Love, Antosha, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, can be a difficult film to watch because it’s still so hard to believe Anton Yelchin is gone. And the circumstances behind his 2016 death (he was killed in his driveway in a freak accident) just seemed so, for lack of a better word, unfair. There’s a scene in Garret Price’s documentary on the actor’s life in which Chris Pine seems openly angry that this is what happened to his friend. The film is filled with people, from the actors and directors he worked with, to his longtime friends and his parents, who all still seem so shocked and confused that he’s gone.
Another extremely important aspect of the documentary is the revelation that Yelchin was battling Cystic Fibrosis. Really battling, which partially explains his remarkable output during his all too-short life. (Price even reveals ahead that a doctor who specializes in treating Cystic Fibrosis has said he’s going to use this documentary as inspiration for his patients.)
Ahead, Price and producer Drake Doremus (who directed Yelchin in Like Crazy) explain why they wanted to make this film and why Yelchin was such a special person.
Admittedly, I wasn’t going to watch this because it just seemed tough, but I’m really glad I did.
Garret Price: I think after you sit with it, you start to feel more inspired with what Anton did during his time with us, you know? It’s a definition of living life to it’s fullest and I wanted to capture that in a film. And, yeah. I wanted to tell that story versus the tragedy of it all.
You got so many people to be in this, like Chris Pine and Jennifer Lawrence and so many others. Is that a difficult phone call? I’m sure this is a raw subject.
Price: I think because a lot of these invites came from Anton’s parents, people just wanted to be involved. And I mean, Chris’s interview is like two and a half hours straight. He just talks about Anton. It’s amazing. And a lot of these were like that.
You have two and a half hours of Chris Pine just talking about him?
Price: Yeah. In his pajamas. He had his pajamas on beneath his shirt. But the interviews are so authentic and so unguarded and you just don’t get that in these types of films, I think. They start telling a story and you just watch their eyes kind of wander because they just start thinking about the times of Anton. I tried to hang on looks in the film, if you noticed…
I did notice. Jennifer Lawrence especially.
Drake Doremus: That was a great moment.
It almost looks therapeutic for them in a way.
Price: Absolutely. I love that you say that because I think it is. I think it’s why Chris sat for two and a half hours. I think it’s their first time to really express what they were feeling and share these stories they had with him, you know? You’re right, I think therapeutic is a good way to describe it.
Would you put these longer full interviews on a Blu-ray?
Price: I think that would be a great idea. There’s so much more footage to play with and I think sharing some of these interviews would be an amazing thing. If I told you who was on the cutting room floor, you’d be amazed…
Tell me who was on the cutting room floor?
Price: Should we give him one?
Price: Glenn Close.
Price: And Susan Sarandon. I just couldn’t. There’s a point you just can’t fit everybody in.
Doremus: They have to kind of organically fit in at different parts in his life and some things just didn’t quite work out, but it was amazing how many people wanted to be a part of it.
There’s a part in the film where one of Anton’s longtime friends is talking about his Cystic Fibrosis and says something like, ”Which you’re probably learning about for the first time right now.”
Doremus: Yeah, I knew him for nine years and I had to cut around his cough, when he had it constantly for the month and a half that we shot. And I just thought he had a cold the whole shoot. And then nine years later to learn that. It was just crazy that as close as we were, I had no idea. No idea.
Price: He was so humble. He just didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. He loved working. He didn’t want it to hold him back and that says a lot about the type of person he is.
The scene where you show Anton use Google to check the life expectancy of someone with that condition and it shows it being 37 — that scene sticks with you.
Price: I thought that was an important beat because I thought that was human to look that up. You know what I mean? When you really start to understand what you’re going through and I wanted to tell this through Anton’s point of view as much as possible. Although, the more I started talking to his doctors that treat cystic fibrosis, they’re getting closer and closer. It’s like second to AIDS, the speed they’re catching up to treatments for this disease. So who would’ve known, you know?
A lot of people, a lot of families, who are experiencing this are going to see this and be inspired by his life.
Price: It’s incredible. In fact, his personal doctor came up to me after I screened the film and said this is a tool he can start using for all his patients.
Doremus: That is so fucking cool.
Price: Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. And he cannot wait to start sharing to his patients because a lot of them feel this doom and gloom when diagnosed with something like this, but Anton is the opposite of that.
Doremus: No matter how much money the movie makes, no matter how many people see it, no matter what it wins; whatever. That’s the greatest award you can get, Garrett. That’s incredible. I never knew that.
Price: I didn’t share that with Drake until now.
Anton’s personal diary entries are narrated by Nicholas Cage, who had worked with Anton. Why Cage?
Price: We were looking a kindred spirit, you know?
Doremus: Yeah, and it’s just so interesting to think of them as kindred spirits in a lot of ways. Where I think a lot of their eccentricities and passions and emotional kind of cores were very linked. And to think that by the time Anton would’ve been in his 50s, they would’ve had very similar careers and choices. So, in a way, it’s like Nic is kind of a kindred spirit extension of Anton, in a lot of ways. That’s why I think it works and why it resonates so much.
Price: And we don’t overuse it.
Doremus: We went to Vegas to go record it. And the first line he read, he immediately had to stop and kind of broke down and was so emotional. It was really difficult for him. But after he kind of saw everything pieced together, he said, “Oh my god.” It hit him and he said, “This is so important, what we’re doing.” And he was so proud to be a part of it and it’s just awesome.
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