Sitting down with Anton Yelchin at SXSW this year to discuss his work in “The Beaver,” I felt like the standard five minutes just wasn’t enough.
After all, this young actor has been positively crushing it in all of his work the last few years. Even if I didn’t care for “Terminator: Salvation,” I thought he did genuinely admirable work as a young Kyle Reese, managing to evoke many of the qualities that made the role work in the original “Terminator” without just doing an impression of Michael Biehn. And in “Star Trek,” he had the difficult task of playing a young Chekov with a broad Russian accent and not making it a joke.
This is his year, though. He is piercing and unforgettable in “Like Crazy,” the romantic drama that flattened me at Sundance, and he is equally good in Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver,” which finally opens in limited release starting this weekend. He plays Mel Gibson’s son in the film, and his storyline, played out opposite the suddenly white-hot Jennifer Lawrence, is just as strong as the primary story about Gibson’s own struggles. Yelchin has the ability to project strength and fragility, intelligence and inexperience, contradictory notions that somehow work together in his performances, and “The Beaver” demands quite a bit of him as an actor.
Since Lawrence also plays a key role in “Like Crazy,” it made sense for us to discuss her in our time together, and I also wanted to ask him about returning to a character for the first time in the upcoming “Star Trek” sequel. That’s one of those skills they don’t really have a class for when you’re training as an actor, but it’s something you’d better be good at if you’re going to survive in the franchise-minded modern Hollywood.
Whatever Yelchin does from here, I wish him well. He’s got an impressive focus for someone so young, and I genuinely think we’re still just in the early days of his career. He’s going to be doing this for as long as he wants to be doing this, and that’s very good news for audiences.
“The Beaver” opens in limited release May 6, 2011.