Aaron Sagers is a con man and mod man, and he lives a good portion of his professional life on stage at comic conventions. As a hired host and moderator, he's attended about a dozen cons in 2015 alone (and easily two dozen last year) and has led hundreds of panels. These are the highlights from some of his appearances:
It was a reunion that struck me as heavy but had nothing to do with the gravitational pull of the Earth. At London Film and Comic Con this past Sunday, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and other supporting cast from Back to the Future gathered on the stage to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the movie, and the year to which they traveled in Part II.
And, as if there were any doubt, the LFFC crowds on the panel I moderated proved that the flick would not be fading like a time-disjointed photograph anytime soon. The 2,000 cheering fans were ebullient over the special gathering of Marty McFly, Doc Brown and Lorraine Baines -- friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time.
Along with Fox – who told me he’d never done this type of event – Lloyd and Thompson, the panel included James Tolkan (“Mr. Strickland”), Claudia Wells (“Jennifer Parker”), Harry Waters Jr. (“Marvin Berry”), Donald Fullilove (“Goldie Wilson”), Marc McClure (“Dave McFly”), Frances Lee McCain (“Stella Baines”), Jeffrey Weissman ("George McFly" in Part II, Part III) and Ricky Dean Logan ("Data").
As a kid who remembers seeing BTTF in the theaters, and continues to count it as a childhood favorite, it always struck me that Marty is a nerd. After all, the character hangs out with an older scientist, references both Star Wars and Star Trek (as in, Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan) and is kind of an unpopular, bullied kid in school.
In response to that, and tying it into the con experience, Fox said, “It really filled me up with a warm feeling that here you guys are, happily dressed as other people, other characters in crazy costume and stuff, but the most genuine real people I’ve ever met.”
“It’s people with their heart on their sleeves, and they love what they love, and love doing the things they enjoy. If that’s a nerd, that’s what Marty is.”
Fox also said he realized that the movie had a legacy beyond a big box office when “kids who weren’t alive when it opened started to come up to me.”
“It struck me as ironic that a time-travel movie had a timelessness to it,” he said. “It exists apart from its period and resonates with audiences.”
But Fox joked that he didn’t think his kids have actually seen the movie yet.
Regarding Doc Brown, Lloyd – who has resurrected the character in A Million Ways to Die in the West, in the LEGO Dimensions videogame trailer and in a new featurette on the upcoming BTTF anniversary Blu-ray – said he’d always love his “crazy inventor role.”
“I just kind of liked that he’s passionate about discovering things,” he said. “In the opening sequence of the film, he’s got this mechanical automatic dog can opener, he’s got these clocks all over the place, this music system that blows Marty away. He’s got that gizmo he’s got on his head once trying do some kind of telepathy. His mind doesn’t stop thinking.”
When I asked Thompson about playing the role of Marty’s mom in multiple timelines, including as a young girl crushing on her son, with what I called the “weirdest sexual tension since Luke and Leia,” the actress revealed that Lorraine was the best part she ever had.
“It was a great thing to be known for,” she said. “The hardest part was the younger me, because, believe it or not, it wasn’t exactly me, so I had to get that weird, horny energy going all the time.”
She said she would sing “Mr. Sandman” to slip in the role. Thompson also shared that she still has a clip from Lorraine’s darkest timeline in Back To The Future Part II on her acting reel, and proceeded to recite the line to much fanfare.
Asked by a fan what else would make a good time machine beyond a DeLorean and train, Fox replied, “a hot tub, apparently.”
As for his automotive costar, the DeLorean, Fox called it “the worst thing to drive” and said he wished he had a gag reel of how many times he clipped his head on the door. He said he’d put it into gear and slam his hand into the time machine control panel, and laughed that he’d have to go to the Family Ties set (which he was filming concurrently) with a bloody head and would almost call Meredith Baxter “Doc.”
On the Family Ties topic, when Wells was incredibly insistent that Fox had attended the 1985 premiere of the movie, he pointed out that he missed the opening because he was in London filming a special for the TV series. He called the experience of working on both “the nadir of my career and the height at the same time.”
A moment that caused a standing ovation, from the audience and cast, was when Waters – clad in a powder blue tux -- acquiesced to a fan request for him to sing “Earth Angel.” Another fan service moment was when the panel was asked about what tech they wanted for 2015 from the movies. Logan held up the hoverboard he rode as the character Data from Griff’s gang and asked why science hadn’t gotten on it yet.
At one point, I asked Fox and Lloyd about the importance of their characters’ relationship, and if they would have ended up differently without it. Fox’s answer was especially poignant about the iconic duo:
“Doc was his mentor, and a way to channel his energy into curiosity and an exploration, and discovery, and seeing that everything isn’t as it appears to be ... the fact that all things are possible. When you’re 17, 18 years old in high school, a lot of things don’t seem possible. You keep running against what you can’t do, and who you aren’t, and where you don’t fit in. To have this mentor who was not like any adult he knew, but was really special and invited him to share his ideas, and his adventures. I’m sure it resonated with people looking for someone to accept them as they are.”
Meanwhile, Lloyd quipped Brown “probably would’ve found someone.” Fox joked he was “trolling the high school.” The exchange then led to Fox calling Lloyd a genius unlike any he’d seen before, capable of delivering sci-fi exposition while appearing crazy.
Toward the end of the panel Lloyd revealed that his favorite movie to film was the third. He referenced the oversize contraption that produced the single ice cube multiple times, and spoke about the challenges of delivering lines during steam engine stunts. Still, he said he loved the Wild West element, the fact that Doc got a love interest, the moonshine and the dance sequence that he said took two or three nights to film with ZZ Top playing.
Reflecting on that, Thompson said, “I finally got to marry my son,” and Fox joked that he never landed the Irish accent needed for Seamus McFly.
Fox added that he most fondly remembered filming the first movie because it was an “overwhelming experience” to work on a hit show and movie at the same time, and step in for Eric Stoltz.
“I was just about five or six years removed from being a kid in Canada,” he said. “It was one of those things where you wanted to pinch yourself but didn’t want to wake up.”
The panel felt, appropriately, like a moment captured in time that may not soon be replicated. To observe Marty, Doc, Lorraine and all the rest gathered together was indeed a time capsule of fandom. And as the audience jumped to its feet at the end, the only appropriate response for the hourlong nerd-out was “Great Scott!”