RIP Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)

Children's Defense Fund's 21st Annual Los Angeles Beat the Odds Awards - Arrivals
Tragic. Just tragic. That’s the one word going through my mind again and again since word came out yesterday afternoon that actor Anton Yelchin had died in a car accident. He was only 27, taken from us far too soon, and it’s one of those untimely deaths that I’m just having a hard time processing. I interviewed Yelchin a year or so ago while he was out promoting the wonderful film 5 to 7 and he was just a pleasure to speak with, full of life and appreciative of the praise I heaped on him for his performance. I can’t believe he’s gone, but just quickly today I thought I’d write a big about his work and pay tribute to the man. He may have passed, but his performances and movies will be around forever.

Yelchin came up as a child actor, first capturing our attention with his performance in the film Hearts in Atlantis. That work begin his movie career, one that would span only about 15 years, but included about 50 separate credits on the big screen alone. He was most recently seen in Green Room, where many felt he did the best work of his career. Before that, however, he broke out to some degree in Charle Bartlett, with Like Crazy being the first time he got onto the radar of awards season. That helped get him into the reboot of Star Trek, where he became a household name.

We’ll be seeing him later this summer in the sequel Star Trek Beyond, his third time portraying Pavel Chekov, a crew member of the starship Enterprise. There are other projects in post development as well, so we might have another year of Yelchin to treasure, but there’s also work we’ll never get to see. Obviously we can’t know the full extent of the loss, but for example he was set to play the villain in the television adaptation of Mr. Mercedes, which would have been a fascinating change of pace for him. I was convinced Yelchin would be an Oscar nominee one day, and likely even an Academy Award winner, but tragically that seems like it will never be.

Below you’ll see a quick list of what I felt were his best performances, ranging from a romantic lead in things like 5 to 7 or Like Crazy, to a comedic lead in Charlie Bartlett, to genre busting work like earlier this year’s Green Room. There’s also the criminally under-seen The Beaver, which I hope now will finally get a spin from some folks. Those of you who never saw it are missing out on something really special, trust me there. He deserved awards attention for a number of those parts and was only scratching the surface of what he could do, so the loss is just staggering to me now, and likely will be for a while…

5 to 7 Anton Yelchin Berenice Marlohe 600x260

Here are Yelchin’s ten best performances, in my opinion, though he was always nothing short of tremendous:

1. 5 to 7
2. The Beaver
3. Like Crazy
4. Charlie Bartlett
5. Green Room
6. Fierce People
7. Rudderless
8. The Driftless Area
9. Only Lovers Left Alive
10. Broken Horses

Honorable Mention: Alpha Dog, Burying the Ex, Hearts in Atlantis, New York I Love You, Odd Thomas, and Star Trek

Obviously, he was more than his performances, but Yelchin clearly and indisputably excelled at playing likable parts. Almost any role he played, be it comedy, drama, horror, science fiction, or other, the warmth and humanity of the man shined through in the work. That was also the case when I interviewed him about his heartbreaking turn in 5 to 7, so I really got a sense that this was a quality human being, making this an even bigger tragedy. He will be greatly missed, no question about it, and not just for the work that won’t be coming, but for the life that’s no longer here. RIP.

Rest in Peace sir…

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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