Anton Yelchin’s Parents Remember Their Kind, Talented Son: ‘Have the Courage to Do What You Love Most’
The new documentary “Love, Antosha” is dedicated to the life and career of actor Anton Yelchin, who died tragically at 27. Here, his parents write about their gifted son.
Love, Antosha is a celebration of our son, Anton Yelchin. It is a reminder of his talent and his goodness. It is a love letter from those who knew him best, a coming-of-age story, and, most of all, an exploration of his love for all kinds of art and the people who were close to him. And, as the filmmakers often point out, it’s also an immigrant story. We arrived in the United States on September 13, 1989. The moment when we were first standing on American soil, with our infant son in our hands, is a memory that will be with us forever.
We were living in Leningrad when we found out we were going to have a baby. Life in Russia in the '80s was difficult: grocery stores were empty with long lines outside; people waited for supplies to arrive for hours. The only thing that was still on the shelves was liquor—and people drank more than ever, often becoming aggressive. But even with all the hardships, the thought that we would soon have a baby gave us hope. Irina had read the book written by the famous American pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who wrote that pregnant women should surround themselves with beauty and art. Irina made it her mission to expose Anton to all the most beautiful places in Leningrad—the Hermitage Museum, the Russian Museum, the Summer Garden, the Kirov Ballet—knowing that our child could feel it, could see it, could sense it. We listened to Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Mozart, Paganini… and the Beatles. After visiting Victor’s brother in the United States we decided that, with these hardships and the rise of anti-Semitism, as soon as Anton was born, we would leave for good.
We had been successful in our careers as figure skaters with a condo, country house, and a car, as well as jewelry and other possessions, but much of what we had we couldn’t take with us because it legally belonged to the government. We sold everything we could and exchanged it for U.S. currency on the black market (banks in Russia would not provide this service at the time). For all that we earned and all that we had from our life in Russia, we were left with only $8,000. But it didn’t matter how little we came away with; we didn’t need it. We had Antosha.
As celebrated figure skaters in the Soviet Union, we were lucky that it didn’t take long to find work in the United States. We met with an agent, Michael Rosenberg, who got us our first show in the States in Atlantic City—our only request was that our 7-month-old son travel with us always. During those first two years skating Anton was our companion, our other teammate.
We had settled in Los Angeles, and introduced Anton to a lot at a young age—museums at age 2, good music and reading by age 5, and photography—all of which helped him grow intellectually. He was a very intelligent young man. His imagination was big, and his ability to absorb everything in his world was even bigger. He had so much energy. A friend suggested bringing Anton to an acting workshop to help channel his creativity. His teachers saw in him a talent and recommended introducing him to the audition process. We wanted to encourage Anton, but it was hard finding time to take him to all the casting calls and shoots when we both worked full-time to support our family. Still, we saw this was a way for Anton to do what he loved, and we made it a priority.
He started getting jobs early on for commercials and television shows, but his real love was film. Once he declared that this was what he wanted to devote his life and career to, we made sure to introduce Anton to the “good films,” and he dove headfirst into all classic cinema. He logged each film in his journals from childhood—annotating scripts, identifying directors’ visual influences, and coming up with his own critiques from such a young age. This was a hobby that was born into a passion, and that passion only grew with time. He had a childlike curiosity on-set, but was so mature in how he absorbed his learnings from other actors, writers, cameramen, and stunt performers.
But there was something else about Anton that made him special. Every parent tries to raise a good human being by teaching their kids how to behave, telling them what’s right and what’s wrong. But feelings cannot be taught. When we reminisce about Anton’s kindness, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness, which resided in him all his life, we understand that he was simply born with the sweetest heart and an “old soul.”
I was a very lucky mother. Even when he turned 18 and Anton was allowed to be on set alone, he would call and ask if I could spend some time with him because he missed me. The last time that I visited him on set was for 5 to 7 in New York. We had such a good time. He was an amazing son, and our best friend.
For us, love is the most important thing: love of family and of friendship. We brought Anton with us from the Soviet Union to start over, to search for a new opportunity. Anton never forgot that, and never let a moment go to waste. The name of this film, Love, Antosha, comes from the constant letters, emails, notes, and thank you cards that Anton would send us—always signed, “Love, Antosha.”
With the help of his friends and collaborators, with director Garret Price and producers Drake Doremus (who previously directed Anton in Like Crazy) and Adam Gibbs, we keep spreading this message of Anton’s love. By seeing Love, Antosha, we hope you get the chance to learn a bit more about him, and what made him special. Mostly, we hope that you take Anton’s example, and have the courage to do what you love most in the world.
Irina & Victor Yelchin