'Like Crazy' Director Pens Tribute to Anton Yelchin: "He Was an Artist in the Truest Sense"

Austin Hargrave
Anton Yelchin

Drake Doremus fondly remembers a flight he took with his Sundance star, who died June 19 at age 27.

I first met Anton through producer Jonathan Schwartz when I was casting Like Crazy, a tiny indie that ended up changing all of our lives. At our first meeting, I knew he was the one: He was just 21, but he was an old soul, perfect for the part of Jacob. Thankfully he and Felicity Jones, whom I already had cast, hit it off and developed a chemistry I could have only dreamed of.

We didn't have a traditional script to guide us but rather an outline with specific emotional journeys, so I encouraged the actors to bring a lot to the table. Before filming, the three of us spent a lot of time talking about past relationships and love and our lives. We put so much of ourselves into the project. The film is a time capsule of where we were at that moment, which makes looking back at it so special.

We shot in L.A. for a couple of weeks, then headed to London to shoot for a week there. We were a tiny film, so we all flew economy. Felicity crawled into the window seat, and then, without a moment's hesitation, Anton jumped into the middle — not the most fun place to be on a long flight — so I could sit comfortably on the aisle and he could be between us.

The entire flight we watched Family Guy and laughed and acted silly. At some point the sun began to rise, and we grabbed the camera and shot Felicity for the scene where she's going back to see Anton at the end. Nothing will ever top that flight — just being together, a family on a journey, not knowing or caring about the outcome.

The whole filmmaking process was that organic and pure. When it was done, and we were accepted to Sundance, I couldn't believe it. Felicity and I were older than Anton, but he was the most experienced filmmaker among all of us, so he was chill about the whole thing and showed us the way. In Park City in January 2011, we had the time of our lives, sharing our journey with audiences. It was the most exciting and magical week of my life — and it was incredible to share that with Anton.

It's hard to comprehend that he's gone. He was limitless. He was dynamic. He was smart. He cared about the right things. He was an artist in the truest sense: He didn't do movies for any reason other than because he loved a character and wanted to be in its skin. He could have and would have done anything he wanted to do — and done it well.

It breaks my heart that he won't get the chance. But after talking with Felicity and trying to comprehend everything, I just feel so grateful that he was in our lives. He changed our lives.

In addition to Like Crazy, which won Sundance's dramatic grand jury prize in 2011, Doremus has directed such films as Douchebag (2010), Breathe In (2013) and Equals (2016).

This story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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