There are innumerable cautionary tales about children performers who get lost in the shuffle of the industry as they transition from youth to adulthood, but Yelchin—who was born in the Soviet Union to Jewish parents—has remained consistently active.
Headstrong and whip-smart, the accomplished 27-year-old actor has collaborated with everyone from Jim Jarmusch to Jodie Foster. This week Yelchin can be found as the pivotal character in director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, which follows the story of a punk rock band that gets trapped in (you guessed it) a green room after witnessing a murder at the hands of neo-Nazi skinheads. The ensemble cast also includes Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart as the dubious club owner who wants to see the witnesses eliminated.
THE RED BULLETIN: Was there something about the political nature of the script that attracted you to Green Room?
ANTON YELCHIN: I think every film is political in its form, but not necessarily in its content. I know [director] Jeremy Saulnier did have some political intentions—to have people confront this radical, brutal experience. Radical violence always stems from absolutely absurd sources. What you see in his film is reason pitted against absurdity. That’s the philosophical core of the film—absurdity that defies reason.
Your character—and the rest of the band—respond to their entrapment with action. Do you think we’re hardwired to fight back?
I think human beings are comprised of two very colorful things. We have our id, which is inherently violent and closer to non-existence than our ego, which tries to manifest itself in some form of survival. I think what you see in Patrick Stewart’s character is this pragmatist brutality that stems from the ego, which is rationalized survival. As a result, he has absolutely no respect for the lives of human beings.
You see that throughout history, where ego is trying violently to survive. Are we hardwired to survive in this fashion where we might have to kill people off at the end of the day? We have this tendency to act as though we don’t have these abject instincts. They seem to constantly erupt. Our violence surfaces. We have more tension in us than other animals. Other animals are purely surviving instinctually, but we have a greater capacity for reflection. Humans are an aberration that nature has created to restart itself. We’re always in search for a feeling that satisfies our id.
So humans are an anomaly?
We have anomalous qualities on this planet, definitely.