Anton Yelchin, best known for portraying Ensign Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot film series, as well as for roles in, Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive, the Stephen King adaptation Hearts In Atlantis, and the acclaimed horror film Green Room, is dead following a tragic car accident in his Studio City home last night. He was 27.
“Actor Anton Yelchin was killed in a fatal traffic collision early this morning. His family requests you respect their privacy at this time,” his publicist, Jennifer Allen said in a statement.
Born in Leningrad, Russia (now Saint Petersburg) in 1989 to parents who were stars of Russia’s Ice Ballet for 15 years, Yelchin and his family immigrated to the United States as political refugees that same year. Yelchin subsequently grew up in Los Angeles, attending Tarzana’s Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and in 2007, the University of Southern California. However, his entry into acting came at age 9 in the indie film A Man is Mostly Water, with other early roles including in Delivering Milo, House of D, and the 2002 Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries Taken.
His first major recognition as an actor came in 2001 when he played the younger version of Bobby Garfield, played as an adult by David Morse, in Hearts in Atlantis. The next year, Yelchin won Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actor at the Young Artist Awards for his performance. Yelchin next came to increased prominence in 2006, co-starring as the central kidnapping victim in Nick Cassavetes’ crime thriller Alpha Dog, opposite Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Dean Stanton, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis.
Yelchin’s breakout role came at 19 in Charlie Bartlett, the Jon Poll-directed comedy-drama written by Gustin Nash about an awkward, wealthy teenager who begins giving out therapeutic advice and prescription drugs to his classmates in a bid to become popular. This was followed in 2009 by a pair of major franchise roles that solidifed his career – the teenaged version of Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, taking on the role originated in 1984 by Michael Biehn in James Cameron’s The Terminator, and Ensign Pavel Chekov in JJ Abram’s 2009 Star Trek.
Like many of his co-stars on Star Trek, Yelchin notably looked to the performance of his predecessor on the original series and subsequent films, Walter Koenig, for insight into the role. Mimicking the original Chekov’s accent, Yelchin also drew from his own Russian background as well as from the Cold War climate of the original series for inspiration. “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,” he said in a 2009 interview. “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.”
One notable aspect of that performance came in the reboot franchise’s first film, when Yelchin’s Chekov displayed extraordinary difficulty pronouncing the phrase “victor victor” and ended up saying it as “wictor wictor”, a tribute to Koenig’s memorable pronunciation of “nuclear vessles” as “nuclear wessles” in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Yelchin portrayed Chekov two more times – in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, also directed by JJ Abrams, and in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond directed by Justin Lin which hits theaters July 22.
Most recently, Yelchin drew great reviews for his performance in the acclaimed horror film Green Room, in which he co-starred with Imogen Poots and Alia Shawkat as members of a punk band who find themselves hunted by neo-Nazi skinheads after witnessing a murder at an isolated Pacific Northwest club. The film won raves throughout its festival run in 2015, taking home the Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award at the Toronto Film Festival last October. It had limited theatrical release in April of this year.
Other roles include: Charlie Brewster in remake of Fright Night opposite David Tennant, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, and Toni Collette; Jim Jarmush’s critically acclaimed vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive, opposite Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi, and John Hurt; the romantic drama Like Crazy; voicing Clumsy Smurf in the feature film adaptation of The Smurfs; the Aardman Animations production The Pirates! Band of Misfits; and the 2014 romantic comedy 5 TO 7.
Yelchin’s final film is Thoroughbred, a psychological thriller also starring Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy that marks the feature film debut of playwright Cory Finley. Filming on Thoroughbred wrapped two weeks ago in Boston.