Yelchin & Howard talk Terminator Salvation

Audiences first became aware of Anton Yelchin with his small roles in films such as "Along Came A Spider," "Hearts Of Atlantis" and the Showtime series, "Huff." But it was his work in independent films like "House Of D," "Alpha Dog" and "Charlie Bartlett" where Hollywood first took notice. Now the actor is taking on two huge Sci-Fi roles in two of this summer's biggest movies. First up, he'll portray young Pavel Chekov in "Star Trek," the role originated by Walter Koenig in the classic TV series. Following that, he will be starring in "Terminator Salvation" as the pivotal role of Kyle Reese, one of John Connor's faithful disciples who also happens to be his father. Actor Michael Bieh noriginated the role of Reese in 1984's "The Terminator," the first film of the series.

Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of accomplished actor and director Ron Howard ("Happy Days," "Angels & Demons"), came to prominence in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" and "Lady in the Water." But it was her turn as Peter Parker's love interest, Gwen Stacey, in "Spider-Man 3" that caught the attention of fanboys everywhere. Now the actress is taking on the important role of Kate Connor, wife of human resistance leader John Connor (a role originated by Claire Danes in "Terminator 3"), in this summer's "Terminator Salvation."

CBR News had the opportunity to speak with Yelchin and Howard this past February at WonderCon in San Francisco. The young actors talked about the new film, their roles, working with Christian Bale, and some of their other fan-favorite projects including "Star Trek," "Spider-Man 4" and, possibly, "Green Lantern."

CBR: Anton, you're taking on two very iconic sci-fi roles this summer as both Kyle Reese in "Terminator Salvation" and as Pavel Chekov in "Star Trek." Were you able to take anything from the original actors' performances that you could incorporate into yours and make your own?

Anton Yelchin: Well, with Kyle Reese, because I'm such a huge fan of "Terminator," there was no way I was going into this movie and not having that Kyle Reese be in this film. I think there is a tendency in heroes when they're younger to see them start off weak and get stronger and I just thought that was bullshit. I was like, you can't do that with this character. You can't have a week Kyle Reese that then becomes a hero. He's got to be a hero from the start. He's got to be that same character. So, I thought, what then could I change? How can I bring the same anger and fragility to it? You see a lot of fragility in him with that scene with the picture of Sarah Connor. And just this general complexity with this kid, how can I stretch certain parts of it? What I thought was maybe being part of the resistance has given him this foundation to consolidate his emotions and know exactly what he's fighting for. Because in our film he's just surviving, really his whole goal is survival. Survival and fighting the machines is sort of this independent entity when the film starts.

So I thought it would be interesting to see, maybe he's even more emotionally vulnerable. Maybe he gets angry a little easier. Maybe he's a little more defensive because he doesn't have that target or goal that he's working with. You know when you're young -- and I'm thinking about myself-- I don't think in twenty years I'm going to be getting angry the same way I do now. I'll hopefully have been able to control myself. Who knows, I could go insane. The point is there is a change that occurs in terms of your ability to deal with your emotions. So that was my goal. To sort of push those and have him be just as heroic, just as angry, just as powerful and just as passionate [as he was in the first film] but maybe see that he does spend his life watching people die and try to survive from being hunted all the time.

And with Chehkov, I just fully embraced Chekov. I just think it's a wonderful character. I think there is no point to losing the potential within Chekov just by making him a Russian kid. Chekov is a Cold War stereotype meets Davy Jones. It's that thing and you have to take as much from it as you can. That energy he has and perhaps the comedy relief that he has is something I think you fully embrace. Both of these performances, I think I'm very lucky to have them.

Did either Michael Biehn or Walter Koenig ever contact you?

AY: I didn't speak to Michael Biehn but I did speak to Walter. Walter came on set, actually, wearing a Mickey Mouse jacket. We talked and thankfully it was after I shot everything because I was paranoid as all hell that he was going to come and hate it. But he came on set and he really enjoyed it. He's pleased with the character. He said it sounded like him. He said it embodied what he did and he was very complementary. I was really touched that he even came to set and that he was interested. Also I just I bugged him for all these little things about the cast.

Did he share with you any good stories?

AY: He told me some interesting things. He spoke very highly of Leonard Nimoy and told me some fascinating things about William Shatner. He just basically told me how well the crew got along. But he spoke very, very highly of Leonard Nimoy. We did a photo shoot and I had the pleasure of being there for a couple of hours with Leonard Nimoy. You can tell what a gentle and intelligent soul he is.

You started your career in independent films and the Showtime series "Huff." Did you ever think that it would suddenly be the summer of 2009 and you would be playing such iconic roles in two of the most anticipated movies of the summer?

AY: No. I mean, it's very odd to find yourself on a picture that doesn't take five weeks to shoot. Seriously, I was really honored and very proud to be a part of both of these films. I think at the same time, though, I saw some things that I was so amazed by. If you had brought five-year-old me on the set of "The Terminator" I would have lost my shit. It's an amazing world and I was such a huge fan when I was younger. I still am a fan. It's really an incredible world in terms of Stan Winston, models, effects and guns. I mean it's great. The character work is the same. It's the same process of finding out who you want this person to be and developing that person. So it's an interesting balance because on one hand you have all these things that I have never experienced before and on the other hand I just fall into a familiar pattern or whatever my pattern is for working on it.

Bryce, you're also taking on a role that was originated by someone else. What were you able to bring to the role of Kate that made the part fresh and new for you?

Bryce Dallas Howard: As it was written, this job for me was a wonderful surprise. ["Terminator Salvation" director] McG invited me into this and then a few days later I was on set. So everything that was written was fantastic. In addition to that, Claire Danes did a wonderful job in "Terminator 3" and there was a lot to gleam from that performance that could be used. It was kind of like the back-story was given to me. But also, McG and Christian were always mining the scenes trying to find more. So there were some really incredible discoveries just about the fact that she's now a doctor and the character is seven months pregnant. So they literally and metaphorically are trying to create a future for humanity.

Is it more difficult as an actress to act in a big action film like this, as opposed to some of the smaller films you've done?

BDH: No, but that's really McG's responsibility. A director is responsible for the rhythm of the piece. It's like conducting a symphony. What moments to bring up the flute, where the flute can be heard and then what moments to bring the orchestra all together in a big swell. So I had a lot of faith in him and I've seen footage and it's really excellent. So he's great.

Do you know yet if you will be appearing in the next Spider-Man film?

BDH: I have absolutely no idea. I've said this before, and they were always very candid with me about the fact that there are a lot of stories that they can tell with this franchise. Typically after three films they like to reinvent things and stir them up. As a fan I'm really excited that it seems to look like there'll probably be another film but as far as whether or not my character is involved, I still don't know.

Would you like to be in "Spider-Man 4?"

BDH: Oh, if they ever felt that it was appropriate in terms of the trajectory of the story and where it was going, of course, absolutely. But I'm first a fan and I really trust [director] Sam [Raimi] and I trust that group. I know he has a vision for what he wants to create.

Anton, can you talk about the rumors about you being considered for the role of Hal Jordan in a Green Lantern movie?

AY: Yeah. I have no idea about that? What do I say? I have no idea. I think I'm probably too young. No one's said anything to me so I imagine I'm just too young. It's a great character but I don't know anything about it. It's completely untrue. I haven't heard anything about it.

Finally, you've worked with both Iron Man -- Robert Downey Jr. -- in "Charlie Bartlett" and now Batman -- Christian Bale - in "Terminator Salvation." What have you learned from them that has improved your work as an actor?

AY: Well, when I worked with Robert, I was just so amazed by his total and complete embodiment of his character and then the freedom that comes once you are that character. Once you know him and you know him better than you know yourself, there are things about yourself that you may discover in time. You do all this work and now you have this character and there is a freedom that comes with it. Now that you have this person, now that you know whatever they can do, you can do whatever. It's like adding rooms to a house.

Then with Christian, I just really admire his dedication and his concentration. It's the same thing. It's the same concept that you see in great actors. I think it's just what great actors do. They develop characters and then they have the freedom within their character to bring that to whatever they do. You know, I was watching this thing on "Taxi Driver" where Robert DeNiro talks about Martin Scorsese and how much work they both did and then once he did all that work there was this freedom and they could just go and no mistakes would be made at that point.

It really is an honor to work with people that improve you and make you better. Working with this whole cast has really been wonderful because I'm young and you just keep learning. It's a learning process and I think this craft grows with you. When you work with great actors it just pushes you forward and the growing process goes faster.

"Terminator Salvation" opens May 21.

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