Love, Antosha, a new documentary about the late Anton Yelchin, will make its debut at the Sundance Film Festival on January 28.
The film features interviews with those with whom Yelchin worked; including Kristen Stewart, J.J. Abrams, Chris Pine, Jennifer Lawrence, Jodie Foster, John Cho, and Martin Landau.
One of Yelchin’s co-stars, Jon Voight, gave Anton’s parents the idea to make the documentary after they told him that they didn’t “see any reason to live anymore…our whole life is over.”
Voight replied, “Why? You have to live. Make a documentary and keep his memory alive.”
Anton’s parents reached out to J.J. Abrams for advice on how to make the documentary. Abrams “suggested that someone who actually knew Anton should work on the project,” and they contacted Drake Doremus, who had directed Like Crazy, one of Yelchin’s “most beloved projects.”
But Doremus felt that he had been too close to Yelchin to make the movie – they had become friends while shooting Like Crazy. So he suggested Garret Price, who had not known Yelchin.
“It was so important the filmmaker didn’t know Anton and was objective,” said Doremus. “It’s not like this is a perfect human being. There is so much darkness and truth in this, and that’s what Anton would have loved. He would have loved that it’s the truth, as opposed to a perfectly glossed-over version of a twenty-seven-year-old life.”
The film’s biggest revelation, according to the L.A. Times, was “just how much Anton struggled with cystic fibrosis.” As a child, he “never seemed sick and barely demonstrated any signs of someone with the progressive disease,” so his parents didn’t tell him the “full details of his diagnosis,” that “CF patients have a life expectancy of around thirty-seven, until (Yelchin) was seventeen.”
“I didn’t want to introduce him exactly to what it was,” said Irina Yelchin, “because he was so artistic and so sensitive. I was just afraid that he would go into it and he would get panicked or get affected by it too much. He didn’t even know what it was for real, how difficult and dangerous that illness was. Only after seventeen, eighteen, that’s when we talked, because I said: ‘You can’t go to this club. They are smoking there. You feel good, but it doesn’t mean you cannot get worse.'”
Yelchin “worked hard to stay healthy,” and his co-workers were unaware of his illness. “I spent nine years with him, and I never knew,” said Doremus. “He always had a cough, but I just chalked it up to him just being sick all the time. We had to edit around his cough in Like Crazy — we were like, ‘He’s constantly coughing, what’s going on with this guy?’ We didn’t know. Some of his really good friends didn’t know.”
Price hopes that Love, Antosha will bring comfort to Anton’s grieving parents. “They’re so broken,” he said. “And it’s completely understood why they are: Anton (an only child) was their life. All they want to do is to talk about Anton, and now they have this tool. I hope that they can continue to do that in a different way than just telling stories. They can show something.”
“With this movie, it was difficult because everyone knows the end,” said Irina. “It can’t be changed, and you can’t avoid it. But I think people will love it, because even though everyone knows the end, they’re still smiling and laughing. We had the best baby in the world.”