There are a few iconic roles that pretty much insure an actor’s “geek cred.” One would be playing Pavel Chekov in Star Trek. Walter Koenig is still earning money off that, with convention appearances and roles in other sci-fi projects. The other is Kyle Reese in the Terminator franchise. Michael Biehn and Jai Courtney might not be household names, but they are pretty much guaranteed to have fans lined up for their autographs just because they played John Connor’s dad. Anton Yelchin played both, and a number other roles in movies big and small. Yelchin died early this morning in a freak automobile accident at his home.
According to CNN, Yelchin’s death was caused by being crushed by his car, which was left in neutral in his driveway:
Yelchin stepped out of his car in the driveway of his Studio City home at around 1:10 a.m. PT when the car slid backwards and pinned him against a brick pillar and a security fence, causing trauma that led to his death, said Jennifer Houser with the Los Angeles Police Department
“The victim was on his way to meet his friends for a rehearsal and when he didn’t show up, his friends went to his house where they found him deceased by his car,” Houser told CNN. “It appears that he momentarily left his car, leaving it in the driveway. He was behind the vehicle when it rolled backward and pinned him to the brick pillar causing the trauma that led to his death.”
Yelchin was born in Leningrad, USSR in on March 11, 1989 and emigrated to the United States six months later after his parents, famous figure skaters in their native Russia, came to our country as political refugees. He began his acting career at the age of nine, and he crafted a career for himself in a number of supporting roles, most notably in the Anthony Hopkins vehicle, Hearts in Atlantis.
His big break came in 2006’s Alpha Dog, playing the doomed Zack Mazursky, a character based on a real life murder victim Nicholas Markowitz. He followed it up the next year with a starring role in Charlie Bartlett, playing a teen who becomes drug dealer/therapist for his high school.
Yelchin’s career kicked into high gear in 2009 when he was cast as Chekov in J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot and Reese in Terminator: Salvation. He would balance roles in the Star Trek sequels, the Fright Night remake and voicing Clumsy Smurf in The Smurfs films with roles in smaller fare like Odd Thomas and Green Room.
Yelchin will be appearing in Star Trek: Beyond next month and has a number of projects complete or in post production set to arrive this year and next year.
His co-stars and employers have gone on Twitter and other venues to express their grief. Here is his Alpha Dog co-star Olivia Wilde:
Anton Yelchin was a bright, brilliant talent, and a truly kind person. I was so taken by him, and won’t ever forget his sweet smile. RIP
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) June 19, 2016
I only got to work with Anton Yelchin for one day but immediately he was the kind of person you rooted for & wanted to see thrive.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) June 19, 2016
Jodie Foster, his director in The Beaver, in a statement to Indiewire:
“Anton… What a rare and beautiful soul with his unstoppable passion for life. He was equal parts serious thinker and the most fun little brother you could ever dream of. I am so honored to have been able to direct such a deep actor, so committed and genuine. I will forever be grateful for all of those little exchanges we shared, his contagious enthusiasm, his questions, his company. My heart breaks for his mom and dad who were a part of every anecdote. He carried their love into everything he touched.”
Star Trek‘s official Twitter;
Today we mourn the passing of Anton Yelchin. He was beloved by so many and he will missed by all. pic.twitter.com/POChZ2XwyI
— Star Trek (@StarTrekMovie) June 19, 2016
And his Star Trek Co-stars Zachary Quinto…
our dear friend. our comrade. our anton. one of the most open and intellectually curious people… https://t.co/zgTxXmyrbD
— Zachary Quinto (@ZacharyQuinto) June 19, 2016
… Karl Urban…
I can’t believe it , I m fckn hurting bad !
— Karl Urban (@KarlUrban) June 19, 2016
I loved Anton Yelchin so much. He was a true artist – curious, beautiful, courageous. He was a great pal and a great son. I’m in ruins.
— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) June 19, 2016
Please send your love to Anton’s family right now. They need it.
— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) June 19, 2016
…director Justin Lin…
Still in shock. Rest in peace, Anton. Your passion and enthusiasm will live on with everyone that had the pleasure of knowing you.
— Justin Lin (@trailingjohnson) June 19, 2016
…and director/producer J.J. Abrams.
— Bad Robot (@bad_robot) June 19, 2016
NOTE: At press time the Twitter accounts of Simon Pegg and Zoe Saldana has no postings on Yelchin’s death and Chris Pine does not have a Twitter account.
A surprisingly long career. So much promise.