Christopher Lloyd is one of those rare actors that never fails to put a smile on your face. Whether you're a fan of his character Doc Brown from 'Back to the Future' or his Klingon villain from 'Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,' Lloyd has that unique charisma that draws your eyes to the screen.
Moviefone managed to get some time with the oft-elusive Lloyd, who's working the fanboy circuit for Fan Expo in Canada and Comic-Con in New York in October. We chatted about everything you want to know, from what it's like to be kicked off a fake cliff by William Shatner to just how cramped a DeLorean really is.
I'm sure you're aware of the TV show 'Modern Family.' For the longest time I thought you were the executive producer until I did my research and found out it's another Christopher Lloyd.
I often have people come up to me and say, "I just love 'Modern Family.'" Ninety percent of the time I tell them that it's not me. Once in a while, when I'm in a mood, I let it lie and take credit. [Laughs]
You mean so many different things to so many different people -- your career is so vast. Is it possible for you to pinpoint a favorite moment or role in your career?
Well, there have been quite a few. I fondly recall my days in theater in New York. 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' was my first movie role, and it was an amazing cast, director and producers, and that launched my career in film and television. Playing Reverend Jim on 'Taxi' was another turning point, and, of course, the 'Back to the Future' trilogy really opened up doors for me.
'Back to the Future' is very multi-generational and everlasting. Did you ever anticipate such a legacy to develop around the trilogy?
I don't know about anybody else, but I don't think that anyone involved in the original 'Back to the Future' anticipated that it would catch on the way it did -- or how it continues to thrive. A year or two ago, we had the 25th anniversary of the original, and for me it's hard to believe that it's been that long since its release. It's still garnering audiences; back in the '80s, parents would take their children to see it, and now those children are taking their children to see it. It keeps going -- and that's an amazing thing.
What was the best part about playing a character like Doc Brown?
As a kid growing up (and even now), there's something so magical to me about people who have the ability to look into the future, so to speak. Steve Jobs, for example -- he changed the world with his imagination and ambition. It always intrigues me, and that's who Doc Brown is; he changed the future, he discovered time travel in the film. It's the ultimate discovery.
And you also got to work with a young, emerging Michael J. Fox.
He's so wonderful. We never hung out or anything off-set, but we were a natural pairing. It was a wonderful casting job by Bob Zemeckis. We clicked. We didn't have to probe to find chemistry, it simply existed. It was a perfect match for Doc and Marty. Honestly, he's just amazing; all he's done ... to be afflicted with Parkinson's so young, and he's never stopped. He works on his foundation, goes to congressional hearings, makes appearances to raise money and awareness, he's on TV and talk shows. He's so courageous. I have a tremendous admiration for him.
Was the 'Back to the Future' set a fun and jovial set to be on?
[Laughs] Oh, yes! It was work, but since the first one opened up so successfully, we were all on a trip. It was a great trip to be on and we loved doing it.
I have to ask about the DeLorean. Did you drive it?
[Laughs] I drove it at certain times, but when you see it skidding around the parking lots and other crazy stuff, those were stunt drivers.
Damn, so it wasn't you.
[Laughs] I wish I could take credit for some of those, but no such luck. I probably wouldn't be talking to you now if I had.
How cramped was it inside?
It's a pretty small space. It's a slick-looking car, very futuristic, but it wasn't a very well-engineered vehicle. I know the stunt drivers were always switching cars. They had seven or eight DeLoreans on set, and they were constantly moving parts from one to the other to keep them running properly.
Switching gears a bit, I wanted to ask you about your 'Star Trek III' role, as Klingon Kruge. Fans love your character, and from what I understand you loved to play the villain.
Playing villains is such fun. Using Kruge as an example -- this is a man whose DNA isn't programmed with any compassion. He has absolutely no scruples. He has no regrets in his quest for power. Normal people are so much more complicated, they have a conscience. Captain Kruge doesn't give a damn. It was a relief to be free of all those human traits. I could go out there and be a bastard! [Laughs]
Your death in the 'Star Trek' movie was voted as one of the best deaths in the entire movie franchise. Was that fun to shoot?
Oh yes, with Captain Kirk. They had set up all those soundstages at Paramount with the flames and the tremors, crevices opening up. It was amazing. Of course, Kirk kicked me in the face and thrust me into oblivion. [Laughs] Anyone would love to do that!
Working with Shatner, too -- that must have been a blast.
You know, I had warnings about working with him. People were saying that he was volatile and hard to work with, that he was gruff and not much fun. Before we had our epic fight [for the film] I was hoping, 'Gee, I hope I don't get pulverized by this man!' But he's wonderful to work with, and I had absolutely no problem. I've ran into him a couple times over the years, and I find him to be a remarkable person.
Where can we see you next?
There have been a couple films I've been offered roles in, but we're still waiting on those. It looks like I'm going to New York in March to do a play. I'll be in the ION TV movie called 'Anything But Christmas' and it will be out around then. It's a fun one.
You can meet Christopher Lloyd in person at Fan Expo Canada, which runs in Toronto from August 23 - 26.