The family moved to the United States from Russia when he was a young child.
Here’s what you need to know about Yelchin’s parents:
1. Viktor & Irina Were Pair Figure Skaters Who Starred at the Leningrad Ice Ballet & Qualified for the 1972 Olympics
Viktor and Irina Korina Yelchin were pair figure skaters in the Soviet Union before they moved to the United States, according to a 1989 Los Angeles Times article about the couple.
They were the stars of the Leningrad Ice Ballet for 15 years and were “national celebrities,” according to the Times.
They qualified for the Olympics in 1972 as the nation’s third-ranked pair team, but weren’t permitted to go because of their religion, according to the Times. The couple is Jewish.
2. They Moved to the United States as Refugees When Anton Was 6 Months Old
Anton Yelchin moved to the United States with his parents when he was six months old. They were granted political refugee status. He grew up in California.
When asked why they moved to the United States to start over, the couple gave a one-word answer to the Los Angeles Times in 1989: “Anton.”
Viktor Yelchin told the newspaper, “We were afraid for our son. It is a very bad situation over there. I would get angry, too–I’d say, ‘Why should we have to buy things on the black market? Why should we have to stand in line?'”
Yelchin was an only child.
3. Yelchin’s Mother Worked as a Choreographer for Figure Skaters
The couple continued to figure skate after moving to the United States. Irina Korina Yelchin, Anton’s mother, eventually became a choreographer for figure skaters, according to a 2009 article in the Pottstown Mercury.
She also helped support her son’s career, often appearing alongside him on the red carpet during his youth and in more recent years.
4. His Father Was a Coach & Was Sasha Cohen’s First Trainer
Viktor Yelchin became a figure skating coach after his own career ended, including at the Pasadena Figure Skating Club.
Yelchin was the first coach for Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, according to JWeekly.com, a Bay Area newspaper that covers the Jewish community.
5. His Parents Encouraged Him to Become an Actor at a Young Age
Yelchin was encouraged to become an actor at a young age by his parents, based on their own experiences starting figure skating in their youth, he told IFC.com in 2011:
I was a horrible athlete. My parents [former professional figure skaters Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchin] are athletes; they tried me to get me to do that, but I just couldn’t. I sucked. First I wanted to be a scientist, and I set our bathroom on fire. Then I wanted to be a basketball player and I’m a not-very-tall white, Russian Jewish kid. So that didn’t work out either.
There wasn’t anything in my life that I felt really excited about. Then I went to an acting class. I was very shy but very animated in private, and a friend of ours who is an actor knew me well enough to tell my parents ‘You should take your son to an acting class.’ My parents were of the opinion, because they had started skating very young, that you should have something that you do that you care about, because it structures your life as you’re growing up. I went to this class and I loved it and I told them I loved it, and they were super supportive because they thought “Great, he won’t just be playing with his friends all day, he’s going to be doing something.”
Yelchin’s parents predicted his future career in a 1989 interview with the Los Angeles Times, after they had recently moved to the United Stats and were skating professionally.
“Everyone here wants to make movies,” My brother studied at USC and wants to direct an independent film,” Viktor Yelchin told the newspaper.
Irina added, “A woman came up, saw Anton, and said, ‘He’s beautiful. He will be actor.'”