LOS ANGELES — Anton Yelchin, a rising actor best known for playing Chekov in the new Star Trek films, was killed by his own car as it rolled backward down his driveway early Sunday, police and his publicist said.
The car pinned Yelchin, 27, against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence at his home in Studio City, according to Los Angeles police Officer Jenny Hosier. He had gotten out of the vehicle momentarily, but police did not say why he was behind it when it started rolling.
Yelchin was on his way to meet friends for a rehearsal, Hosier said. When he didn’t show up, the group came to his home and found him dead.
The freak accident tragically cuts short the promising career of an actor whom audiences were still getting to know.
Yelchin began acting as a child, taking small roles in independent films and various television shows, such as ER, The Practice, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. His breakout big-screen role came opposite Anthony Hopkins in 2001’s Hearts in Atlantis.
He transitioned into teenage roles in films such as the crime thriller Alpha Dog and the teen comedy Charlie Bartlett. He also played a young Kyle Reese in 2009’s Terminator Salvation.
Yelchin, an only child, was born in Russia. His parents were professional figure skaters who moved the family to the United States when Yelchin was a baby. He briefly flirted with skating lessons, too, before discovering that he wasn’t very skilled on the ice. That led him to acting class.
“I loved the improvisation part of it the most, because it was a lot like just playing around with stuff. There was something about it that I just felt completely comfortable doing and happy doing,” Yelchin told The Associated Press in 2011 while promoting the romantic drama Like Crazy. He starred opposite Felicity Jones.
“(My father) still wanted me to apply to college and stuff, and I did,” Yelchin said. “But this is what I wanted.”
His biggest role to date has been in the rebooted Star Trek films as the heavily accented navigator Chekov, for which he was able to draw on his Russian roots. The third film in the series, Star Trek Beyond, comes out in July.
“What’s great about him is he can do anything. He’s a chameleon. He can do bigger movies or smaller, more intimate ones,” Like Crazy director Drake Doremus told the AP in 2011. “There are a lot of people who can’t, who can only do one or the other. … That’s what blows my mind.”
Yelchin transitioned between the big sci-fi franchise and voicing a part for The Smurfs. He also appeared in more eccentric and artier fare, like Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive and Jeremy Saulnier’s horror thriller Green Room, a cult favourite that came out earlier this year.
The actor’s publicist, Jennifer Allen, confirmed his death and said his family requests privacy.