There's a timelessness to the Back to the Future franchise—aside from the literal time-traveling aspect—that's kept the Robert Zemeckis-directed trilogy so popular for 30 years strong. The heartwarming parent-children bonding element makes the movies feel relevant to every generation, and as kids who saw the original film in 1985 grew up and had their own kids, they showed the movie to their children, who showed their children, who will show their children, continuing the cycle of keeping this classic relevant beyond some of its more outdated aspects. This year, the first Back to the Future celebrated its big 3-0, and on Oct. 20, Universal Pictures released a 30th Anniversary Trilogy package on Blu-ray and DVD, which includes the three movies, along with the complete animated series, a new bonus disc, and a 64-page book in collectible light-up “Flux Capacitor” packaging.
The 30th anniversary release also coincides with the date featured in the second movie, when Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown travel to October 21, 2015. Back to the Future 2 portrays a ridiculously futuristic world that also got a lot of things right (like flat screen TVs and FaceTime/Skype). With our fancy iPhone, we hopped on a call with the doctor himself, Christopher Lloyd, to talk about the films' legacy and ask him about one thing the movies didn't predict—reboot culture and who'd play him if Back to the Future ever gets remade.
People are always so in love with that movie and your iconic character, Dr. Emmett Brown. At what point you were like, “Oh shit, this is an iconic film?”
I’m not sure. It was gradual. When we were shooting the first Back to the Future, from my perspective I was just hoping that it had a successful opening, that audiences accepted what I was doing as Doc Brown, but it did really well. As a consequence we did 2 and 3. But I had no idea that we would be having this conversation.
It’s also something that parents show their kids, which is what happened to me. I feel like that keeps happening with this film, which is why it has had such longevity.
Five years ago we had the 25th anniversary and I didn’t think we would be doing this five years later, on the 30th year. It keeps growing and it still surprises us. I don’t know of any other film series that has had this kind of longevity and popularity. So many people have come up to me over the years and expressed what an impact the film had for them. Many people choosing careers because of what they got from the film. It’s quite an experience.
You almost weren’t a part of it. You didn’t want to do this, right? Then you ended up doing all three.
He was a lot of fun. It was always fun doing him.
I think because so many of the characters were played so many years older than they actually were, you guys seem ageless almost.
When they put the wig on me, I’m told I look the same as I looked back then.
I thought the same with Crispin Glover. He’s looked like that for 40 years now.
This anniversary is also special because in the second movie you travel to 2015. October 21, to be exact.
One of the comments, I don’t remember the exact line, but in Back to the Future 2, Marty or someone says, “The Cubs are going to win in 2015. They are going to win the World Series.” They are moving toward it. It looks like it will happen. That would be uncanny, strange.
There are a lot of things that it actually predicted. Flat screen TVs, FaceTime, iPads, holograms. Hoverboards are really in right now.
Zip up sneakers.
We're almost there.
Hoverboard technology is also advancing.
What’s the most requested line that fans ask you to do?
I guess Doc’s line when he says, “Roads? Where we are going we don’t need roads.” That’s one that comes up a lot.
When’s the last time you watched the movies?
I guess a few weeks ago. If I’m channel surfing and I happen to come onto Back to the Future, I’ll stop right there and watch it again. I keep up with it.
Do you have a favorite?
Part III. You can never really get the feeling of the first one, the initial impact of the series, but 3 is a western. Westerns are fun. There was a lot of horseback riding, which I love doing. There was the work on the steam engine. There was some risk to that because you are hanging on while it’s moving and operating. It was like being a kid again. A steam engine is such a humongous contraption. There’s steam coming out, all that noise. Then Doc had a romance. Clara. Sweet, wonderful, dear Clara. There’s that. I have kids, Jules and Verne. It was a lot of fun.
That’s the first time you ever had onscreen romance, right?
Yes. The only other onscreen romance was in The Search for Spock.
Those were the only two movies?
In that one my romantic woman is on a spaceship somewhere. Apparently I had to blow up her spaceship because of some kind of political expediency. I tell her over the intercom, “Sorry about that.” That wasn’t much of a romance.
Have you ever been on the ride in Universal Studios?
Oh yeah. I almost made myself sick. I went on it when it first came out. I went on it four or five times in a row.
I almost needed medical care.
I know Robert Zemeckis said he would never let a Back to the Future remake happen, which I’m happy about. But if it did, who do you think could play a good Doc Brown now?
Me! As long as I’m alive. The only person who can do it is me. I would love to do it again. If someone else was cast I would make his life very difficult.