No Babe in the Woods
By James Servin
“I feel like John Wayne,” says 18-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, after wolfing down a rack of ribs, a large fries, and a super-sized root beer at Rib Ranch, his favorite local restaurant in dune-buggy Topanga, California.
He’s got a right to swagger a bit these days. At age 11, he co-starred alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins in Hearts In Atlantis. He played a young version of David Duchovny in House of D. And he stepped into the skin of 15-year-old kidnapping-murder victim Nicholas Markowitz in Alpha Dog, giving Justin Timberlake a run for his Benjamins. (He also bears a slight resemblance to the young Frank Sinatra).
Now Yelchin scores his first leading role, as the titular character in this month’s comic drama Charlie Bartlett. In a clever updating of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Yelchin plays a wealthy delinquent who gets thrown out of private school and makes friends at his new public school by selling pills that he gets from his shrink. Yelchin is thoroughly winning in a part that requires him to sing, dance, do physical comedy (including a Ritalin-fueled, near-streaking sequence in his underwear), and hold his own against gifted costars Robert Downey Jr. (playing the high school principal) and Hope Davis, who is stellar as his mother.
For the record, Yelchin says he’s never taken anything stronger than Valerian root, DayQuil, and “antibiotics, if I have a cold.” This fall he enrolls at USC to study filmmaking, and says he’d love to create an independent film masterpiece on the order of Buffalo 66. “Vincent Gallo is so cool,” Yelchin gushes. “He’s a lunatic, and brilliant. I’d love to be like him.” Hopefully, on-screen fellatio isn’t part of “the dream.”
Photo by Darcy Hemley