Anton Yelchin is another actor that I’m surprised to find that I’ve seen in plenty of movies, without knowing who he was. Hearts in Atlantis is the movie based on the Stephen King novel, which I didn’t even know he was in until I looked up his IMDB page. And all I remember about that movie is that the script writer seemed to have read to the exact same point in the novel that I did, only to say, “That’s more than enough, I don’t need to read anymore.” (I just trailed off, the way I tend to do with most Stephen King novels)
Later, I saw Terminator Salvation around the same time as J.J. Abrams Star Trek. At the time, I didn’t know Yelchin’s name, only that I was actually really impressed with his portrayal of Pavel Checkov, who is one of my favorite Star Trek characters to this day. And he was a far more convincing “young Kyle Reese” than Nick Stahl’s “Young John Conner” in Terminator: Rise of the Machines. It’s hard to say who is the more pivotal character in the Terminator Series, whether it’s John Conner or Kyle. One is the hero of the human race, the other is the father of the hero of the human race, so both parts certainly have a lot of weight and Anton carried it brilliantly. I dare go so far as to say that he was more of a compliment to Michael Bean than Edward Furlong was to Christian Bale.
I wanted to do another piece, very similar to what I had written in my Discovering Tilda story. But it’s always so hard to write about someone who has just passed away. Readers will be divided into the, “Oh, you’re just trying to exploit someone else’s tragedy” and the, “You’re just complimenting his acting because he’s dead” camps. You can’t win with either crowd and I sure don’t owe anyone an explanation. But the main reason I’m not doing a much more involved piece is because I would rather discover someone while I have the chance to validate them and not after they have passed on.
For me, Anton’s best performance was definitely the part of Ian in Only Loves Left Alive. He is the paid assistant of Tom Hiddleton’s character, Adam. A well meaning liaison to Detroit’s music industry who has a big heart, Ian ultimately meets a tragic and untimely end at the fangs of a young and impetuous vampire named Ava. You would never guess that the whole tone of the movie would change from beautiful and decadent, to a race against the clock as a result of Ian’s presence, but Anton carries the weight of such a character with real subtlety and skill. His presence is a compliment to the giants he stands with in this movie, including Tilda Swinton.
Your mileage may vary on all of this. It’s all opinion. Opinions are wonderful things because everyone has them. But one thing we can all agree on is that no one ever knows how much of an impact they make on someone’s life. No one can really know if they will have enough time in this world to get everything done, or if they will be remembered for the accomplishments that mattered to them.
When it comes to actors, or singers, or any kind of artist, we’re always surprised to find that some of them didn’t like the things we remember them for the most. I only hope that as he is strumming his guitar in the great Star Trek Convention in the sky, that Anton Yelchin was as proud of the accomplishments he achieved in his far too short life, as we are. And I hope that if I live to be a hundred, that my life is as meaningful to others as his was to me.