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‘Green Room’ Director Remembers Anton Yelchin: ‘There’s Nothing More Valuable Than Good People’

Jeremy Saulnier shares his memories of the late actor and how he changed his relationship to filmmaking.

“Green Room”

Editor’s note: The following thoughts were shared with IndieWire by “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier. The actor passed away suddenly at the age of 27.

Anton was a dream. He was kind and sharp and as sincere as anyone I’ve ever known. Our collaboration on “Green Room” was our first and, until the devastating news of his passing, wouldn’t have been our last.

I put a lot on his shoulders when I asked him to play my lead, but he carried the cinematic weight like a goddamn champion. Not only did he bring a delicate balance of tragic vulnerability and intense physicality to his character on screen, he offered his unending generosity and patience off-screen.

In an industry governed by Excel sheets and foreign sales estimates, Anton reminded me that there’s nothing more valuable than good people. He put me back in the comfort zone I knew growing up, making backyard films with best friends, and created a protective bubble where creativity could thrive.

Decompressing from our recent press tour together, he treated me to dinner. I was telling him how amazing it was to find such a young cast (25 and under) with so much talent and experience. It was lightning in a bottle, and we captured it. Soon, I said, you kids will be playing good guys and bad guys, husbands and wives. But we got your youth on screen, we archived it. It felt like a mission accomplished.

READ MORE: Anton Yelchin (1989 — 2016): A Career Retrospective in Photos

Looking ahead, Anton asked my advice on his directorial debut which he hoped to shoot this summer. I was happy to share my experience and, frankly, I was flattered to engage in a Mentor-Mentee relationship with such an exceptional talent.

We spoke about his career in general. While Anton was a notorious over-thinker on set about character analysis and tracking his performance, he was a bold and reckless adventurer when it came to saying “yes” to projects. I advised him to maybe slow down, to not say “yes” to so many projects and instead try out a more targeted strategy.

Upon reflection this morning, not only did I realize that my advice was totally lame and that he was right all along, I realized who the “Mentor” actually was in our relationship. Here’s to bold and reckless adventure, and most importantly, Good People.


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