'Star Trek Beyond' Cast Fondly Remembers Late Crewmate Anton Yelchin and 'Trek' Icon Leonard Nimoy

The actors reflect fondly on their two friends and pay tribute to them on screen

Photo: Carlo Allegri/AP

As Star Trek Beyond readies to beam into theaters on July 22, the cast and filmmakers are hoping the memories of two late costars, Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy, live long and prosper on screen.

During a press conference Thursday in Beverly Hills to promote the latest entry in the rebooted sci-fi franchise, co-stars remembered their colleague Yelchin – the actor who played Ensign Pavel Chekov in three films died at age 27 in a freak car accident on June 19 – both fondly and poignantly, but expressed hope that fans would revel in the late actor’s performances in the new film and throughout his impressive body of work.

“It’s devastating to lose a family member,” said Karl Urban, the film’s Dr. McCoy, reflecting on Yelchin’s loss. “We’re at a point where we should be celebrating, not only this film, but this beautiful man, this talented man. For all of us, it’s almost incomprehensible to be at a point where we have to talk about him in the past. The pain of his loss is still very raw.”

“He was just a good guy,” offered Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk and shared many scenes paired with Yelchin in the latest outing. “He was very sweet. He’s very beautifully, authentically Anton. There was not much of a sensor on the boy.”

“I remember one of the first times I met him, like nine years ago or whatever, he was 17,” Pine continued. “I invited him back to my trailer to play guitar because I knew he played guitar, and he played guitar really, really, really well. And he said, ‘I can’t man, I’ve got to go back to my trailer.’ I was like, ‘Okay, why?’ He was translating, like, an esoteric Russian novel into English, just because that’s what he wanted to do. Eight, nine years later I talked to him and he was still translating it.”

“And he was still reading a book on physics that this French philosopher had written,” Pine added. “And he was still trying to get all of us together … We’d be in Vancouver and he’d want to see some German neo-expressionist film that none of us [knew about] … he would talk about as if everyone has or should have seen it.”

“I always looked forward to every day that he was on set and we would huddle up, and he’d have a hundred ideas, even if he was just in the background,” said the film’s director Justin Lin.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” said costar Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the film and remembers Yelchin as “an incredible soul.”

“I spent a lot of time with Anton in Vancouver, this last year,” Pegg recalled. “He used to call me up, in the middle of the night sometimes, just to talk. He was an incredibly intelligent man. He would talk about films, so fluently and so maturely that he’d make us all look like dummies. I used to have to engage my university brain, just to sit down and talk to him about movies because he was exhaustively encyclopedic.”

VIDEO: Costars and Other Celebs Remember Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin

The remembrance “For Anton … ” appears in the end credits of the film, as does a dedication to the memory of Leonard Nimoy, the iconic Mr. Spock of the original television series and films, who died last year at age 83 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

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Nimoy’s death came before shooting commenced, but his character the original “Spock Prime” and last survivor of an alternate timeline from the new events established when the Trek films rebooted in 2009 is also importantly referenced in the upcoming film.

“If Leonard was well enough to be a part of this film, I’m sure he would have been,” Zachary Quinto, who took on the role of Spock and became close with Nimoy during the filming of Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, told PEOPLE. “And I know that there were early conversations with him about that possibility, which true to his incredible self, he knew himself well enough to know that that wouldn’t be possible at a certain point.”

“And then I think it became important to all of us to figure a way to honor his legacy,” added Quinto. “I thought [screenwriters] Simon and Doug [Jung] did a beautiful job of incorporating it into the narrative of the film.”

“It became an integral part of the story, not just a kind of nod in Leonard’s direction,” added Pegg. “That felt more right.”

“We all carried him with us through this production for sure,” said Quinto. “And it was definitely a different kind of feeling to make this movie without him, for me in particular. But I think he was very much a part of it in spirit, and certainly in the film now, and will be a part of anything we do moving forward, for sure.”

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