Spielberg worked with Yelchin in the 2002 miniseries Taken when he was just a rising child star, but Spielberg revealed his history with the actor went farther back.
The famed director, 69, spoke to Access Hollywood about Yelchin’s first role in the medical drama ER, which his company produced. Spielberg then cast him in Taken, and many years later, Yelchin would also star in DreamWorks’ 2011 movie Fright Night.
“He was a lovely young man,” Spielberg said of the late actor. “He was a gentleman.”
Beyond Yelchin’s amiable charm off-camera, the director remembers the actor as a professional even at a young age.
“He was a serious actor, and he didn’t have his sights set on anything specific – he just loved working, and good things happen to people who just want to work.”
Spielberg also praised Yelchin’s performance in J.J. Abrams‘ Star Trek reboot.
“And he kept impressing people because he was so good,” said Spielberg, according to the Associated Press. “He kept getting these great parts.”
VIDEO: Costars and Other Celebs Remember Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin
Yelchin’s body was found Sunday pinned between his car and the gate of his home in Studio City, California. The actor’s death was ruled an accident, and he died from “blunt traumatic asphyxia,” Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed to PEOPLE.
A police investigation into the circumstances of Yelchin’s death is ongoing, and toxicology tests are expected to be available in 6-8 weeks.