Anton Yelchin is certainly one of Hollywood’s fastest rising young actors, with an eclectic resume made up of varied and interesting characters, in both big studio blockbusters and small indie dramas. In The Beaver, he plays Porter Black, the oldest son of a very depressed man (Mel Gibson), who turns to a puppet to find the ability to communicate with his family, friends and business associates. In the remake of Fright Night (due out in theaters on August 19th), he plays a teenager who is convinced that his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. And, before he returns to the role of Chekov in the sequel to Star Trek, he will take on the title role of Odd Thomas, about a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities who tries to prevent crime.
During a recent exclusive interview with Collider, that was done at the press day for The Beaver, Anton Yelchin talked about why he wanted to do the film, how it took longer to unwind from taking on such intense subject matter, and how much he enjoyed working with both Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson. He also talked about how he’s looking forward to returning to Chekov and getting to read the Star Trek 2 script, and what attracted him to Odd Thomas, which he starts filming soon. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
ANTON YELCHIN: I read it, and then I had a meeting with Jodie [Foster]. And then, I auditioned and that was that. It was a pretty simple process. I met her, and then the next week, I read for her and that was it.
Was there something specific about this project that really struck you?
YELCHIN: I think what I was most interested in was that it’s a very complex character. He’s really a miserable human being because he is so fearful that he’s going to become as miserable as his father, he uses that misery to make him as miserable as his father. Looking at that fear and anger and sadness that he had is just intriguing for an actor. As sadistic as it sounds, it’s fascinating because there’s so much depth to it and so much room to create. Aside from Jodie Foster and Mel [Gibson], that’s what drew me directly to the material.
Doing a film with this level of intense subject matter, what was the environment like on set, in between takes?
YELCHIN: On the set, it was great. I really like Mel and Jodie a lot. I really like Mel’s sense of humor, and we get along really well, and Jodie too. For as sad as all the characters are, and as depressing as the film can get, it was a really light and fun set. It was a blast.
Did you have any trouble shaking a character like this?
YELCHIN: There may be a role that requires me to do it, but I haven’t stayed in character yet. Unless I need to for a scene, I don’t really stay in character for a whole film. But, it’s difficult. It’s inevitable that you’re going to bring that home with you, at the end of the day. On this film, it took longer to unwind, and after the film too, just because things you’re looking at inevitably become really personal. Everyone has their own share of sadness and pain that you’re dealing with, so the more you look into it, the more it brings that up. You’re constantly trying to bring up your own ability to relate to it, so it’s difficult. But, the set was great. It was a lot of fun.
YELCHIN: She’s wonderful. I felt so lucky because she’s created so many amazing characters, and to be able to create my own character at her side and under her supervision is just a huge privilege. She encourages you to explore and to be as honest as possible, with everything that’s going on. The great thing is that she encourages the dialogue of asking all the questions and finding all the answers. It just felt so great to be able to do that with her.
When you work with someone like her, who has been in the business for as long as she has, are there things that you just inherently pick up from working with her, or do you pay extra attention to what she brings to the work?
YELCHIN: Yeah, inevitably you pick up on it. Jodie is a human being. For someone that is so spectacular and amazing at what she does, and who is just a tremendous member of the filmmaking community, she has no ego. She’s an extremely unassuming person, and yet she wields such incredible power as an artist. She’s really an amazing person to be around, and just so grounded and intelligent. I think that’s why so many people respect her. You never hear anything negative about Jodie, and then you meet her and you realize why. There’s nothing you could possibly say. There really isn’t.
What was it like to work with Mel Gibson, especially for the scenes with the puppet? Did it help you, that your character is the one that won’t acknowledge it?
YELCHIN: Yeah. People ask about how it was to work with the puppet, but my character doesn’t acknowledge the puppet ever. He just looks right at his dad. It was great. I just enjoyed watching Mel and the freedom that he had, in working with that puppet. He gives such a brilliant, layered performance. On set, to see him both the man underneath the puppet, and then this obnoxious puppet, was really tremendous.
YELCHIN: I guess not. I don’t really go into anything with any expectations about anyone, really. I’m either a fan of their work, or I’m not. Obviously, I was a big fan of Jodie and Mel. I just enjoyed his sense of humor. I really get along with him really well. He’s very funny, and an intelligent, interesting man. I just had to geek out on Mad Max stories.
How was the experience of working with Jennifer Lawrence?
YELCHIN: Jen’s great. She’s a wonderful actress and she’s a great person. I got to work with her again after, on this movie Like Crazy, and she’s just wonderful. She’s so great. She’s my friend, so I can’t say enough nice things about her.
Is it fun for you, as an actor, to be able to do the Star Trek sequel and return to the character of Chekov and find new layers?
YELCHIN: Sure. I haven’t read the script, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what it is. It will be a lot of fun to play the character again, do all the research again and do all the homework. Also, it’s a great group of people. It’s one thing when you’re going back to a movie and you’re like, “Oh, god, I’ve got to work with these people again.” But, it’s such a great group. I enjoyed working with them all so much that I look forward to seeing them all again and working with them.
Do you think it will be easier to get back into the character, since you already know who he is?
YELCHIN: I guess. In a way, it will be difficult too, to make sure it’s the same person. That was almost four years ago, so it will definitely be challenging to try to capture the same thing.
YELCHIN: No, I have no idea. It should be at some point. At some point, we will make it.
What are your thoughts on 3D films? Do you hope that Star Trek 2 will be in 3D?
YELCHIN: One thing that’s fundamental is that you can really see the difference when someone converts to 3D or shoots in 3D. We shot Fright Night in 3D, so we shot it with 3D cameras, which is really one camera with two cameras on it. It makes a big difference, I think. You can tell when a movie was made with the idea of 3D. I don’t really think about it. What’s most fundamental is that the movie itself is good, and then 3D is one of those things that you layer on top of it. You can use it to make certain parts of the movie more exciting, but if the movie isn’t good, then you’re not going to care about the 3D either.
Are you going to shoot Odd Thomas next?
YELCHIN: Yeah, I’m doing Odd Thomas in a couple of weeks.
What is that film about and who is Odd Thomas?
YELCHIN: It’s about this guy who is clairvoyant, and he tries to prevent crime. He sense that some horrible thing is going to happen to this town, so he tries to prevent it. It’s a really interesting character. What drew me to it is that he has this extremely difficult spiritual life and moral life. He’s faced with death, at all times, because he can see the dead, and he knows what’s going to happen, so he feels morally bound to prevent these horrible things that he feels are going to happen, from happening. But, at the same time, because that is so complicated, his physical and material life is extremely simple. He’s a very simple human being. In the book, his highest dream is to work at the tire shop. He’s a very simple person. He tries to oversimplify everything, and that allows him a measure of control, on a universe that has granted him a vision that makes it completely difficult to have control.
You’ve consistently done really interesting and varied work throughout your career. Has that been a conscious effort on your part, or do you just feel really lucky with the types of work you’ve been offered?
YELCHIN: Yeah, I’ve both been lucky and also made choices that I thought would be interesting to me. In the past, I’ve just been lucky. The ability to have a choice in what you do is a privilege. I’ve been lucky to be able to work with great people and on interesting material.
Is there something that really does it for you, as far as choosing which projects you want to do?
YELCHIN: Yeah, a lot of it is the material, and then the people. Both the actors and the filmmaker are huge deciding factors.