It’s not often in life that you get to sit opposite the Doc. Yet as he arrived in London to promote his new film, the Disney DVD premiere Christmas release Santa Buddies, Mr Christopher Lloyd shared a room with us to talk about the movie, Judge Doom, and Back To The Future Part III…
What struck me about Santa Buddies is that not for the first time you’re breaking the cardinal sin of working with children and animals…
I know! It was pretty easy though. Most of the time that I was working with the pups they were in a cage and couldn’t run off and disappear from the set. They were kind of easy to direct. You’re outside the cage, the director’s outside the cage, they’re looking at whoever’s outside the cage looking to be released or fed. A captive audience!
Is that learning from lessons past?
Not necessarily. I’ve worked a lot with kids before. They can be very, very difficult, just because they’re kids. But at the same time they give you a lot…
I did a film called Dennis The Menace [released as Dennis in the UK] many years ago, and the actor playing Dennis, the young boy, was as mischievous as you could imagine Dennis to be, on and off camera. He continually had this endless energy for mischief. But he understood intuitively that that’s what was also required. He did whatever he did in front of the camera with the same spirit, and it was perfect. It made him a wonderful Dennis The Menace.
On the other hand, another young man that I worked with, his lack of focus and concentration was great for the part, but you couldn’t get him to do that when you needed it.
From your point of view, particularly with your theatre pedigree, that’s all part of the fun? Being kept on your wits?
Oh yeah! You work with it. It brings out things you might not necessarily have planned, and good things.
I showed my 5-year-old Santa Buddies and his reaction wasn’t a million miles away from seeing you as Judge Doom in Roger Rabbit. It was a proper, nasty villain for large parts of it…
And we seem to have kind of lost the proper villain over the past 10-15 years. How do you approach it? Do you deliberately look to go quite sinister?
No, I just saw this man as someone who he’s pretty cut and dried. It’s just what he does. He lives an isolated life. He’s not socially involved or committed to the community. He has a job that doesn’t require anybody else that he has to work with. He gets in his truck, he sees a dog stray, catches that dog, impounds it and then charges ridiculous prices for anybody who wants one. He takes advantage, he exploits them. He doesn’t have any particular feelings than that, other than he has a line: no money, no mutt. As simple as that.
You might be able to clear this up. I swear in Santa Buddies at one point you walk past the Hill Valley clock tower in the background?
No! Somebody else brought that up today! It was a little village west of Vancouver, Canada! It looks similar!
Going back to Judge Doom, then. For many of us, he’s a really iconic villain, really evil. With Robert Zemeckis now talking about Roger Rabbit 2, do you think we’ll see Judge Doom again?
I’ve heard talk about a sequel. I haven’t been approached specifically about being involved with it. I don’t know if they’ve got to that stage yet. Judge Doom was dissolved in that liquid, totally. So I don’t know how they’d bring him back plausibly.
But I’ve thought about it, because I’d love to do it again. I was thinking that if he comes back he would be in some manner very distorted. Physically in his face, and everything. He wouldn’t come back like himself, or he’d be a toon that had sort of melted.
It’s one of the few movie worlds where it could be plausible that he’d return…
I heard you on the radio the other day when a 9-year-old boy had written in professing his love for the Back To The Future films. They’ve got such a cross-generational appeal…
It’s astonishing. Because I’m constantly meeting young kids who have just seen it for the first time, in the same manner that when it first came out people first saw it. It’s still happening, it still plays, and they still seem just as thrilled. The film doesn’t seem to have become passé. It just seems to have the same impact today on fresh eyes as it did in 1985.
I love the third one, personally…
That’s the one I enjoyed doing most. I loved the first, because that’s first discovery of the whole story. But the third one! It’s a western, so you get to ride the horses. There were the scenes on the steam engine where I’m actually hanging off the sides of it, and it’s actually going along and propelling itself. There’s risk involved, and I wasn’t strapped to it, so had to hold on to it. And then I had a romance! So it was such a departure from the others.
It was filmed immediately after the second – was there just a month shutdown, if memory serves?
Yeah, they did two, and it was a three week interval, and they did three.
Do you find you’re more tired as the third one goes on, and that you survive on your wits a bit more?
It took a lot of energy for everybody to do it, because it was so energised and there was so much going on. But I didn’t feel I was run down. I kept going…! [laughs]
And with that, our time was suddenly up! Christopher Lloyd, thank you very much!
Santa Buddies is available on Disney DVD and Blu-ray now.