Great Scott!

Christopher Lloyd on 'Back to the Future', acting and his career path to date
Lloyd spent two days at Com Con, meeting fans and giving a keynote talk on April 9.
Lloyd spent two days at Com Con, meeting fans and giving a keynote talk on April 9.

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Christopher Lloyd, famous for his eccentric roles in films including Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, visited Dubai in April for ComicCon. Lloyd spent an hour in conversation with the session’s MC and answered audience questions. Digital Studio brings you some of the highlights.

MC: The first film I remember seeing you in was ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. How did you get cast in that film with Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito?

Lloyd: I did a lot of theatre work before Cuckoo’s Nest. I’d sort of given up on the idea that I was going to make any films, because all the interviews and auditions I read through nobody seemed to be very impressed with whatever I seemed to offer, and then Cuckoo’s Nest came along and they wanted someone who was a bit weird, a bit crazy – that’s what happened.

MC: What inspired you to take up acting in the first place?

Lloyd: I’m not sure. It sort of happened without my thinking about it. When I was 13 or 14 years old I knew that was what I wanted to do. I don’t know why or how I arrived at that but I had a sense that I could communicate when I had parts to act – I felt I could communicate with the audience in a way I didn’t seem able to in real life and that was a good feeling. And I just decided this is what I want to be. I want to be able to communicate through the roles I play, through the acting.

MC: We’re glad you did because you were cast as Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Obviously a lot of people will think of you as Doc Brown. Are you comfortable with that?

Lloyd: Absolutely, absolutely. I love that role and it was great being part of a project which has had such an impact on people in so many ways and in a positive way. I’m still being called “Hey Doc” when I walk down the street. Well, why not?

MC: So on a Saturday afternoon at home, what would be your go-to couch movie?

Lloyd: A Streetcar Named Desire…there are so many. I can’t think of them now but there are many films that I really respect and I love watching over and over again.

MC: Who are some of your favourite actors?

Lloyd: Well, Jack Nicholson was up there and Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando had a huge effect and influence during the 60s and I never get tired of watching. He brought such a reality to every role he ever played. I’ve never seen him do something where I thought he missed the bar or he didn’t live up to my expectations. He was an extraordinary actor. Lawrence Olivier, Charlie Chaplain, he was a genius. He was an amazing man to see perform.

MC: Are there any directors that you haven’t worked with yet who you would like to work with?

Lloyd: [Quentin] Tarantino. I would love to do a film with him. He’s somebody who has a strong imagination and writes amazing stories to be in and participate in. I like his kind of work.

MC: If the script for Back to the Future IV was good and landed on your desk, how long would it take you to say yes?

LLoyd: I’d say yes as soon as I heard it was coming my way. I haven’t heard anything from any source that Back to the Future IV is going to happen, but if it could be the same writers, same director, Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale. The thing with a sequel, when you’ve seen the original production of a film and you love it, sometimes the sequels disappoint. So they’d have to come up with some really original script.

Part of the success of Part 1 was there was good chemistry all the way round, the chemistry between me and Michael J. Fox, Zemeckis is a great director, Bob Gale a great writer and the cast overall. It was hectic but it was fun and we knew what we were doing.

MC: Was there a point when you were making Back to the Future when you realised, as a team, ‘this is really good’?

I don’t know, I mean we felt good about it. The executives would always come and sometimes they’d stand around looking worried, but there was a sense that the powers at be, Steven Spielberg and others, seemed to think they had a good show. So our confidence kind of built as the weeks passed.

MC: One of the best ever live action/animation cross-overs, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, in which you played the villain, Judge Doom…

LLoyd: Yes, well they did it the old-fashioned way. When they shot most of that film there was an old warehouse about three or four flights up and each floor was all sectioned off with canvas and an artist would be painting maybe the hat, wardrobe, sky – that was the way animation used to be made before it became digital. It was the old-fashioned way, last minute. It was a tribute to the
great animation Walt Disney and others had created up to that time.

Audience questions

Q: On ‘Taxi’ what was the craziest Andy Kaufman moment?

LLoyd: A lot of people wonder just how crazy he was. He wasn’t crazy, he just had a very unique, original idea of harmony and he stuck to it. He was a genius, he worked hard and he was kind of spacey. He wasn’t always focused but he was great to work with. It’s an amazing feat to imagine a character and be able to make it real. He did that, he was wonderful.

Q: Was it tough going from Doc to playing a villain in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’

LLoyd: When I was a kid I used to go and see the original Walt Disney films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, and there were moments in those films that terrified me. So Judge Doom was payback.

Q: What would you say was your biggest challenge as a young actor?

LLoyd: To keep going! I lived near New York City so naturally I went to New York City when I finished high school and had acting classes and all that, but I was a very slow starter. I couldn’t seem to make any impression. I would sit in a room with the director and maybe I would just read or we would just talk and I never felt that I left anything memorable for them to think about. The biggest challenge was to keep going in spite of that. After a while when I auditioned for something and I didn’t get it, instead of feeling defeated I started feeling even more determined and angry, like “Next time, damn it I’m going to make it happen!” Overcoming that self-doubt and persevering, that was the biggest challenge that I faced.

Q: Who is your favourite actor in Hollywood now?

LLoyd: There are so many. I’m at a loss for words. I am in a film [Boundaries] in June and it stars Christopher Plummer who I greatly admire and I am so excited to be working with him. Christopher Plummer is one of the great actors and it is going to be a real honour for me to get so see him and work with him.

Q: What are your hobbies?

LLoyd: When I’m not acting I don’t know what to do. I go to the gym, I read, take walks, hang out with my girlfriend. Nothing very productive.

Q: Did you ever believe in Zemeckis’s vision of 2015?

LLoyd: I didn’t even think about it. I thought 2015 was so far away. It was too far to even imagine, and then the closer we got to 2015 it was more and more anticipated for all the things that were supposed to happen by that time as predicted by the films. It was astonishing, an amazing thing.

Q: What were your most memorable moments while working on Back to the Future?

LLoyd: In Back to the Future Part III I remember being on horseback and chasing a train. I was supposed to get close enough so that I could pull myself upon the train, but they didn’t want me to do that, they wanted a stunt man to do that part.
I was galloping upon the train and the bar was right there and I so much just wanted to grab it and pull myself up off the horse onto the train, but if it didn’t work out right it could have been a disaster, so I didn’t do it. That was exciting.

Career highlights

Christopher Lloyd’s screen career kicked off in style in 1975 when he played the role of Taber, a patient in an asylum, in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ Lloyd starred alongside Hollywood giant Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito.

Lloyd’s next well-known role was Reverend Jim Ignatowski in the comedy series ‘Taxi’, which LLoyd starred in from 1978 to 1983. Just two years later Lloyd landed the role which made him famous, ‘Doc’ Emmett Brown, an eccentric scientist in Robert Zemeckis’ sci-fi comedy ‘Back to the Future’ (1985). Lloyd starred alongside Michael J. Fox and the pair returned for two sequels in 1989-90.

Lloyd also worked with Zemeckis on the groundbraking live animation feature ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988) in which he played the evil villain, Judge Doom.

Lloyd, who remains a prolific actor, will star in Shana Feste’s ‘Boundaries’, which also stars Christopher Plummer, in June.

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