ECCC 2018: Christopher Lloyd and Tom Wilson discuss Back to the Future

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Mar 3, 2018

It's time to feel the power of love, because actors Christopher Lloyd and Tom Wilson stopped by the SYFY WIRE panel at Emerald City Comic Con to talk about the incredible and enduring legacy of Back to the Future. Lloyd and Wilson are best known for their portrayals of Doctor Emmett Brown (creator of the DeLorean time machine) and bully Biff Tannen in Robert Zemeckis's iconic time travel film. 

Wilson (who does a lot of voiceover work these days) started off the event by playing two songs on his ukulele. The first was "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis, which opens the first Back to the Future, where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) skateboards through the town square of Hill Valley. The second song was a hilarious one of his own invention, which basically asks fans to stop asking him questions he's sick of hearing, like "What's Michael J. Fox like?", "What’s Crispin Glover like?", "Will you call my friend a butthead on his answering machine?", "Was that real manure?", and "Do those hoverboards [from Back to the Future Part II) really fly?"

After those two opening numbers, Wilson recounted the story of how he got cast in the film, saying that until 1985 he had bit parts on TV shows and commercials. He was actually the dude who introduced KFC biscuits to the world. “It was a biscuit, and American life has never been the same," he said to general laughter. He auditioned for the role, basing his performance on bullies who teased him when he was a sickly kid, and kept getting called back to work scenes with Crispin Glover, who would play Marty's dad George.

Finally, the night he was going to see Bruce Springsteen with his girlfriend, Wilson got called to the Universal lot, where he auditioned in front of bigwigs like Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg. They asked him to really let loose, so Wilson put Crispin in a headlock and held him by his jacket before deflating in a somewhat anticlimatic conclusion. They said he was free to go and he went to the concert, but he remembered thinking, "I’m in Section Q going, ‘I just wrecked my whole life!!!'" as everyone was jamming out to "Dancing in the Dark." Luckily, he found out that he'd got the part the very next day, and the rest is history. “We got to be in something that everyone has remembered and loved," he finished. 

From there, Wilson and Lloyd took questions from the audience about the film's legacy and popularity. To Lloyd, the movie's success was a combination of its fantasy fulfillment concept of being able to travel through time, the family aspect, and the dynamic between Doc and Marty.

On the other hand, Wilson felt that the simple idea of going back in time to meet your parents was the unique glue that held everything together, because nothing like it had been done until that point. “That strikes people," he said, comparing the cultural phenomenon that was the movie to a "wave" that just kept growing and growing. 

Asked whether he had any passions before acting, Lloyd answered that he would collect snakes in the rural area of Connecticut where he grew up, harboring an early ambition to become a herpetologist. Then, when grilled on the possibility of a fourth Back to the Future film, he said that everyone involved with the franchise felt that the trilogy was complete as it was. Nevertheless, he admitted that if someone came up with a good enough story and did not force things, they could have made one, maybe even still make one. Shortly thereafter, someone wanted to know how Doc met Marty, to which Lloyd replied: "That could be a movie … that’s it!"

Digging deep into their characters, Wilson and Lloyd talked about the aspects of the Doc and Brown that were essential and diffucult to perform. For example, Wilson said that there had to be funny moments for the bully character, but also darker, more dangerous elements that would drive the audience to root for George.

One of the hardest scenes for Lloyd was the reshooting of Doc's celebration when Marty goes back to 1985 for the end of Back to the Future Part II, because he had to emulate the same joy he did for the first film. In the end, Lloyd said he'd be delighted to have a guest role in Rick and Morty, which is a direct parody of the Back to the Future franchise. Make it happen, Roiland and Harmon! May we suggest casting him in the role of Rick's father? 

For plenty more Emerald City Comic Con fun, head over to one of our three live streams!