey just how remarkable a person Yelchin was.

“Anton was a dream. He was kind and sharp and as sincere as anyone I’ve ever known."

“Not only did he bring a delicate balance of tragic vulnerability and intense physicality to his character on screen, he offered his unending generosity and patience off-screen. In an industry governed by Excel sheets and foreign sales estimates, Anton reminded me that there’s nothing more valuable than good people. He put me back in the comfort zone I knew growing up, making backyard films with best friends, and created a protective bubble where creativity could thrive.”

It’s a sentiment that is shared by almost everyone who worked with Yelchin over the years, as the outpour of support on social media in the wake of his passing has shown.

And so, 2016 continues to be the year that every famous person we loved and admired was taken from us. It’s hard to really make sense of the circumstances that led to Yelchin’s passing, but all I know is that this one stings more than most.

We’ll miss you, Anton. We’ll really, really miss you.

R.I.P Anton Yelchin