Aug 27 2009

Anton Yelchin walks into Paris’s Hotel Plaza Athenee wearing a larger-than-life hat, which almost dwarfs the diminutive actor who features in of two of this summer’s biggest blockbusters. Think Star Trek and Terminator Salvation and the upcoming New York, I Love You.

Purchased in Palm Springs, the hat turns out to be a Stetson, a brand as well known among hat aficionados as these franchises are to film fanatics. But the style is distinctly Yelchin’s own.

“It is actually a cowboy hat,” he explains, “but I flipped it down because I didn’t want to look like,” he pauses, “W”.

He is funny. And Yelchin clearly isn’t afraid to express his opinions, either in jest, when it comes to George W Bush, or in earnest when it comes to the roles he plays. He is also deadly serious about his work (being the son of two Russian athletes clearly paid off), which may be why Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) chose him to star in his short film on romance, New York, I Love You, an anthology of films by 11 directors including Jian Wen and Shekhar Kapur, which will be released in October.

At all of 20 years old, Yelchin hadn’t even been born when the Star Trek and Terminator franchises were launched, in 1966 and 1984 respectively, but that didn’t stop him going back to explore hundreds of hours of past materials and lobbying his directors with the resulting suggestions.

“I did a breakdown of [his Terminator character] Kyle Reese and pitched it to the director, McG, and said: ‘Here is who I think this guy is. This needs to be in the script’, ” he explains. “I filled his voicemail with messages and I would get text messages back saying, ‘I agree with you’. It is a nice environment to work in where you feel you have a voice and it really frees you up to experiment.”

In Star Trek, meanwhile, Yelchin’s Russian roots came in handy in playing the Russian brain and the Enterprise’s navigator, Pavel Chekov.

“They are both very different characters, different sets, different environments that I found myself in, so they were both interesting in their individual ways,” says Yelchin.

Born in Leningrad, now known as St Petersburg, to a pair of professional figure-skaters, Yelchin moved to the US when he was six months old and began attending acting classes while at school in Los Angeles. He made his debut, aged 10, playing Robbie Edelstein in ER and landed his breakthrough film a year later, starring opposite Anthony Hopkins as a fatherless adolescent in Hearts in Atlantis. He went on to appear with Robin Williams in the 2004 film House of D and has played in many films and TV series since, including Nick Cassavetes’ 2006 film Alpha Dog in which he plays a runaway in the real-life story about one of the FBI’s youngest most-wanted men ever, Jesse James Hollywood.

Yelchin enjoys working on both independent films and action-filled blockbusters. “In the best sort of spectacle action movies, character comes first and that’s why you buy the action,” he says. “I got lucky with these two because there was a lot of character work to be done. Terminator was challenging and interesting and definitely there was a lot of work to do, which is great because we don’t often expect to go into these movies and have challenging work to do. But I was lucky with Star Trek as well because it was the same thing. There was this whole other character to work with – different… totally different, different physicality, more joyous and light, but the same idea. They were both challenging.”

Yelchin’s future projects should include the actor William H Macy’s directorial debut, Keep Coming Back. The film is a coming-of-age tale set in the Deep South. “They are trying to figure out when they are going to shoot that,” he says. “It would be nice to go back to smaller films.”

He recently completed the romance Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, in which he co-stars with Emma Roberts. The film was based on the book of the same name by Gabrielle Zevin. He has also reportedly signed on to do the next two Star Trek films.

“I think that being in two films like this helps you to do other work,” he says. “There are actors that I really admire, actors that can do both. I think that you can do it. As long as you stick to finding interesting characters and believing in them, you can do that.”

Although he has worked consistently since he was 10, down time between films, he confesses, is always hard to adjust to.

“It is a weird transition period unless you have a job right away when you can start working again,” he says.

“When you don’t, you start feeling like you have to get back into your life and adjust to not being with the people you just spent months with and the people that you have come to care about and that have become your friends.

“You have to adjust to not working really hard and not having a definite purpose to your life. I feel like every time I am on set, there is a goal, there is an objective and there is a life to be lived. Then, when I’m not working, I wake up at noon and guess I will go and read, watch a movie, play music.

“I probably watch even more movies when I’m working. I still watch a lot when I’m not working, but you end up having a rhythm and a pace you are moving at. It is very fulfilling when you are working. When you are not, you try to do something that gives you some sort of fulfilment but it is never quite the same between films. I realise you just have to take it easy or you get really upset.” [SOURCE]

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