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Christopher Lloyd on Back to the Future Day, Eric Stoltz, and the Passage of Time

Photo: JB Lacroix/WireImage

It’s October 21, 2015, and despite what Back to the Future II promised, we still don’t have flying cars, hoverboards, or 19 different Jaws films. But we do have 3-D movies, tiny computers we carry with us everywhere, and electric cars. It’s the last of these that has provided the closest thing we’ve gotten to a Back to the Future reunion, as Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd got together to shoot a commercial for the Toyota Mirai in honor of Back to the Future Day. We interviewed the 76-year-old Lloyd about the experience last week, where he praised he co-star’s fight against Parkinson’s (“He’s just so extraordinary”), proved a natural at pitching the car (“There’s no pollution, no exhaust, it’s just water vapors”), and discussed everything from what the film got right about 2015 to its famous casting change.

Is 2015 like you imagined it would be?
I didn’t think about it too much. I didn’t remember all the things in the movie that referred to 2015, what was going to be invented by now or not. It was too far ahead to even think about. But some of it has come to pass. It was just brought to my attention a few days ago that the Cubs have a shot at winning the series. I’d forgotten all about that. These things can happen.

You’re surprised at the hype around the trilogy now?
I didn’t imagine that 30 years later, there’d be this enthusiasm and excitement about it. This celebration, I didn’t see that coming at all. Back to the Future came out, and there was a two-year lapse, and we did II and III together. We were just making another movie and hoping it gets past opening night. But the kids who saw this film, they’ve grown up and had kids, who have grown up and had kids. It’s exponential, it just keeps spreading out more and more. But the film has aged well. I saw it last night. It seems very contemporary.

You were one of the few cast members who remembered 1955. Do you think the series was an accurate depiction of the ‘50s?
I remember the Texaco station [was accurate]: The Texaco guys are running out, each is doing something. I remember that was a whole thing. There was a song that went with it. The café, the coffee shop, the movies being shown. It had a real, genuine ‘50s feeling about it.

With all the nostalgia around Back to the Future, do you find yourself looking back at your own career?
Oh yeah, I think about it. I got no complaints.

I turned down a film that was offered to me in the very early ‘80s, a Scorsese film. That probably wasn’t a good career move.

There was a story that came out recently about Eric Stoltz getting fired from Back to the Future. Apparently when they told you Eric was being replaced, you asked, “Who’s Eric?” — because he had asked everyone on set to call him Marty. Is that true?
I don’t know, that sounds a little apocryphal to me. But it could be. Eric Stoltz was a very good actor. He was kind of stunned when it happened. He couldn’t understand what he did wrong; he didn’t do anything wrong at all. They needed the comic flair that Michael has. They had wanted Michael to play Marty from the get-go, but he was tied up with Family Ties.

Did you play the role differently with Michael?
Maybe. I didn’t feel there was problem with Eric Stoltz, but I think the chemistry between Michael and I just came naturally. We didn’t have to work for it, Zemeckis didn’t have to say anything, it just was there. A lot of nuances and humor and byplay with Michael was different. It was instinctual.

What was the moment like when you found out?
We were shooting night shoots, several of them, at a mall in the City of Industry in southwest L.A. The weather wasn’t great, it was chilly and damp. I remember that night, we broke for lunch at 1 a.m., and all the producers and Zemeckis, they were going to make an announcement. It was very sad, you know. Nobody had any ill feelings toward Eric, but something had to be done. It wasn’t a celebration, we were all happy we were going in the direction it needed to go, but it was kind of sad.

Have you talked to him since he was fired?
No, I haven’t. But I do know that he was kind of profoundly affected by that. I would be! It’d be one thing if it were a bomb, then he’d be able to say, “Fuck that.” But it was a big success, and he would have loved to be a part of it.

Christopher Lloyd on Back to the Future Day