Great Scott! Back to the Future Stars Reminisce at Mini-Reunion 30 Years Later
"It's amazing after 30 years that it thrives the way it does and continues to grow," Christopher Lloyd said
We’re still waiting on our flying cars in 2015, but as Back to the Future celebrated its 30th anniversary with a combination reunion, screening and concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday, it’s clear audiences are still feeling the “Power of Love” for the iconic film three decades later.
To celebrate the anniversary of Robert Zemeckis’s enduring time-travel comedy/adventure – which made a movie star out of Michael J. Fox, who did not attend – costars Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Claudia Wells, Donald Fullilove and key members of the production team joined a packed house for a screening of the film accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, which performed composer Alan Silvestri’s celebrated score.
“It’s amazing after 30 years that it thrives the way it does and continues to grow,” Lloyd told PEOPLE backstage before the performance. “Kids who saw it when it first came out are adults with children now, and it’s cycling. It just keeps going on. It’s extraordinary, and the impact it’s had on so many people’s lives. It’s sort of stunning.”
The actor, now 76, played the iconic Emmett “Doc” Brown in the film, the inventor of the time-traveling DeLorean.
“He was mad about adventure and invention and breaking boundaries, and he had an incredible mind to do this,” says Lloyd of the role. “I always admired and was kind of in awe of people like Einstein, that they could imagine ahead of their time, see things that somebody else has never seen. I thought, ‘Doc Brown’s that kind of guy.’ ”
And it’s his chemistry with the film’s leading man that fuels much of the still-potent charm that pervades the entire Back to the Future trilogy.
“It was love at first sight,” says Lloyd of his collaboration with Fox. “Everything just happened so easily with Michael. He has a comic flair, very spontaneous, had wonderful energy. It just all came through. And the chemistry we had between each other – I felt we never had to work for it. It simply existed.”
Thompson was just 24 when she was cast as the older and younger versions of Lorraine. “When I did my screen test in [executive producer] Steven Spielberg’s office, I just remember that Steven was working the camera and I was like, ‘Wow, I really made it,’ ” she laughed.
“When I started to do Lorraine, it fit me perfectly,” Thompson said. “It was really easy. So I just feel really blessed that if I’m really going to be known for one thing, on my headstone, that it’s this movie, and that it was such a great product.”
“It was my first movie I had ever done,” remembered Claudia Wells, only 18 when she took on the role of Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer – a part that first eluded her due to a conflicting commitment, but came back to her months later when Fox replaced original lead Eric Stoltz and an actress more suited to the actor’s 5’4″ stature was needed.
“We fit together immediately,” she recalled. “The first time he put his arm around me – I always wanted somebody to do this – he put his hand in my back pocket of my jeans. I’d always wanted to experience that. I was like, ‘Whoa!’ ”
Being cast in the film as Goldie Wilson, Hill Valley’s ’50s-busboy-turned-’80s-mayor, was truly life-changing for Fullilove, now 57 and a prolific voice actor.
“When Back to the Future was released, I was a homeless actor living in my car – I was just trying to get a job,” he told PEOPLE. “Here we are, 30 years later, and I’m just basking in this unexpected glory.”
Bob Gale, who co-wrote the screenplay and produced the film and its sequels alongside Zemeckis, also remains incredulous at the film’s long-lasting appeal. “Thirty years ago, if a time traveler from 2015 came back to see Bob Zemeckis and me and say, ‘Guess what’s going to be happening 30 years from now? Back to the Future is going to be presented on a big screen, in front of the biggest audience that’s ever seen the movie in one place,’ we would have said, ‘What are you drinking, and can we have some?’ “