The Sacramento Bee
Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hair-straightened actor pleased with his 'House of D' experience

By Iain Blair

When Anton Yelchin was cast by David Duchovny in "House of D" (opening Friday in Sacramento), the ex-"X-Files" star's film debut as a writer and director, it was partly because the then-14 year-old actor looked convincingly like a young version of the character Duchovny plays in the film.

Except for the Hair.

"When I went in to audition for David, I had this huge curly 'fro," Yelchin says. "And when I got the part, he said, 'Either I'll have to have really curly hair like you, or you'll have to straighten it like mine.'"

Yelchin ended up straightening his locks "every day of the shoot." It was a small price to pay, he says, "for the chance to work with people like David and Téa Leoni and Robin Williams in a movie that turned out to be the best experience of my career so far."

Yelchin, whose credits include "Along Came a Spider" and "Hearts in Atlantis," stars as the young Tom Warshaw, a troubled teenager growing up in Greenwich Village in the early 1970s.

The adult Warshaw, an artist living in Paris some 30 years later, looks back at his childhood and reflects on his life and the colorful characters who altered its course, including best friend Pappas (Williams) and Lady (Erykah Badu), and inmate at the Women's House of Detention in the Village.

"It's a coming-of-age story and a very touching and sensitive story about the decisions Tom makes as a young kid, and how those forever change his adult life," Yelchin says. "And it's both really sad and really funny at the same time, which is what I loved about it."

Yelchin, who's now 16, says Duchovny ran a "very warm, friendly set, and even though I was a bit intimidated and nervous at first about meeting and working with someone like Robin Williams, he was the same way as David. They just put you at your ease, so you get over any nerves quickly and just concentrate on the work."

Although the Russian-born Yelchin grew up in Los Angeles, where he still lives, he quickly adapted to the setting and era of "House of D."

"I love New York and the Village, and I also just felt everything about this character, as if it could have been me," he says. "And David's script is so beautifully written. He talked quite a bit about his own childhood and where he grew up in the Village, and I even got to meet his real mom, who visited the set. And for the scene with his French teacher, he even had his old French teacher come and visit us, so there was that real sense of family about the project."

The young actor says that watching Duchovny direct his first film inspired him to adopt a similar goal.

"I'm not so sure about writing scripts, but I'd love to direct one day," he says. "So every set I'm on, I watch and try to learn more and more."

The much-in-demand Yelchin is certainly getting quite an education. He recently wrapped another drama, "Fierce People," directed by Griffin Dunne, in which he stars opposite Diane Lane, as her teenage son, and Donald Sutherland. And he's finishing a major part in "Alpha Dog," a film directed by Nick Cassavetes about a true-life drug murder that took place in Los Angeles.

"It's about Jesse James Hollywood, who just got caught, and I play the murder victim, and it's a pretty grisly, upsetting story, especially as I'm in it the whole way through," he says. "It's just terrible, terrible, what happened, and enough to give you bad dreams at night."

So what's next for Yelchin?

"Not another heavy drama if I can help it," he says, laughing. "I really need to find a silly comedy. I love doing dramas, but I don't want to get typecast as the tormented teen."