“There’s something missing. There’s someone missing. Anton should be here.” So said J.J. Abrams tonight before the world premiere of Star Trek Beyond at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park Amphitheater about the late Anton Yelchin. The actor, who plays Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek franchise died June 19 in an automobile accident at his Los Angeles home.
Taking the stage, Abrams called for a moment of silence for Yelchin, saying that the happy occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise was tempered somewhat by the loss of a man cast members and crew have consistently called family. What followed was more than a minute of silence during which you could hear a pin drop as the crowd — and Yelchin’s castmates, along with Abrams, Beyond director Justin Lin, and more — commemorated the actor who died at age 27.
Yelchin had played Chekov since 2009’s Abrams-helmed Star Trek that rebooted the franchise with new actors in the roles created for the 1960s original series. Tonight’s tribute came just hours after Abrams, who also directed 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness and now executive produces the series, confirmed that the role of Chekov won’t be recast with a new actor. “I would say there’s no replacing him,” Abrams said in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “There’s no recasting. I can’t possibly imagine that, and I think Anton deserves better.”
Just before the tribute to Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the franchise, paid tribute to the man who originated the role. He talked about his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, who died in February 2015 at 83, about what he learned from knowing the man, and ended his tribute with, “Here’s to Leonard” — which of course drew a huge cheer.
Conan O’Brien hosted the pre-screening event, which also featured an elaborate pyrotechnics display and the San Diego Symphony performing music from 2009’s Star Trek with a full choir. The orchestra also provided the music for tonight’s premiere screeing, projected in IMAX for several thousand fans assembled on the San Diego waterfront complimented by truly spectacular weather, though that’s standard operating procedure for San Diego. “Ladies and gentlemen, those fireworks — that was the promotional budget for this film,” O’Brien joked afterward. “You’ll never see another billboard again!”
Paramount announced earlier this week that a fourth installment of the Star Trek reboot series has been greenlighted, with Chris Hemsworth, who played James T. Kirk’s father George in Star Trek, reprising his role in an as-yet-unrevealed capacity.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.