Veteran actor, and star of screen and stage, Christopher Lloyd is heading for Perth for Supanova this weekend. The convention is one of the draw cards for sci-fi, comic, and gaming fans in Perth, turning the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre into a shrine for the geekery that many of us love so much. Long time fan (and sci-fi nerd) DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to the star of the Back To The Future series, about his distinguished career, and the beloved franchise that he is best remembered for.
Since his big screen debut in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Lloyd has had a varied career in the roles he takes. From avuncular mentor to villainous adversary, he’s run the spectrum. For Lloyd the challenge is in understanding and communicating that character.
“I get a script, and I like to work,” jokes Lloyd. “It’s not easy to turn down an opportunity when it comes up. Whether it is comedy, tragedy or drama, that’s what I love doing. To communicate the character to people. Sometimes those characters are unsavoury, someone you wouldn’t want to have at your dinner table, but if I can find that emotional understanding with the audience I can at least share my feelings of the character.
“I pretty much do what’s offered, although I don’t want to do parts that are similar to a part I’ve done before. I want what I do to be unique.”
Throughout his career Lloyd’s played a few of those “unsavoury” characters, going up against heroes the likes of The Lone Ranger, Buckaroo Banzai, and Captain James T Kirk.
“I don’t have a preference for heroes or villains,” he says. “Sometimes it’ll puzzle me why someone will cast me as say Captain Kruge (Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock). I don’t know what the producers saw. Happy to do that, but I don’t guide my career in that way. It’s more about if I can get my teeth into something.”
However, it is for Back to the Future that he is best remembered, and in many ways it took Lloyd by surprise. “When we opened up in 1985, we hoped it’d have a good opening and a good run, but it keeps on going! It’s unique in my experience,” he says. “It has never been brought back because it’s never left. Young people that saw the film when it just opened have gone forward and had their own families and kids who have seen it. It’s a cycle that doesn’t seem to stop. The film doesn’t seem to have aged particularly, it still seems quiet present. It still seems to excite young people like it did in 1985.”
Since then he’s reprised the role of eccentric inventor Doctor Emmett Brown not only in the 2 sequels, but also numerous skits, games and cameos across the decades. It has become an iconic character with a resonance beyond the original series. Not bad for a role he almost passed up to play Hans Christian Anderson on the stage.
The highlight of the series for Lloyd was certainly the third film. “It’s a western!” he says. “So I was riding horses and working on a steam engine. Which is such an amazing contraption! With all the gears running around and the steam flowing out. Such an enormous machine. That was exciting. And Doc had a romance, and my film romances are practically non-existent. So it was fun having a romance on film.”
For every Back to the Future, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, there are numerous other films by Lloyd that didn’t find box office success. Some of these over the years have found there own fan basis, becoming cult classics (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead, Clue).
Lloyd is philosophical about this. “Films find their own weight in the market. It’s a bit of a crap game, you don’t know how the odds are going to work out for it. Just part of the game.
“I have no complaints.”
As for a clear indication to the effect his work has had on people… well… if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then seeing fans cosplaying as Doc Brown, John Bigboote or Captain Kruge is certainly flattering. Lloyd sees it “as a lot of fun”.