In “Like Crazy,” the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-start-long distance-relationship story, rising star Anton Yelchin got to do something he wasn’t very used to: improvise.

In “Like Crazy,” the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-start-long distance-relationship story, rising star Anton Yelchin got to do something he wasn’t very used to: improvise.


Until now, the young actor, who first grabbed strong notices in “Hearts in Atlantis” and “House of D,” and is preparing to reprise his role as Chekov in the next “Star Trek” installment, was regularly memorizing lines and finding the right marks for camera set-ups. But a week of rehearsals with his co-star Felicity Jones helped him cover new ground in “Like Crazy,” which was mostly improvised and shot, literally on the run, with portable equipment, over four weeks.


“I did an (improvised) episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ when I was 13,” said Yelchin, 22, last month at the Toronto International Film Festival. “But I hadn’t experienced anything like this, ever. It was very special, very maddening, but a beautiful and amazing experience because you completely lose yourself in the role.”


Yelchin pointed out that he and Jones and writer-director Drake Doremus were going after some spontaneous reality in the film, in which many of the resulting improvised moments consisted of silence rather than dialogue.


“It’s a story about a relationship,” said Yelchin. “And there are so many times when there’s silence in a relationship, whether it’s good silence because you don’t need to be saying anything or a kind of bad, somber silence where you don’t know what to say. But there are also moments where you need to speak, because if you stop speaking you might drop the ball and lose something.”


Technical advancements in equipment allowed the director and actors to do really long takes, some of them running between 20 and 30 minutes. And there were often up to 15 of them done on some scenes. So there was plenty of time to get the characters just right.


Yelchin enjoyed adding all kinds of layers to his Jacob, the L.A. furniture maker who falls for Jones’ London-based poet, Anna.


“You have to have this complete, total understanding of your character,” he explained. “Everything you say has to be that character. There were days when you would do something and Drake would come over and say, ‘Are you sure that’s Jacob, and not you?’ So you step back and think, ‘Oh, of course. I see.’


“The character becomes this other thing, just a human being. That’s why the rehearsals helped so much. We knew what every scene was about and what every person was going through.”


Yelchin, who admitted to being a big fan of the late director Robert Altman’s technique of letting actors interrupt one another, much like people talk in real life, felt comfortable being allowed to do that in “Like Crazy.” He insisted that it added an authenticity to it.


“When you watch an Altman movie and everyone’s talking all over each other, there’s that energy that you can’t help but feel drawn to,” he said. “In an Altman movie, sometimes you lose yourself in how many people are talking over one another, but it feels so real, and you have to pay attention.”


“Like Crazy” maintains a contemporary feel partly due to the means of communication portrayed in it. There are scenes where Jacob in L.A. and Anna in London are in touch with each other only via text messages. Yelchin referred to the phenomenon as surrogate interaction.


“It’s your only way of actually getting together, but it’s so shallow,” he said. “The movie touches on this: You think that by texting somebody, you connect with them. But as long as you’re not physically with that person, there’s still that hole. And that is a very modern thing. That is completely of our culture. Video chat is the biggest tease: You see the person and you hear the person, but they’re just not there.”


The Patriot Ledger