Anton Yelchin discusses the film's story, working with Nick Cassavetes and what he hopes viewers take away from the movie
Having shared the screen with Anthony Hopkins, Larry David, Donald Sutherland and Robert Downey Jr. among others, Anton Yelchin has accomplished quite a lot for his 18 years. We recently had a chance to sit down and discuss his work in one of the most powerful films of the year, Alpha Dog. Playing Zack Mazursky he unwittingly gets caught up in a fatal feud between his brother Jake (Ben Foster) and rival drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch).
Alpha Dog is one of those movies that maybe didn't find a huge audience in the theater, but should find a big life and become something of a classic in the home video realm.
Why do you think the characters in this film ultimately killed your character? I only ask because it seemed like they had options, they knew they had options, yet they chose to ignore them?
Anton Yelchin: Well, I think those guys are really paranoid, you know? Paranoid and, to be honest, not really that intelligent. They're just paranoid, not thinking people and ultimately apathetic enough not to care that they're just taking this kid's life. They just didn't care. I don't like putting people in categories of good people, bad people, there's good and bad in everyone, it's just how much you care to let either out, you know? They just didn't give a sh*t. You don't kill a person if you actually care.
It seems like after they kill your character they don't even realize what they've done? It's like business as usual.
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, not at all. They were just kind of dumb people.
What attracted you to this script?
Anton Yelchin: I thought it was really honest and it's sort of like an extraordinarily tragic story. At the same time it's very captivating because of that. It seemed really spot on with the environment that Nick (Cassavetes; the Director) created in the script and I wanted to work on it.
Speaking about that, I am huge Nick Cassavetes fan but even more than that, I am a big fan of his father, John.
Anton Yelchin: I love his dad, yeah of course.
What's it like working with Nick Cassavetes? Are you familiar with his dad's films? Did he ever talk about him on the set?
Anton Yelchin: 'm familiar with his dad's work. I saw The Notebook and I saw She's So Lovely, that Nick made. Nick is a really, really powerful individual, just his presence. I was just thinking about whether his father was he the same, talking to Nick about his dad, obviously his dad was a huge influence on him.
Did a lot of bonding occur both on-screen and off with you and the other characters?
Anton Yelchin: Off, they worked together a lot. They did a whole work out thing that I kept away from just so I could feel the thing of beginning to bond with them through working with them, you know? Because the character comes into their group.
How much research did you do into your character and the story of Jesse James Hollywood?
Anton Yelchin: Well, I researched as much as I could. I talked to a historian and I looked online and found out as much as I could about the family dynamic. Then everything else, I thought, was in the script. Everything that I needed.
It's interesting, I thought that Justin Timberlake was excellent in this film. However, it seems like people may not have seen it because they saw it as a "Justin Timberlake" movie, when the truth is that it is an ensemble piece. It might have been marketing, I was just curious what you thought about that because he is great here. However, maybe too much was made of him being in the movie?
Anton Yelchin: For me, I always thought that the reason that people would want to see this film, for me especially and people in L.A., and for people in suburbia... any form of suburbia would be interested in seeing this. Because it's about suburban kids, you know? That's how I thought people would see it when they saw the trailer, that's how I thought they would react to it because it was always marketed like that. I never thought about it that way.
What would you like people to take away from viewing Alpha Dog
Anton Yelchin: I think it's important to note that a lot of this story is about people not giving a sh*t, you know? Just a total lack of altruism. Just people that are so apathetic that they would ignore a kidnapping, that they would kill somebody, they don't sympathize with each other. Whole families are just absolutely islands, you know? Its sort of like people who aren't really communicating, nobody really cares about each other, that's what I think the film is really about. That's the reason this kid got killed. It's just all this misunderstanding because everybody's totally apathetic.
What are you working on next?
Anton Yelchin: Right now, a film I worked on called Charlie Bartlett, it's coming out in August with Robert Downey Jr.. A film I worked on with Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland awhile ago is finally coming out called, Fierce People.
Alpha Dog comes to DVD May 1 from Universal Home Entertainment.
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