Whether you know him as Rev. Jim Ignatowski from “Taxi,” Dr. Emmit Brown from the “Back to the Future” Trilogy, or even from his brief but memorable stint as Harold March on Fox’s “Stacked,” the face of Christopher Lloyd is familiar to most of us. His latest gig finds him playing an elf named Tesselink for the Sci-Fi Channel’s two-night event, “Knights of Bloodsteel,” and we were able to wrangle a few minutes with Mr. Lloyd before he had to run off to a photo shoot.
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Premium Hollywood: Hey, Mr. Lloyd, how’re you doing?
Christopher Lloyd: I’m doing great, thank you!
PH: It’s a pleasure to speak with you. So, how did you find your way into the “Knights of Bloodsteel” project in the first place?
CL: I guess they connected with my agent, then my agent called me, I looked over the script, and I decided to do it. (Laughs)
PH: Fair enough! Were you a fan of the sword and sorcery genre?
CL: Yeah, I enjoy science fiction and it’s…I love the imagination. It kind of takes you to places you don’t normally think about, but it’s always in human terms of some sort. I love the characters and the strange creatures, and it’s usually about good and evil of some sort, or good gone wrong. And with “Knights of Bloodsteel,” it’s a really good story and production values, so it’s kind of a treat!
PH: Did you enjoy your wardrobe on the production?
CL: (Laughs) I loved my wardrobe! And the make-up, the hair…the whole thing. It gave me a chance to do a character. And he was serious. He wasn’t just some crazy guy. He’s a guy who’s just trying to save his people, so in that sense, it was kind of a straight role, and it gave me a chance to do something new.
PH: How much make-up was involved for you?
CL: Not really much facially, but I had those couple of fangs, being an elf, and this little mouthpiece. And the elfin ears. Oh, and the wig.
PH: So, comparatively speaking, not too much time in the make-up chair.
CL: No. (Laughs) Though it took a little while to get the ears on just right and make them look like they’re part of me. And the wig took a little while, too. But some of the make-ups I’ve had were three or four hours of sitting there. This was pretty painless.
PH: I wouldn’t think it would compare with being a Klingon.
CL: No. (Laughs) No way! For (“Star Trek III”), I used to go to the lot at 3 or 4 in the morning to be ready at 8 AM. But that was a role I loved playing.
PH: It’s definitely a memorable one. So how was David James Elliot to work with?
CL: He was great. The entire cast was…it’s a really great cast. They all had wonderful looks to them, and it was a strange world we inhabited, with everyone made up the way they were. Many of these characters were…you get to feel like you live in that world, that it’s not just a movie set. It’s a village!
PH: So there wasn’t as much green-screen as people might think?
CL: No, in fact, I don’t think I had any green screen! I don’t remember that there was any, though I might be wrong.
PH: You know, I have to take this opportunity to tell you that I’m a huge fan of your episode of “Amazing Stories,” “Go to the Head of the Class.”
CL: (Laughs) Yes!
PH: That’s pretty much the reason I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll eventually get “Amazing Stories: Season 2” on DVD.
CL: Oh, yeah, that was great fun. Bob Zemeckis was directing, and… (Laughs) …oh, yeah, that was a trip.
PH: I presume that he’s the one who pitched it to you originally.
CL: Yes, because we’d already done at least one of the “Back to the Future” episodes at that point, so we’d worked on that together, and he knew I was prone to or had a predilection to playing those kinds of characters.
PH: I also really enjoyed your role as Harold March in “Stacked.” That was one of those shows which I felt was underrated, mostly because people were just so uncertain about Pamela Anderson being able to hold her own sitcom. But I thought it had a really solid ensemble.
CL: Yeah, we had higher hopes. I felt like it was the type of show that kind of develops and grows as it goes along, as more ideas come into it and we had the different relationships building on it. I just felt like we’d barely gotten started, and then they pulled the plug. Perhaps, as you sort of suggested, the studio didn’t really know how to present it or know what the strong selling point might be. It was a little hard to define it clearly. But, hey, that’s the game. (Laughs)
PH: I know you contributed to a documentary for the latest reissue of the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Do you still enjoy revisiting the films once in awhile for things like that?
CL: Sure. I mean, it was such an amazing experience, all three films. Just great stories. And working with Michael J. Fox and Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale, who wrote it. Wonderful crew, wonderful cast…it was just a great experience.
PH: You’ve actually been in a couple of cult films that I’ve loved, one of which is “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.”
CL: (With legitimate fondness) Oh, yeah! That was just so original and quirky and, again, they had an amazing cast put together. Sometimes, there have been rumors of a sequel, but I think those died out a long time ago. But it would’ve been nice to carry the story on in some way.
PH: So if they found a way, you’d be up for returning?
CL: Oh, yeah. (Laughs)
PH: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
CL: Well, you’ve mentioned two of them! I don’t know.
PH: One of the films you’ve worked on, I’ve always wondered about. When you were filming “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” at the time, was everyone convinced it was going to be the biggest hit in the world?
CL: It seemed to have everything going for it. I mean, it was being very well financed. They had some troubles with the gentleman playing the Lone Ranger (Klinton Spilsbury), because they felt after awhile that he really wasn’t fulfilling the image of the Lone Ranger that they wanted to portray. I mean, his entire vocal track…one of the Keach brothers redid his voice because they didn’t feel like the actor had the voice for it. He looked great. He was a stunning-looking young man. But they didn’t feel he brought the Lone Ranger to it. So it just didn’t go. I haven’t seen it for so long, though. If I saw it again, I might see other reasons that it didn’t work out. (Laughs)
PH: And, lastly, can you talk just a little bit about the experience of working on “Taxi”?
CL: I thought the ensemble was amazing. I had just come out from New York, where all my work had been in theater, and I had a bit of an attitude about sitcoms. It was Hollywood, and if you’re a bona fide theater actor in New York, you kind of look at sitcoms as an inferior place to be working. I remember coming onto the set of “Taxi” and watching them rehearse, and I just thought, “These people are amazing!” Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza…I mean, the whole cast, it was just extraordinary. A wonderful, wonderful ensemble. There were no ego trips, and there was so much talent. A great writing team, and the producers were really behind it. It was a unique experience, and I loved every minute of it. To have a show like that comes once in a lifetime, maybe, and I feel like I had great fortune to be there for it.
PH: I know Danny has said that he’d love to see a “Taxi” reunion movie, as a feature film.
CL: Yes, that, again, is an idea that seems to float around, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t get into gear. Maybe someday, maybe someday. Of course, we’d really miss Latka. That’s a sad thing. But…I don’t know, maybe it’ll come about somehow.
PH: Did you enjoy revisiting Reverend Jim for “Man in the Moon”?
CL: Oh, that was amazing! Because we did “Taxi” for Paramount, and of course it was closed down, but they recreated the set at Universal Studios, and it was déjà vu all over again. I mean, everything was there. The scrapes on the table, every detail was recreated, and all of us were there, a little bit older. It was a fabulous reunion. Of course, Jim Carrey did a superb portrayal, and…it was great. (Laughs) It was pretty cool.
PH: Well, I know you’re on a tight schedule, with a photo shoot you’ve got to head off to, but it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
CL: You, too!