Park City • Anton Yelchin died in a freak accident at age 27, but a new documentary seeks to put the focus back on the actor’s extraordinary life.
“Love, Antosha,” which is seeking theatrical distribution, premiered Monday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City to tears and applause. His parents, Viktor Yelchin and Irina Korina, the driving force behind the documentary, were there as well.
The film is a heartfelt and unusually revealing tribute to the creative force of nature that was Yelchin. It is told through home videos, archival footage, personal letters and interviews by those who knew him, from his “Star Trek” companions Chris Pine, John Cho and J.J. Abrams, to Jennifer Lawrence, Martin Landau and Kristen Stewart, who said that he “kind of, like, broke my heart” at 14. It’s a complex portrait of an artist who liked to take provocative photographs at sex clubs in the Valley and was also, unbeknownst even to most of his closest friends, managing cystic fibrosis.
After he died in 2016, his parents started the process of gathering materials and even conducting interviews with people who knew him when they’d be in town. By the time director Garret Price came aboard to start the process of making a film, he said “50 percent of it was already there.”
Price decided that he’d use Yelchin’s letters as a framing device to tell a coming-of-age story through his eyes. Nicolas Cage does the readings of his letters.
“The challenge of a story like this is it ultimately ends in tragedy but I didn’t want to make a tragic story,” Price said. “I wanted to make an inspiring story.”
An editor by trade, Price never met Yelchin, or directed a movie before. “Love, Antosha” producer Drake Doremus, who was very close to Yelchin and directed him in “Like, Crazy,” thought a more objective eye would be good for the film.
By no means is his story told through G-rated, rose-colored glasses, either. The film delves into his creative and professional anxieties as much as it celebrates his talent.
“Credit to his parents, they were very upfront and said we want to give you complete autonomy to tell the story. There was no pressure to deify Anton for an hour and a half,” Price said. “I’d done documentaries where estates have been involved and challenges present themselves to showing the subject in the best light. But this humanizes him and makes him relatable.”
Price said Yelchin was getting ready to make his cystic fibrosis diagnosis public. He’d hidden it for so long because he “didn’t want people to feel sorry for him.” But he’d realized that perhaps letting people know that he was living with the disease could actually help others.
His parents created the Anton Yelchin Foundation in his memory and in October donated $1 million to the adult care clinic at the USC Center for Cystic Fibrosis. “The staff at the cystic fibrosis clinic was like a family to Anton,” Irina Korina said in a statement at the time. “He worked hard and was dedicated to living a healthy life. When he needed assistance, they were always there for him.”
Approximately 30,000 people in the United States have cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects the mucus and sweat glands, causing a buildup of mucus in the lungs and other organs. Complications can include lung infections, sinusitis and poor weight gain and growth.
The film was a rush to get done, but Price said they were all motivated to keep Yelchin in people’s minds.
“It was something we wanted to get done quickly because the world we live in moves so quickly,” Price said. “We just don’t want him to ever be forgotten.”
The documentary about actor Anton Yelchin will screen again at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at the following times and venues:
• Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at the Redstone Cinema 1, Park City
• Sunday, 3:30 p.m., at the Rose Wagner Center, Salt Lake City.
The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report.