Anton Yelchin is known to most as Chekov from Star Trek and Charlie from Charlie Bartlett, but to me, he was my first love. We met at school in the San Fernando Valley in 2001; Anton was 11, and I was 12. We naturally gravitated toward one another and became fast friends. He welcomed me into his friendship circle with open arms, and our relationship quickly turned into a young romance. We would talk on our parents’ landlines every day until they’d kick us off and play games online whenever we both had dial-up available.
The success of Anton’s first leading role in Hearts In Atlantis led to rapid growth in his acting career, and he was passionate about studying new film genres and directors. In sixth grade, he couldn’t wait to show me his favorite movie by Stanley Kubrick. I had no knowledge of film outside of Disney movies and the Star Wars trilogy, so I was excited to get a glimpse of what great filmmaking looked like through Anton’s eyes. He pressed play on his VHS player and the screen flashed: A Clockwork Orange. As the movie played, I sat in shock and confusion while Anton enjoyed the strange, incomprehensible film with a visible passion.
Later that year, Anton was filming in Vancouver and had been gone for what felt like months when we agreed over the phone to just be friends. It was a calm, understanding, rational conversation and mutual decision. Most kids might feel uncomfortable and avoid each other at school, but when Anton returned from filming, we were closer than ever.
At 14, my first summer job was walking distance from Anton’s house at a country club where he became a frequent visitor. We were too young to drive, so we would search for abandoned golf carts throughout the property and take them for joyrides. On one of our adventures, he gave me my nickname: “Seduko.” I couldn’t say Antosha properly, so I began calling him “Antoosh.” Whenever he would change his phone number or screen name he would simply type “Seduko,” and I’d reply “Antoosh?” and we knew we’d connected. I have his nickname for me tattooed at the bend of my left arm.
In 2006, I graduated a year ahead of Anton, and we slowly lost touch. Every now and then I’d search for him on social media, but I knew his account would be under a pseudonym, so I never tried very hard. In mid-June of 2016, I was working as a photo producer in L.A. when I discovered Anton’s photography Instagram account. His work was beautiful; I followed him right away and beamed at the thought of reconnecting with him.
On June 19, 2016, I was producing a shoot in Las Vegas when I got a notification that read “Anton Yelchin, ‘Star Trek’ Actor, Dies at 27 After His Car Pins Him Against Mailbox at L.A. Home.” I collapsed on set and felt myself shatter inside. I attended his funeral and visited him regularly at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but I was far from reconciling losing someone at such a young age who always felt destined to remain in my life.
Three years following Anton’s tragic and unexpected passing came Love, Antosha, a beautiful and honest documentary celebrating Anton’s life and spirit. Directed by Garret Price, the film provides a window into Anton’s extraordinary mind, the lives he touched, and highlights his fearless artistic expression and desire to live life to the fullest, in spite of his private health battles.
Love, Antosha shows an unbreakable bond between Anton and his parents, Irina and Victor, a relationship that embodies love, honesty, and vulnerability. Throughout our friendship, I recall Irina’s concern over Anton’s health and stress levels. Most people, myself included, were unaware that Anton was battling Cystic Fibrosis. His parents now run a foundation in his honor called the Anton Yelchin Foundation, which supports and empowers young adults who are engaged in the arts and living with a disease or disability. The foundation offers grants and has donated $1 million to the USC medical center where Anton was treated, which is now called the USC Anton Yelchin Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.
The film celebrates Anton’s lesser-known successes in music and photography. The soundtrack is made up entirely of songs by Anton and The Hammerheads. Following the release of the film, a book of his photography was published and all proceeds support the Anton Yelchin Foundation.
Love, Antosha captured Anton’s perspective—that same sense of wonder and curiosity that I fell in love with as a child. As I departed the New York screening last week, I was overcome with a sense of creativity and fearlessness that I can only attribute to my long lost friend.
Originally Appeared on Vogue