While most only know Anton Yelchin from his excellent work in such films as “Alpha Dog”, “Charlie Bartlett”, and “Fierce People”, he’s about to gain a lot of new fans as he’s Pavel Chekov in director J.J. Abrams “Star Trek”, and Kyle Reese in McG’s “Terminator Salvation”. It’s a good summer for this rising star.
So when I got to speak with Anton for my one on one interview, I was curious if he was apprehensive about signing onto two big franchises that could potentially leave little room for other projects. While he said that was a concern, he also revealed it was almost three franchises, as he was signed onto “Justice League” before that project fell apart. Who knows, if “Justice League” had gone in front of the cameras, someone else might have been Kyle Reese.
Anyway, during our ten minute conversation, I tried to ask Anton some questions he hadn’t been asked yet. While we started off in a weird place talking about how the celebrity paparazzi culture has changed in the past few decades, we did eventually get to “Star Trek” and “Terminator”. If you’re a fan of this up and coming actor, I think you’ll really enjoy the interview.
As always, you can either read the transcript after the jump or listen to our conversation by clicking here.
Collider: So I’m tried to come up with something that you have not been asked because I would imagine…what’s it like for you to be doing so much press in the last few weeks? Because you’re done a lot of independent movies, and now you’re stepping up into like huge Hollywood franchises?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, sure.
So what’s it like for you sort of talking about things in such detail or the promotional process?
Anton Yelchin: It’s kind of just it’s like part of the job, you know? It’s not what I envisioned my job to be but it certainly becomes a part of your job. You have to promote the movie that you made. It’s weird. It makes me feel self-conscious to constantly talk about myself and whatnot, but it’s nice when you have two movies you’re proud of. It’s better than talking about movies you dislike and have to promote. So it’s all right overall. It is a lot of talking and it is a lot of projecting opinions and what have you and creating whatever kind of…I guess it’s bizarre because everything sort of translates to your public image or to construction of what people or who people see you as, which is bizarre. I’d prefer that people only saw the work and ignored…
Well you haven’t been what I call a paparazzi project yet, where people are stalking you or invading your privacy. And yet you’re stepping into these franchises. Are you a little bit aware of what that kind of…what happens when you start stepping into these big franchises?
Anton: I guess. I don’t really know – like you said – I’ve never been part of it, but I think sometimes people put themselves out there depending on…certain people, a lot of that is their whole careers like being photographed. I think there are a lot of actors that you know photographers take pictures of actors. Like a guy like Brad Pitt, who I think is a very talented actor, gets pictures of him taken all the time because he happens to have this celebrity side to him and yet I personally think he’s a very talented actor.
Anton: And that’s the most important thing about him, at least for me.
He’s one of the rare people that I think, he’s a phenomenal actor and he just happens to be super-famous.
Anton: Exactly. But I think a lot of actors kind of avoid that. I mean they avoid…we live in a more obsessed culture than it was like 30 years ago, but a guy like Robert De Nero, I don’t think, got followed around by the paparazzi everywhere but he’s Robert DiNero, you know?
I think there were paparazzi back…it’s interesting how our conversation has shifted into something completely…but I think back then there were tabloids and the people going after….but it’s become an industry now.
Anton: Right. That’s exactly what I mean. It’s been around. I mean, Fellini introduced it in La Dolce Vita, you know?
Anton: But there’s a greater obsession with celebrity now and also there used to be an idea of glamour in celebrity as in you’d have Hollywood premieres and you’d have guys like Cary Grant. But the idea wasn’t to invade their privacy to find out dirty things about them. I mean, JFK could sleep around with half the town and that didn’t bother anyone. Bill Clinton gets a BJ and he gets…
Anton: Exactly, so that’s our culture. It’s a culture of obsessive voyeurism and exhibitionism and I think that’s why that happens so much more now. I feel like a guy like Brad Pitt 40 years ago could just have been Brad Pitt and they would have been happy to photograph him at premieres and see him at premieres and maybe a party having a cocktail or two and that would have been it. But at this point they’re photographing the guy playing with his kids in his backyard or whatever. And especially with the idea of the Internet, everything gets out there so if there’s a desire for that info, it’ll be put out there and I think that’s a large part of it as well.
Well, you mentioned in the roundtable room how you’ve not really heard of Twitter, but yet so many of your peers and filmmakers and everybody are on this thing. Jon Favreau, on the set of “Iron Man II”, is Twittering or Tweeting Scarlett Johansson just showed up and you’ve never heard a crew get so quiet. You know, like instant info all around.
So do you ever see yourself being that sort of putting yourself out there that much?
Anton: No. To the extent I’d which I’d like to put myself out there is I don’t mind making little weird YouTube videos but ones I’m not in. You know, just things that I’m shooting and directing briefly I’m putting out there because I want maybe people to see what my vision of this world is, but they’re not going to be like “hey I’m Anton Yelchin” like. They’re just going to be like weird videos. Putting music out there that I make with my friends. That is something I want to get out there just as part of the creative process but beyond that, no I’m not going to be Twittering “hey guys I’m taking a shit right now”.
It always comes back to that. It’s funny. Well, let me jump into actually moving from the celebrity culture into…you’re in two huge franchises that happen to come out within two weeks of each other. Both of which, I would imagine, make you sign a multi-picture deal because they’re not going to jeopardize…they don’t want to have to deal with contracts. They want to have people figured out.
How much hesitation for you was there signing onto two franchises that could possibly film back-to-back for the next foreseeable future?
Anton: When I had signed onto “Star Trek” there was no “Terminator” so it was kind of like “sure I’ll do this. This sounds great! Hell yeah, I’ll do it”. It is something you have to take a business consideration you have to take in because there might not be room to make the other movies, but other than that I was kind of like, you know, we’ll be lucky if we make more movies so let’s just make this one and hope it turns out great. And then suddenly “Terminator” came up and at the same time at that time they were going to be making a “Justice League” and that came up and I was like “Wow. There’s three now. Shit.”
Anton: So “Justice League” ended up falling apart whatever-never happened. But I signed onto “Terminator” and the people that I work with were saying what you’re signing up to is exactly what you said. You could potentially be doing these back-to-back. And there wasn’t going to be a way that I was going to pass on a movie like “Terminator”. I was obsessed with this character since a young age and it would be an honor for me to be a part of it and I’m lucky though that it’s such a fascinating character because I think if was a different character I’d have much more hesitation because I don’t mind seeing where Kyle Reese goes for the next couple of films. I don’t mind working through the paranoia and the anger and the vulnerability that I started to work here in this picture and if we’re lucky and–knock on wood–a couple more pictures. Because it will be an interesting process to carry that character and continually work with him almost like I guess theatre actors do on a play where they can find kind of…I wonder if a theatre actor starts off with kind of a construct of a character at the beginning and they’ve learned more about the character by the end, you know, by the…
Anton: So it’s something that would be really interesting. And with Chekhov it’s the same thing. I love these characters so I do look forward to, if we’re lucky, coming back and being able to work with them again and see what else I can pull out of them. So it’s almost like they’ll be the same characters but I’ll see what I can do to add another layer to them.
So how does it feel for you when you’re…the thing I’ve found I’ve done a lot of set visits recently and I am constantly amazed at the hours that everyone has to put in when making a movie. And no matter how many times it’s said, I don’t think people who watch movies truly understand the amount of time and energy everyone has to put in.
So how does it feel for you….”Star Trek” getting crazy reviews? I mean people are falling over themselves in love with this film. Last night everyone seemed to really dig “Terminator”.
So for you as an actor, how rewarding is it after putting in so much time and energy to hear this positive response?
Anton: I mean it’s obviously it’s great, you know? I try though…the flipside to that positive response is a potential for negative response and if you pay too much attention to the positive response, you’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to the negative response. The most rewarding thing for me is when I sit in a movie theatre and I see the movie for the first time and I go, “Shit. I like that movie.” And that’s what I felt watching “Star Trek”. I loved it and I watched “Terminator” last week and I really, really liked it as well. I really enjoyed it and I think they’re two totally different movies. You know, “Star Trek” you come out loving it because it’s a joyous film. You come out of “Terminator” and there’s this exciting kind of heaviness that you have to deal with because it’s a Terminator film and I love that too. So that is the most rewarding thing. Also, to go on Rotten Tomatoes and see that out of 118 reviews of “Star Trek” there’s 110 positive ones is pretty incredible and I’m very proud and it’s pretty great.
I noticed the same thing yesterday.
Anton: Yeah, it’s insane. I was like Jesus-it’s 90-some positive.
Anton: So of course it’s rewarding and the hours are crazy. I mean it’s so much hard work. I’ve talked to my friends about this a lot. They just don’t really get it like it’s really hard work. I mean “Star Trek” we had 20-hour days…like a couple 20-hour days. Like a 20-hour day is insane. I don’t think people get like…9-5 is the average day. 20-hours is insane. So it’s more than twice the average work day and people think you just…yeah there’s craft service and catering and it’s nicer than standing on your feet all day or flipping burgers or whatever, but it’s tedious because it’s emotionally compromising for everyone–for the grips, you know? The grips are getting pissed off because they’re tired of standing around for 20 hours and watching the same scene. It’s a hard job. It’s a lot of work to put that on-screen.
And that’s why when it gets right when so many people love something.
Anton: Yeah, it’s very rewarding yeah.
Absolutely. I know I’ve got to wrap up with you but what else are you working on right now or getting ready to work on?
Anton: Talking to Bill Macy about a film that he’s doing. That’s pretty much it. Trying to find another interesting character to play.
Anton: Thanks, man.