Anton Yelchin, best known for playing Chekov in the new Star Trek films, has died. He was 27.
The actor was killed in a car accident early Sunday morning, his publicist, Jennifer Allen, confirmed.
The accident happened around 1:10 a.m. at Yelchin’s home in Studio City, LAPD spokeswoman Jenny Houser told The Hollywood Reporter. “It appears he momentarily exited his car and it rolled backward, causing trauma that led to his death,” said Houser.
Yelchin was on his way to meet his friends for rehearsal and when he didn’t respond, his friends went to check on him. The actor was found pinned between the car and the fence and a mailbox pillar.
Yelchin stars in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, which is set to open July 22. The film’s studio, Paramount Pictures, released a statement on Yelchin’s death:
All of us at Paramount join the world in mourning the untimely passing of Anton Yelchin. As a member of the Star Trek family, he was beloved by so many and he will missed by all. We share our deepest condolences with his mother, father and family.
Star Trek director J.J. Abrams posted a tribute to the actor through his Bad Robot Productions Twitter page. He tweeted a photo of a handwritten note which reads, “You were brilliant. You were kind. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you weren’t here nearly long enough. Missing you. JJ“
— Bad Robot (@bad_robot) June 19, 2016
Yelchin in May signed on to co-star in DirecTV/the Audience Network’s 10-episode straight-to-series Stephen King adaptation Mr. Mercedes. Producer David E. Kelley told THR Yelchin was to portray Brady Hartsfield, a mentally deranged ice cream truck driver and IT worker for Cyber Patrol (aka Geek Squad) who is secretly the Mercedes Killer. The drama is slated to premiere in 2018 on both DirecTV and AT&T Uverse.
“We are devastated to learn of the tragic death of Anton Yelchin,” a spokeswoman for DirecTV/Audience Network said in a statement. “We greatly admired his talent and were very much looking forward to working with him on Mr. Mercedes. Everyone at AT&T and Audience Network extends our deepest condolences. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
It remains unclear how Yelchin’s death will impact the series.
Yelchin began acting as a child, both in films and television, including in Steven Spielberg’s Emmy-award-winning TV series Taken, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in late 2002. The prolific actor starred in several films released in 2001, including Along Came a Spider, but garnered the most recognition for Hearts in Atlantis.
In 2006, Yelchin received widespread acclaim for Alpha Dog, a crime thriller drawing from the real-life story of kidnap and murder victim Nicholas Markowitz.
Paramount was particularly impressed with the young actor; the studio and Abrams cast him to play Chekov in their reinvigorated Star Trek series, the first of which hit theaters in 2009. Yelchin reprised the role in Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013 and will be seen posthumously in Star Trek Beyond. (Justin Lin took over directing duties from Abrams on the third film.)
Yelchin also devoted his time to a number of smaller and independent films, including Jodie Foster’s The Beaver (2011).
“Anton … What a rare and beautiful soul with his unstoppable passion for life,” Foster said in a statement. “He was equal parts serious thinker and the most fun little brother you could ever dream of. I am so honored to have been able to direct such a deep actor, so committed and genuine. I will forever be grateful for all of those little exchanges we shared, his contagious enthusiasm, his questions, his company. My heart breaks for his mom and dad who were a part of every anecdote. He carried their love into everything he touched.”
Yelchin starred opposite Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence in the 2011 indie film Like Crazy, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Paramount’s specialty division, Paramount Vantage, picked up the movie and gave it a limited release at the box office, where it earned north of $3.4 million.
Drake Doremus, who co-wrote and directed Like Crazy, was reached by THR shortly after the news broke. “I’m still in shock,” he said. “I’m having a hard time processing it. I just woke up and saw it online and thought it was a hoax, you know, like some of these things are. Then I talked to some people who confirmed it and it’s just devastating.”
He continued: “Everyone’s devastated. I spoke to Felicity, who is very devastated and very upset. And Jon Schwartz [the film’s producer]. You just try to touch base with all the people you love and who changed your life, and he certainly changed all our lives.”
Yelchin also starred in Rudderless (2014) for director William H. Macy; Michael Almereyda’s Cymbeline (2015), which made its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival; and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Broken Horses (2015). Major studio offerings in recent years outside of Star Trek included DreamWork’s Fright Night remake (2011), directed by Craig Gillespie, and Sony’s animated franchise The Smurfs.
Pamela McClintock, Lesley Goldberg and Scott Feinberg contributed to this report.