Roundtable Interview With Anton Yelchin On The Beaver

The Beaver premiered at Austin’s SXSW film fest last week, and co-star Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) took the time to sit down and discuss the film. The film stars Jodie Foster (who also directed) and Mel Gibson, and portrays the emotional journey of a family man who deals with his depression by using a beaver hand puppet. Gibson plays Walter Black, a psychologically challenged father and husband, and Yelchin plays his oldest son Porter. Porter is terrified of ending up like his father, and spends most of the movie trying to distance himself. Check out the interview below, audio version included at the end of the page.

The beaver hand puppet becomes a character in and of itself. Yelchin said that Gibson’s character replaces himself with a talking beaver, and for his character “there’s some level of hurt that comes with having to deal with that, that he just ignores it. So for me, I was acting with Mel or Jodie like I never even…the beaver was just a toy to me. But whereas for Riley (Riley Thomas Stewart) the beaver is real, and he actually interacts with the beaver.”

Yelchin talks about the smaller movies he’s done versus the bigger movies. He’s been in indie films like Alpha Dog and Charlie Butler and big studio films like Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. “It’s been great. I mean honestly I think it’s mostly about the characters I find interesting, the opportunities I find interesting. I don’t really discriminate in terms of oh I want to do a big movie or a small movie…I think Like Crazy was really interesting to me, The Beaver was really interesting…Fright Night is a studio movie and I did that back to back, from a tiny movie to kind of a larger film. It’s mostly about the character and the people involved, they offer different kinds of opportunities and they are definitely different kinds of filmmaking experiences. I went from shooting on simple technology on Like Crazy to a 3D rig on Fright Night. It’s just different kind of worlds but it’s still the same job.”

When asked about Star Trek 2, Yelchin said, “I’m stoked, I’m excited to get with those people again and do that again, because it’s a really great group of people…the cast and crew, and J.J. and his whole crew, and they’re really great. Yeah it will be fun, it will be fun to do the research again and sort of refresh my memory as to the character and the accent and all the work I did, I’ll probably dig out the old script and go through the notes and stuff again just to build that up again.” He said he doesn’t know when it will start shooting but he’s been told sometime in the Fall.

Yelchin said working with Jodie Foster and other amazing people has been inspirational to him. “I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve been able to work with really amazing people since I was a little kid, and they don’t really give like advice but just their presence is inspirational…it teaches you a lot from how they behave on set to how they treat people around them to their process…I mean watching Jodie direct, I think she’s so brilliant in terms of the way she directs she’s just very specific but not controlling. Like she’ll give you direction and then give you all that room to go and play with that and see where that takes you. She’s so respectful of actors, because once she casts you she trusts you to do the job that she cast you for. But it’s great, like just how grounded she is, how polite she is, how intelligent she is.

Speaking on working with Mel Gibson he said, “Watching actors work is just so interesting. Mel is such a free actor, once he inhabits that space, magical things happen all over the place, that aren’t in the script. They’re just real things that come out of his knowledge of the character….It’s a pity that he had to go through all this because his performance was just so great. It would be a shame if people could not overcome however they feel about his personal life and see his performance for what it is. It’s so touching and honest. It’s such a difficult role and I think it’s great. An actor’s job is to act, not live out his personal life for millions of people. At the end of the day, his personal life is not any of our business. Our business is his movies and his performance. He deserves the recognition for this movie because it’s a very intense role.”

Co-star Jennifer Lawrence also starred with Yelchin in Like Crazy, the two seem to have good chemistry and Yelchin was asked about their working relationship. “Jen’s great. We got to be friends pretty quickly. I feel very lucky to have worked with her twice. She’s an amazing actress and a great person. I’m really happy for her, she deserves it. She’s just so real and very talented and smart and grounded. Grounded in a sense that she’s just a very strong, intelligent person. We had a great time on both films and it was just so comfortable. We knew how each other worked. I hope I can work with her again.”

On his upcoming role in the Fright Night remake and the original film, Yelchin said, “Actually I watched Fright Night when I was going to do the film and I love it now. It’s a great piece of filmmaking. It’s not just a horror movie from the 80s, it’s somewhere between a Fassbinder movie but not as mean spirited…it’s just got that weird Cronenberg feeling of being over the top, like bizarre and campy. I think it’s a great film, it’s so smart, and this one definitely borrows from that–not the camp, but the sort of self-conscious, self-reflective elements.”

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Anton very much. Be sure to check out The Beaver when it hits theatres on May 20, 2011. Also, remember to check out our review on The Beaver if you haven’t already.