Christopher Lloyd with director April Mullen on the set of "88"
Christopher Lloyd Discusses His Career and Latest Film, “88”
The Hollywood Legend Divulges His Favorite Role
Jan 22, 2015
Since he made his film debut as an asylum patient in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Christopher Lloyd has played many of television and cinema’s most memorable eccentrics. Several of these roles include the spaced-out cabbie Jim Ignatowski on TV’s Taxi; the sinister cartoon, Judge Doom, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit; wacky Uncle Fester in The Addams Family movies; Clue’s Professor Plum; and the nefarious Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. His most beloved role, however, is likely Doctor Emmett Brown—the inventor of time travel—in the Back to the Future trilogy. Since that breakthrough performance 30 years ago, Lloyd has had no shortage of work; he’s acted in more than 100 films and TV shows in the last three decades.
Lloyd recently teamed up again with filmmakers April Mullen and Tim Doiron for their new movie, 88. The fast-paced revenge film follows a young woman who wakes up in a diner with a gun and purse full of gumballs, with no memory of how she got there or what she’s done. Christopher Lloyd stars opposite actress Katharine Isabelle as the remorseless leader of an underground crime network.
The Hollywood legend spoke with us about his long career, his favorite type of role, and the making of his latest movie.
Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: Jumping right to your latest film, 88—what drew you to this particular role when you received the script?
Christopher Lloyd: It was this kind of role... You know, I’m often stereotyped—I have no problem with it—for comic, kind of odd-type characters. It’s kind of a common theme. I always want to be able to do anything; I don’t want to be stereotyped. And this role afforded me that opportunity. I thought it was well-written. The character was different from anything I’d done on screen before. I really relished that, and was delighted to be a part of it.
You’ve played both heroes and villains over the years. I’m curious, is it more fun to play a villain?
There is something deliciously fun about it. You know, [this] character really has no moral conscience and justifies with himself that it’s okay to raise havoc and do the things he does without feeling guilty about it. He’s just, “That’s the way I am, this is the way I do things. To hell with the rest of you.” It’s kind of fun to just go with that.
This is your second movie with director April Mullen and Wango Films. [Lloyd also appeared in 2012’s Dead By Dawn 3D.] Judging by the kind of movies she makes and the roles she plays in them herself, I imagine she has to be fun to work with.
Yeah, I like working with both of them [Mullen and filmmaking partner Tim Doiron] very much. They work very well together, and they write very good scripts. She directs, he takes on the producing part of it. They’re just a joy to work with. They know what they’re doing, and they’re very professional. It’s great.
April also has an extended family. I’ve done both films in Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. And they have an extended family: a father, mother, sisters, et cetera, who all participate in the production in one way or another. [Laughs] I just really, really enjoy working with them.
You stay very busy. You’re making several movies or TV shows each year, it seems. What’s been the key to longevity in your career?
Well, I love to work. I love doing what I do. And—knock on wood—I’m still healthy. I intend to continue as long as I can make my way to the makeup trailer. [Laughs]
I’m always, always eager to work. There’s nothing that delights me more than getting a call from my agent or manager that says they’re sending me a new script. I’m like a kid. I just can’t wait to open it up and read it. That’s always the way it’s been with me. I love that I can keep working.
You’ve played so many different types of characters across your career. Is there a type of role you haven’t been offered yet? Is there a particular kind of script you’d really love for your agent to send you?
Oh, golly, I just don’t know. I love when [a character] is different than anything I’ve done before … Actually, I can think of one. This is kind of a fantasy I think about. If somebody came to me and said, “How would you like to play Don Quixote?”—from Cervantes’ famous novel, Don Quixote de La Mancha—I would jump on that. I just think that’s an extraordinary role. I would love to have a crack at that. But otherwise: whatever comes in! [Laughs] I jump on it.
In the early part of your career you were exclusively a stage actor. Was transitioning into film and TV something you had always planned for, or did it just happen?
I grew up around New York, and so naturally I started out in theater. That’s something I really love doing, and I love going back to the theater now. But I did want to get into films; I loved watching films. But I didn’t seem to catch on. There were interviews and auditions that came up over the years in the 1960s, and I just didn’t seem to connect or make any impression whatsoever. I came to think that I was ultimately not going to be doing film work. Some actors don’t make that transition easily and perhaps that way my case.
But then they came to town—Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas, and Milos Forman—to cast One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It worked out, and opened doors for me in that area. I love doing film and TV, and getting back and doing theater—and so it all worked out.
Being a trained, theater actor—do you find you approach film roles in a way that’s different from an actor without that background?
Yeah. One thing, when you do a play, you study your role from beginning to end, from the first page to that last. There’s an arc there, in the way the character develops, page-by-page, as he goes through whatever happens. I work on film scripts like that. When I get a film script, I work through it that same way. I find that’s very helpful, because when you’re doing it, whatever the shoot schedule is—you know, sometimes they shoot the end at the very beginning of shooting, or they jump all around—I know where that character is at in that particular moment in time. Where he’s at emotionally and where his relationships stand with the other characters. And so, I’m ready. Theater is generally really great training for any work, I feel.
Across your entire career, do you have a favorite role you’ve played?
It may be One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, because it was my first role and it was an amazing cast. I was working with someone I idolized: Jack Nicholson. I’d seen everything he’d ever done, and I couldn’t believe I was on the same set with him. And Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito—all the others—and Milos Forman directing; it was such a momentous experience for me. I had a great character. That, for me, was tops.
Christopher Lloyd’s latest film, 88, is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and on demand. For more information, check out the Wango Films website.
Stay tuned to Under the Radar for Christopher Lloyd's reflections on making Back to the Future.
- Jens Lekman Shares New Song, “Your Laugh,” for “Our First 100 Days” Anti-Donald Trump Project (News) — Jens Lekman, Our First 100 Days
- Saint Etienne Announce First U.S. Tour Dates in Five Years (News) — Saint Etienne
- Lana Del Rey Announces New Album, Shares Ghostly Album Trailer (News) — Lana Del Rey
- Silver Eye (Review) — Goldfrapp
- Undertow (Review) — Wolf Eyes