Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Back to the Interview with Jeffrey Weissman - Part 2

And back to the Interview... Continued from part one...

So, we'd discussed a few things, but now it was time to take it up a gear, as it were... So I got on with my questions...

It was a shock to me that it wasn’t Crispin [Glover] in Back to the Future 2…

“The whole thing was a little bit of a tight spot for me, at the screen test Robert Zamekis said to Dean Cundy “What do you think Dean?” And Dean replied “I think we have Crispin without the trouble”…”

Oooh… Now I had to get more juice on Crispin Glover…

“Apparently Crispin was a bit of a pain on the first shoot. I was actually told by my make-up artist that Crispin was out and I was going to be playing George!"

Oh crikey!

“Yes, so I played George, but I was always in the background, or slightly out of focus, or being obscured by the shade… In the
scene when you're watching from principal Stricklands office and I'm knocking Biff out in the car park of the high school… Are you following me?..."

I’ve seen that film about 100 times… Yes, I totally knew what scene he was talking about! I nodded excitedly.

“… I'm there, skewered by the shade… Often, when you see the make-up, it looks kind of odd... so that's why they didn't do you close-ups… 

They did edit in a couple of close-ups of Crispin from the first film though. Later on Crispin called me and said “It's not right that they reuse this footage of me from the first film and spliced you in! And they didn't pay me much for it! Plus they wouldn't negotiate, so they made you up to look like me." I  had to agree.

Then, when I asked if I could promote myself and even get better billing, the producers shot me down... They didn't want anyone to know that there was another actor [playing George] as they had already advertised that the whole cast was coming back to reprise their roles... So it was a very sticky situation for me. 

I even had Spielberg one they come up to me on the set and say "Crispin I see you got your million dollars" and I was like "What?!" 

I finally negotiated a shared title card/credit, although the producers would have just preferred to have me without a credit and keep me a secret, because they didn't want Crispin to sue… Which of course he did!”

But of course Crispin was not the only one that was replaced? Elizabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells in BTTF 2 as Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer.

“Ahh but they didn't say make Elizabeth to look like Claudia, they just give her clothes in the wig…”

Ah yes… No prosthetics needed…

“She was a great girl she was just a delightful spirit… And Claudia is pretty wonderful too!”

So, why was Claudia replaced with Elizabeth? 

“There were lots of stories... maybe she could lose some weight was one... But I know that her mother was suffering from cancer at that time and she didn't have the bandwidth to come back. But know it broke her heart.”

And I know that Michael J Fox replaced Eric Stolz…

“Yeah, but they originally wanted Michael J Fox! But he wasn't allowed out of the first season of Family Ties - I believe the actress Meredith Baxter [who played the mother] was pregnant and they didn't want to let any of the cast members go, so they could cover for her while she went on maternity leave.

You know the producers there didn't even tell Michael that Universal wanted him for that for this film…  It was offered to Ralph Macchio, and quite a few other actors too, but then the studio kind of forced Eric Stoltz on them, because he was hot right off of ‘Mask’- there was an buzz that he was going to get an Academy award for it..."

And Eric was a more intense Marty?

"Eric was a method actor, in fact he always wanted to be referred to as Marty on the set… He was moody and didn't bring the lightness that Michael brought."

What about the brilliant Christopher Lloyd?

"When they offered Christopher Lloyd the script he was going to be a serious stage actor in a play with Colleen Dewhurst, so when he got the script he threw it in the garbage… 

In the meantime universal looked at all sorts of people for the character including Dudley Moore, Chevy Chase, John Lythgow and Jeff Goldblum… Yes, there were a lot of people consider for Doc Brown. 

One of the people who auditioned for George McFly stood out for me was Johnny Depp!!”

Johnny Depp? Really?! Goodness!

What was Christopher Lloyd like? He has a very iconic and distinct character style - from Doc Brown to Taber in Cuckoo’s nest and Ignatowski in Taxi - is he really like that?!

“He is very quiet around people he doesn't know. [When I met him] I said ‘Hello I'm a big fan’ and then we kind of looked at each other for a few minutes… I felt uncomfortable… and he felt uncomfortable and finally I just laughed, but it wasn't for another 12 years, when we were starting to do the cast reunions and I got really to hang out with Chris.

There was one event at a theatre where they were screening the trilogy, Chris and I were both in the projectionist booth at the theatre and we spent a good half an hour just sitting and chatting, he opened up a great deal more… I mean he’s still not all that talkative, but he really is a friendly kind man.”

I’m glad.

“I've done several films with him now, including (The Chateau Meroux (2011) and The Boat Builder (2015)) and every time I see him I get a hug.

He's a real gentleman and it's nice to say that I'm friends with him”

Now they call October the first 2015 Back to the Future Day… But if you think about it, it's really Back to the Future TWO day?

"It is!"

So, there were so many predictions for 2015 and so many they got right!

"Yeah, they got side of 50% or 60% of their predictions correct!"

Did you ever wonder if any of the technology featured might actually be reality in 2015?

“I love the thought of flying cars! I actually knew that they had flying cars already at that time, there was an automobile museum in San Diego, and in its collection they had a boat/plane/car from the 1950s, and photos of it flying! Unfortunately that prototype burned with the museum back in the early 90s, so I thought ‘Yeah by maybe 2015 they might have flying cars...’”

It’s a shame, isn’t it?

“Some of the inventions were pretty far-fetched - the fruit conveyance that came down from the ceiling with fresh fruit growing on it… and the hydrator the made the pizza in four seconds... We did have microwaves then though, which wasn't too far from that...

That set was art directed within an inch of its life! They spent a fortune on all the gadgets but I would say probably 40% of them never made it to the screen.”

That’s a shame….

“Yeah, I had a very cool watch the never made it to the screen and a jacket...”

I just thank god the double tie trend didn’t catch on! 

“Well Joanna Johnston who was the costume designer took really great care find the materials that felt futuristic, she went out of her way to finding the material for my trousers… you can't really tell because I'm hanging upside down as old George… They weren’t quite luminescent, but when the light hit them they reflected! She's more recently got the Academy award for Lincoln.”


“All the costumes you see on the Hill Valley residents were amazing,  there is a bit of the 1980s ‘big shoulder’ feel to the lot of them,
if you read the ‘Back to the Future: The Visual History’ by Michael Klastorin check to see the designs that Joanne came up with… They’re just remarkable.”

How do you feel about it being 2015 now?

“It is pretty amazing that according to the film we’re actually all in the past now...”

Now this film bridges the gap between ‘geeks’ and ‘norms’ and not many films can claim that!… Everybody loves BTTF!

“The stories transcend time, they're very family friendly and actually you don't clearly have act one, two and three; the first film is George’s story, the second film is Marty’s  and the third is Doc’s story.  And at the heart of all three films is this relationship between an older and young man… and we haven’t seen that innocence since in the 70s! These days you wouldn’t have that without some derogatory, or even maybe sexual undertones… There is the great friendship and some great innocent love between the Doc and Marty,  and that really transcends a lot of material out there…" 

So back to shooting the movie, how long will you actually hanging upside down?

“Over a two week period it was almost daily, because the shots around the kitchen table took forever to shoot! This was because the camera we were working with could splice the film, so Michael could play multiple roles… The days were extremely long and Michael had to get in and out of costume and make up.

We had [up to] 26 hour long days and it would take me 3 1/2 hours just to get into make-up!

I think it took us, from getting outside the front door of the McFly house through the kitchen scene, the better part of two weeks.”

You were up there for two weeks!

“They didn't like getting me down from the apparatus because it was time consuming, they really wanted to keep things moving because it was a very expensive shoot.

Dan from Industrial Light and Magic - my sort of ‘handler’ - got a ladder and build a board on one of the top rungs so I could do a, sort of, sit up, and when Zemeckis would call cut, he would move this ladder underneath me…  

But they would leave me up there while everyone was going get a coffee I'll be on the set alone,  twiddling my thumbs going “Hello! Is anybody here?!””

But didn’t you get terribly dizzy? 

“Oh yeah there were times when it was pretty tough, both on my vertigo and my equilibrium… And on my back!” 

So you didn't come down at all?!

“Well, sometimes... Especially for meal…  I didn't like to eat when I was up there!

I was hanging upside down once a crew member came up to me and said “You know all this is torture was meant for Crispin!””

OOH! So really wasn't liked onset?  

“Crispin had a sort of stubborn way about him… For example he wouldn't let the
make-up team actually cut his hair… I heard that Ken Chase was trimming Crispin’s hair once when he was dozing in the make-up chair, but Crispin woke up and  flipped out! He also disappeared for a weekend when he was needed for a shot and it was nowhere to be found...

But then Crispin told me stories about how the producer made him cry in front of extras… So I have sob stories from both sides. It's quite unfortunate that this sort of hillbilly feud it's still going on between Bob Gale and Crispin Glover… I say Bob is probably a multimillionaire and Crispin Glover is pretty well off - he's got a castle in The Czech republic - and they should both get over it and do something worthy, by giving the fans what they want, which is an appearance at a fun event like Comecon, maybe do some fundraising for Michael's charity.” 

Now, I have two ask about Clint Eastwood… He’s a cinematic legend what was that like? 

“It was quite wonderful as I mentioned, earlier [in part 1] that I had a very hot agent in the early 80s and she a rapport with and Lauren Lloyd over at Warner Brothers, she said we have something in this new Clint Eastwood film. So my agent asked them to describe it to us and it was a character that I could fit the bill for. I think got the role at the 11th hour because the very next week I went to Sun Valley Idaho to shoot for for five weeks on location… But of course as soon as I got there a blizzard moved in we got hold up in the hotel!

I was just about shoot my first scene and I hadn’t met Clint yet, so while he was scouting his next shot I followed him down the road were the crew were setting up… Clint turned to me and said “Yeah?” and I said “Oh Mr Eastwood I just want to introduce myself, I'm Jeffrey Wiseman, I'm working with you in the next scene” and he replied “I know, who you are, who do you think hired you?

Clint was the gentleman, he had a lot of first class people on set, but I remember for some reason he didn't like the first caterer, so he got fired and the very next day the new catering  staff came in. So I'm sitting with Clint, in in a blizzard, on top of this mountain, having steak and lobster… Obviously the new guy wanted to impress Clint.

But over the course of the shoot I had lots of fun conversations with him, jokes and good meals, he really is a gentleman a very hard worker. He learnt from Don Seigel - the director one of the early dirty Harry movies - to shoot rehearsals, so if you get what you
needed in the rehearsal, you can move on without even doing a take!  

I remember us doing that for one of the crucial scenes,  where my character is crying over my dead daddy's body. The actor playing my brother didn't have his Mark… and I had to take his and almost kicked Doug McGrath in the head because I slipped… and I said to Clint “Chuck didn't hit his mark… This and this didn't go right” but he said “No, it looks fine, we'll just cut from your face…” and I couldn't argue with that!”

Did you ever tell Michael during BTTF3 that, in fact, he was the second Clint Eastward you had worked with?!

“I unfortunately only had one little scene in Back to the Future part three…  And that didn't occur to me, even though he is in the poncho in the scene that I'm in! - When he returns to the McFly household and we have a little gathering and Biff is there polishing the car -I didn't think to ask Michael about that, but it would've been nice to.”

What do you think George McFly would been doing now? 
Actually that's an odd quality because, in George's case, now is then…

“I think that's been answered in the film... He liked playing golf, he was a successful writer of science fiction books and is a family man and he is…

Hanging upside down? 

Well his back is better anyway...”

I was beginning to get the impression, by all the shifty looks while he was talking, that Jeffrey was lacking confidence with my machine... So I thought, well now is better than ever to try it out and prove to him that I wasn't crazy .

So I got into my specially made space suit - I say specially made... I got my mum to sew it from some old silver curtains and reflector patches - and got in the car - unlike in the film there was no grand opening of wing like doors, and no dry ice effect...  Just me, opening the door and getting in... I should have made in more theatrical I thought... Damn.

"Right" I instructed Jeffrey, "You stay here and document everything you see." I set the destination and return time on the dashboard "I'm heading back to the old west and should be back here in, as you perceive, instantaneously... So hold on to your hat, anything could happen... I'll bring you back a souvenir"

I slowly backed out of my drive and down the road a little; I had plenty of room...

I revved the engine and with a last thumb up out the window to Jeffrey,  sped off... Getting to 45miles an hour wasn't going to take long to achieve! I got faster and faster... 35... 40...41...43...44...45... Then a flash... A loud boom... Then a crack...and then a clunk... and a splutter...  Oh crap! Something had gone terribly wrong... Where was I?! When was I??!!! And what the hell had happened to my time machine?! 

So this is a message to whomever has found it... Please can you meet Jeffrey Weissman, who will be standing on my drive at 9303 Lyon Drive, Lyon Estates, Hill Valley CA on the 21st October 2015 at approximately 2:30pm and tell him thank you... But best go home, because I don't think I'll ever get back to the interview... 

For more information on Jeffrey go to his IMDB page, his Wikipedia page... Or just Google him! 

And read Back to the future: The ultimate visual history by Michael Klastorin.
And check out the Michael J Fox Foundation

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Back to the Interview with Jeffrey Weissman

The date is 1885, I'm writing this by candlelight in a small wooden shack, deep in the heart of the American Wild West. 

If you are reading this then it should be October in the year 2015... The month and year that I left your time - seven months ago today. 

It also means that you have discovered the box that I left underneath, what will be the the town’s swimming pool. Which, if my calculations are correct, should have started it's building works 3 days before I left... As long as my disappearance hasn't disturbed the space time continuum that is....

Let me explain...

I had run an advert in the local paper asking for a time traveller to help me with a little project I was working on. 

I wanted someone with experience - however minimal - to assist me. I would be time travelling alone at first, but I needed an assistant to document every action, every problem... Every success! And it had to be someone I could trust.

So the interview day finally came, I had received quite a varied collection of applicants for the post, which I had managed to whittle down to 10 candidates.

The first person to enter was a man who called himself 'The Doctor'.... "Who?" I had asked... "Exactly" he replied. He seemed personable enough, but warned me that he could change at any minute and I needed stability. So...

... Next!

The next was a middle aged, nervous looking gentleman, in what appeared to be a dressing gown, eating peanuts and carrying a towel... "Well if he couldn't even be bothered to get dressed for an interview" I thought, "What was he going to be like while at work?!"


And after a hodgepodge of geeks and weirdo's, crazies and people thinking this was some elaborate TV windup show, I had almost given up... But then he walked in... A man who in a way had been time travelling for years... A man who had been in the past, in the future and back again, yes this was the man I was looking for... This man was Jeffrey Weissman... And he was just perfect!

Jeffrey Weissman (born October 2, 1958) is an American actor. He has appeared in dozens of motion pictures and TV shows, most notably as George McFly in Back to the Future Part II and III with Michael J. Fox, and as Teddy Conway in Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood.

He sat down on the chair adjacent to me and smiled... It was only then I realised that I had been grinning from ear to ear and staring at him for an uncomfortably long time... How embarrassing, I apologised and explained how I thought he would be perfect for this, and then began my well rehearsed sales patter... 

"This is a fabulous opportunity for the right person to experience first-hand the mysteries of time travel... First as an observer and safety officer as I, alone will take the first leap, and then as my companion through time! You must be physically fit and have an open mind... If this is for you then stay, if not then please leave now" I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers tightly, praying that when I reopened then he would still be there... And, thank the lord, when I finally did, there he was, looking a little more perplexed than before, but still there...

"So let's hear a little bit about you..." 

So how did you get started in the world of showbiz?

“I was always the little ham as a child!

I was playing stories and entertaining at the family dinner table, so when I was old enough [about 7] I played in a little local parks & recreation production pageant for Easter. And really early on, I had a babysitter I was quite fond of.  She took me to a private card game and backgammon club that my father ran where we met Omar Sharif,  who was playing there...  I saw my babysitter go google eyed over him. Then right after, we went and saw him in a movie at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood,  I saw her flip out and go google eyed again – it was as if this [being an actor] was how to get her attention.  As I said, I was quite fond of her, so, I think that influenced me.

I started taking it seriously, and took to the stage in about 7th grade - aged 12 or 13. At school I played Shakespearean roles, and was in a variety of stage productions. So I got the bug and I knew I wanted to be an actor.

Growing up in LA, I would stumble upon sets for TV shows shooting on location. I remember meeting actors and getting advice, one character actor went through my report card grades with me, and he said “You got an A in speech and English, and a B in history, but you got a D in math. You can't get a D in math. How are you going to know if your agent’s screwing you!?!!”

The comedian/actor Don Adams played at my dad’s club too, and father asked him for advice for me  - “Wally, tell him to forget about it…it’s 10% talent and 90% good luck, being in the right place at the right time.”

But I continued pursuing the industry.  I got my foot in the door at major studios by doing extra work  [‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, 'The Rose', 'Fastbreak', 'FM' and  ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’] . I mostly did background bits, but it was very exciting to get on those sets and major studio lots, but ultimately it’s not very fulfilling if you want to sink your teeth into a part.   

I had a very well respected casting director tell me, “You have talent, but you need to get training,” so I chose to attend the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, in the early 80s”.

Sage advice! And from there your career properly took off?

“While I was doing my intermediate studies for the MFA program, I happened into an opportunity to screen test for a lead in a major film, named “the Genius”  with the director Martin Brest helming. Martin liked me for the lead role, and he gave me a screen test. I ended up not landing the role, but he mentioned me to a very good agent, who signed me and had me move back to Los Angeles. By the way, the film was retitled ‘War Games’.”

Ah… You don’t need a time machine to know what happened next…

“A year later, I was on my way to screen test for a film called “Ladyhawke” which I really wanted badly… but once again Matthew Broderick got that…”


“Yes, I played characters for several years at renaissance faires and in several Shakespeare plays and I really wanted to do a period screenplay like that, so that was a bit of a heartbreak, but at least it was getting close to breathing the rarified air of starring in a big studio feature.

My 1st co-starring role was in the fourth segment of the Twilight Zone the Movie, the remake of “Nightmare at 30,000ft”, directed by George Miller, the wonderful Australian director who made “Fury Road” and other Mad Max movies… I’m on the airplane with John Lithgow where the creatures on the wings of the airplane…”

Ah yes, the Shatner remake! Then..?

“I guest starred on several Television shows, Dallas, Max Headroom, Scarecrow & Mrs King and a Diagnosis Murder episode with Dick Van Dyke…I told him I remember thinking as a child, ‘I wanted to grow up to be him!’… That stopped him in his tracks!

 Dick was friendly because I had come to the set with an alpaca sweater that I had found at a second hand store, a golfers sweater that had the 'Dick van Dyke' label on it.  He said “I totally forgot that I’d lent my name to those people back in 61!” I also struck up this rapport because I had played Stan Laurel (Who Dick was very close to, and admired very much).  I played Stan at Universal Studios in Hollywood between 87 and 2001. (I also played Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx)”

So, we have to talk about your appearance in Back to the future two and three, famously replacing Crispin Glover… How did the cast and crew react to you as the new George?

“One of the first people I met on set was Michael J Fox, and he looked at me in the young George McFly make up and said “Crispin ain't going to like this.” So, it was awkward, but within a day or so Michael warmed to me, we spent time hanging out in his trailer and even in public, at a grill in Studio City."

I have to admit I blubbed all the way through Michael J Fox’s autobiography… What was he like?

“He is smart, friendly, opinionated, good natured, and a wonderful soul... He’s a great guy who loves working, telling stories and he has a gusto for life.”

Was there any indication of his Parkinson’s during filming?

“I had suspicions that his rigorous filming schedule was really taking its toll on him, during the day he was doing the final season of Family Ties and during the night we had him on Back to the Future 2 & 3. I said “Michael, when do you sleep?” and he stated, “In the limo on the ride in between studios” - We were at Universal, and Family Ties shot at Paramount which was about 20 minutes away.

I’m sure he napped in his trailer, between shots and in the makeup chair before shoots in the morning. We usually had a three to four hour daily stint in make up to apply the different age make ups.  Michael said, shortly after the shooting of Part 3, he noticed that his pinky started to twitch, which is a sign of PD's onset, but he didn’t get diagnosed for a couple of years after.”  

It’s amazing that he is still working today!

"Like I said, he loves to work!  He’s a workaholic methinks. In fact in Part 3, little Seamus McFly was supposed to be played by Crispin, and when Crispin didn’t come back to do the role, they gave the role to Michael, (as if he didn’t have enough to do). He's kept himself busy, even to this day.”

When was the last time you saw him?

"I saw him in London at the London Film & Comic Con in July, 2015.

There I told him about the fund raising BTTF cruise I was producing for Team
Fox, and his jaw dropped and he said “far out – so glad you’re doing this”.   Though he mentioned straightaway, “I can’t go on boats, the Parkinson’s won’t allow that.” But he autographed a lot of items which we put in the charity auction on the cruise. Mike was going to Skype onto the cruise, but it turned out he couldn't do it as he was triple booked already that week, (the big Fox Foundation fall fund raising event, the Board of Directors meeting, and a film shoot).  We didn’t get him Skyped in on the cruise as he had hoped he could do, but we got Frances Lee McCain (who played Lea Thompson's character, Lorraine Baines' Mother, 'Stella') skyped in and we had seven of the cast and crew from the films on board. The passengers, and celebrities across the board, had a great time.  Many of our passengers even got to meet Christopher Lloyd the night before we sailed at the Ft Lauderdale Film Festival, where I managed to get the indie film 'The Boat Builder', that he stars in, to premiere."

Wow, he really is incredible!

So is it true that you filmed 2 and 3 together?

"It was more back to back – though while we were shooting 2, 3 was in pre-production and then when they started shooting 3, Zemeckis was furiously editing pt 2 at night!

Ah I thought there must be something like that because it’s the only film I’ve seen with a trailer for the sequel at the end of it!"

So did you have to learn both the scripts at the same time?

“Originally both scripts were one, under the title 'Paradox'. (they titled it thus to avoid people knowing it was the Back to the Future sequels, and knowing it was the highest grossing film of 1985, they might charge extra for rentals, and services.)

I suspect the studio and producers  realised they could also double making their money by fleshing the script out by making two films."

I checked my watch, my god we'd been chatting for ages... I thought from the moment he walked into the room that he was the one, but now I knew it... "You wanna' see my machine?" I asked him.

We entered the garage and I threw back the tarpaulin that kept my 'machine' hidden... It was based on a car, just like in Back to the Future, although unlike the film I didn't have the funds for a Delorean... So my time machine was built into a cherry red 1987 Yugo... Not the best choice of car, I know, but within my tiny budget. 

I had set the speed for time travel for 45miles per hour to compensate for the lack of horse power, so I needed to be careful on the road, but I was sure it was going to work, I had done all the checks and I was positive.

I looked at Jeffrey, he didn’t look totally convinced... So I thought I'd deflect him with another question about his career.

So, how did you get the part in BTTF?

“It’s a bit of a story…”

I have a time machine I thought… I have all the time in the world!

“In brief, the agent that had helped me get a part playing Stan Laurel at Universal Tour, had a look-a-like agency – the production had called the agent for a stand in for Michael J Fox and Crispin Glover.  So he called me and asked if I knew who Crispin was, and I said “Sure” and he said “do you think you’re the same height and weight?” I said “no Crispin is taller than me and probably a little heavier” and asked "Why, is this for BTTF sequels?”, he said “I’m not at liberty to say”.  I told him I need the work to earn my medical coverage since my wife was pregnant with our second child, and said "get me in there..."

I had already done several films; 'Pale Rider' with Clint Eastwood, George Miller's segment of 'Twilight Zone the Movie' with John Lithgow, Amy Heckerling's 'Johnny Dangerously' with Michael Keaton, Louis Malle 's 'Crackers'  the with Sean Penn, and others, so I had experience for production to take me seriously. After meeting with the assistant directors, I was sent to casting.

I read for them the scene where Marty and George are hanging the laundry in the backyard from the 1st script… and I suppose that went well, because the next call I got was to go in for makeup prosthetic fittings.

Then I needed to check the make up in a screen test for director Robert Zemeckis and cinematographer, Dean Cundy."

You know when I first watched sequel, didn’t know it was a different person!

“You’re not alone!”

Read more in Part 2, when we talk more about Back to the future, predictions, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Pale Rider, Clint Eastward and much much more...

When we get back to the Interview...

For more information on Jeffrey go to his IMDB page, his Wikipedia page... Or just Google him! 

And check out the Michael J Fox Foundation