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Chris Pine, 'Star Trek' Fans Honor Anton Yelchin at Debut of 'Love, Antosha' Trailer

The actor recalls his late co-star powering through stunts despite a quiet battle with cystic fibrosis: "I remember how hard it was for him to get through it. And he never complained," said Pine.

The Star Trek family honored Anton Yelchin on Sunday night.

Chris Pine was among those who attended a 10th anniversary screening of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, the film that relaunched the franchise with a new cast. The event also served as the trailer launch for Love, Antosha, the documentary celebrating the life of the late actor, who played Pavel Chekov in the trilogy and who died in a motor vehicle accident in 2016 before the release of Star Trek Beyond.

“While we were shooting [Star Trek Beyond], especially towards the end, I think we could all tell that something wasn’t right with Anton,” Pine told The Hollywood Reporter at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. “I don’t think anyone knew that he was battling the illness that he was,” he said, referring to Yelchin’s decade-long trials with cystic fibrosis and his secrecy about his struggle.

According to Pine, the disease didn’t stop Yelchin from fully committing to his craft, even when it taxed him. “We had about a week of doing a pretty intense stunt, like a really grueling, physically demanding stunt,” the actor recalled about filming 2016's Star Trek Beyond. “I haven’t actually thought about it until now, but looking back on it, I remember how hard it was for him to get through it. And he never complained.”

“He didn’t use [the disease] to get out of this fight scene, which he could easily have done, obviously,” Pine said.

It’s the kind of fighting spirit that one can find in Yelchin’s performances as Chekov, a spirit that still connects to audiences today. During the screening, when Chekov shouts, “I can do that! I can do that!” and miraculously saves James T. Kirk (Pine) and Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) from plummeting to the surface of Vulcan by beaming them up mid-fall, the crowd erupted into applause. It was the third time that had happened for Yelchin's work in the film, following cheers at the first glimpse of Chekov on the bridge of the Enterprise and cheers at his official introduction. As the film ended and people started to rise, they lingered, waiting through the credits and clapping one last time at the sight of his name.

The Trek fans in the crowd also cheered at the introductions of Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu and Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg). The loudest applause, other than the ones for Yelchin, was for Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime.

Yelchin, who has a statue erected in his honor above his grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, was many things to many people. To late actor Martin Landau, who nearly played Spock all those decades ago and was interviewed for Love, Antosha weeks before his passing, a 61-year age difference didn’t stop a friendship with Yelchin. “Him and Anton, of course, were very close,” Garret Price, director of Love, Antosha, told THR. “Martin calls him a contemporary, which is amazing to think about.”

Price had never met Yelchin before jumping in to helm the documentary.

“There were just so many layers to this human being and I was just fascinated with every corner of him,” said the filmmaker. “It was all new to me and I was given the freedom to really explore his mind a little bit, which is a place where there’s a lot of exploring. You can get lost in it.” But Price quickly caught onto Yelchin’s passion. “He loved cinema so much. He would hate the fact that there’s a movie made about him, but we get to explore these sides of Anton that he loved so much.”

To some fans in attendance, Yelchin was a musician. Right before the screening kicked off, the speakers blasted an original song by his band, the Hammerheads, which, when mentioned, earned shouts of recognition. “I can’t believe that was Anton,” Pine said to the crowd before introducing the trailer and the film. “He played me music about 10 years ago that I think was from his noise band era that was … it was pretty brutal,” he laughed. “But that was a great song.”

To Pine, Yelchin was a friend to share a laugh with and was someone who worked through his illness.

“He took that obstacle, which could’ve flattened clearly anyone, put it aside, compartmentalized it and just went on his merry way and went on with his life with positivity and humor and enthusiasm, all the while he’s battling something," Pine told THR.

To the rest of the Star Trek cast, he was like a young sibling.

“This curious, fascinating, complex, strange little dude who, when we started [Star Trek], he was about 10 years younger than all of us,” Pine told the crowd. “He was kind of our younger brother, and we saw him grow up and continue to get stranger and more curious.”

Curiosity is at the heart of Star Trek. The atmosphere of the screening certainly reflected that — below the stars and a half moon, with fireflies in the air, almost indistinguishable from Abrams’ famous lens flares. And Pine, who was reminded only a day prior to the event that it was the 10th anniversary of the film, also pointed to curiosity in looking back.

“I have deep, deep gratitude for the opportunity to have done it and to be a part of a franchise that’s always been defined by its empathy and its curiosity and its heart and its real attachment to, like every great sci-fi story does, telling now in the future, so we can understand now a bit better," he said.

  • Kyle Kizu
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