Nerd Culture

Christopher Lloyd Would Love Being in Back to the Future 4 or on Rick and Morty

Courtesy of Mills Entertainment
Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett L. Brown in Back to the Future.
Christopher Lloyd has been nothing if not prolific. Over the span of 57 years, the low-key actor has appeared in countless films and television shows, playing an eclectic collection of memorable oddballs, eccentrics, and everymen.

That includes a wealth of geek-friendly roles like Commander Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Reverend Jim in Taxi, and The Pagemaster's Mr. Dewey.

Oh, and he also starred as the zany scientist and time traveler Doctor Emmett L. Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy. We're assuming you've heard of it since it's arguably Lloyd's best-known role, and one that's been beloved by geeks since the sci-fi series debuted in 1985.

Both the trilogy and Lloyd himself remain popular some 33 years after the original film's release. As a matter of fact, the actor was originally supposed to visit Phoenix this weekend for a screening of Back to the Future followed by a storytelling session and Q&A at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, July 14.

Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict with Lloyd (or maybe even a hitch in the space-time continuum), the event wound up being canceled. (Refunds are available at the point of purchase.)

A few weeks before the event's cancellation, Phoenix New Times spoke with Lloyd. We present it to you local Back to the Future fans as a substitute for the experience of seeing him in person.

It might not be the same as hearing Lloyd recount tales of making the film, but at least we might be able to answer some of your potential questions. Like, for instance, if he'd star in Back to the Future 4 if it's ever made, or what he'd do with a time machine if such technology existed.

And if you're wondering what Lloyd thinks of Rick and Morty, the infamous Adult Swim cartoon that was inspired in part by the adventures of “Doc” Brown and Marty McFly, we asked about that, too.

Phoenix New Times: Last month, there was a Facebook hoax that claimed that Back to the Future 4 was finally happening. Did you hear about it?
Christopher Lloyd: Um, that's the first I heard about it. I don't what the source was, but I hadn't heard about it. I won't say it's not happening; maybe it is. Nobody's told me so far.

Do you think there should be a Back to the Future 4?
Well, I think it's a matter of, first of all, it's important if Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale are excited about doing another episode [of Back to the Future], I think, really, the most important thing is if they can come up with the right idea. I think that's the challenge is to come up with something that really is as good as the originals. I suppose it could happen. I have not heard that they're looking for that, if they've made up their minds ... hey, here's something we could do, and they believed in it then they might get going to do it.

Hollywood is rebooting many franchises from the '80s and '90s. Do you think they'll eventually get around to doing Back to the Future?
Maybe. I don't know what to say. I would say that it's always possible. If they get the right script together that really could work. They don't want to do something that's going to come across as [disappointing]. You know sometimes sequels don't live up the originals and it's disappointing, and I know they don't want that to happen. But I don't know of any plans at the moment for them to do that.

Would you participate in either a sequel or a reboot?
I'd be delighted. I'd love to be in a fourth film, if they could come up with the right idea that extends the story and does it as well as the first three.

Of the original three films, which one was your favorite?
I kind of like the last one the best. It was a western, and westerns are always fun. There was a lot of horseback riding; Doc Brown had a romance with the lovely Clara. So the third one, I think, is the most fun. I don't know if anything can top the original.

Have any scientists told you they were inspired by Doc Brown to get into science?
A lot of people in their 20s and 30s have told me that they were inspired to become astrophysicists, researchers, or involved with some sort of technology one way or the other, and that their original inspiration was the Back to the Future trilogy. It kind of impacted their minds when they were young.

How does that feel?
I think it's wonderful. I feel happy to have been in a project that inspired people to do something really great in their lives. So I'm all for it.

Do you think that time travel is possible?
Well, I just ... I just don't know (laughs). I don't know enough. It's certainly not around the corner. Perhaps in some way if advances are made, it could become possible. But I really don't know. I'm not informed enough to know. I know it's not something that's on the horizon. It would be something far off in the future. I feel like hoverboards are more apt to be invented like they are in Back to the Future than actual time travel. But we'll see.

Were you cheering for the Cubs in 2015?
Yeah, I was. I wasn't a fan initially, but when they won the [wild card game], it suddenly seemed like, "Oh my God, this is unreal. This might happen." So I was excited by that.

If you could time travel, what would you change in history?
Hmm ... what would I change? I would certainly want us to pay a lot of attention to the causes of climate change and things related to that. With climate change and the way it's predicted [to unfold], it's going to have unlimited consequences for the planet, for civilization, for survival, you know. I would like to see the world at large really get into that issue.

There's already been the increase in flooding and the rising sea levels, droughts, and the quality of life diminishing in certain areas of the world. It's happening. It's not fiction anymore. So I'd like to see a universal concentration on that issue.

Would you stop Donald Trump from getting his hands on the sports almanac?
I'm sorry?

Would you stop Donald Trump from pulling a Biff Tannen and getting his hands on a sports almanac?
(Chuckles) I think he's doing enough damage [that] he doesn't need it.

Let me just be direct, then: Would you stop his rise to power?
(Chuckles) Would I stop that? Yeah, I have to say, I feel he's not making life better for us, so yeah, that might be something I'd try to prevent.

Rick and Morty from the popular Adult Swim cartoon of the same name. - COURTESY OF ADULT SWIM
Rick and Morty from the popular Adult Swim cartoon of the same name.
Courtesy of Adult Swim
So you're a fan of Rick and Morty?
I don't follow it closely, but I've seen a few episodes and I gotta tell you, I think it's a lot of fun. I know it's some kind of parody of Doc and Marty.

Would you ever want to guest star or do a guest voice on the show?
I'd like to, of course. I think it's really fun.

Maybe as like Rick's father or something like that?
(Chuckles) Yeah, yeah. That'd be fun.

What do you think the biggest impact Back to the Future has had on both pop culture and society in general?
I think it's a very positive film. A lot of people, especially at events, have told me Back to the Future helped them survive whatever issues they dealt with in their adolescence or before that. Back to the Future helped lift their spirits and be more optimistic. I think that's a big thing, and I'm so glad to be a part of something that helped people cope and get through their hardships.

There are a lot of positive messages throughout the whole trilogy that were spoken by your character. Stuff like, "When you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything," or "The future is whatever you make it."
Uh-huh. I think it's good because those lines were set up to have a very positive effect. People want some kind of affirmation of hope and I think those lines gave that to them.