In 1985 Back to The Future was released, it was a worldwide cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing film of the year. It still is a cherished Hollywood classic, in fact, the film was such a success that 2 more parts were released in 1989 and 1990. The franchise celebrated its 35th anniversary recently on October 21st.
We interviewed Jeffery Weissman about his character and experience in the filming of the movie, he played the role of George McFly in the film’s sequel and threequel.
Too long to Watch? Here are the Most Important Questions!
A lot of people are interested in knowing what got you into acting in the first place?
Jeffery Weissman: I think I came out of my mother’s womb wanting to act I was always on. I remember growing up hearing stories about myself in my high chair at the dinner table you know being silly making jokes and trying to be the center of attention and through school and you know grade school elementary school in junior high I finally started getting on stage in my junior high and high school years and my parents didn’t really want me to be an actor and why is that? They knew how rough, they knew how hard an actor’s life can be so they really didn’t let me uh get into it but still, I wanted to pursue it after high school and went after training and started getting on movie sets so.. so I got my start basically on stage and then doing film with friends in junior high in high school, the stage is a very difficult platform right because there are no you know retakes no second chances.
Well it’s a different animal I know I’m often asked what do I prefer stage film or television and I really like all three I find all three are uniquely unto themselves they’re kind of different animals, where on stage you have the luxury of rehearsing, perhaps a month or more before you go opening night in front of a live audience and in the rehearsal process you bring in all the choices that you make with relationships and for uh actions that bring life and you nail it down and on in front of a live audience there’s instant gratification. You know whether they’re crying, your character whether they’re laughing with you whether you’re cheering and applauding on while film and television where some television work is in front of a live audience but generally on a TV series that are not in front of a live audiotaped in front of a live audience or on film, your audience is your crew right! the film that is there that you’re your cinematographer you’re cameraman your director, etc and your fellow actors and you never know what it’s going to be like until maybe months later maybe even a year later when you see it on top screen, yes and it’s been edited and maybe your best work has landed on the floor you know it’s been cut out.
Yeah, I understand that’s a problem with a lot of creatives that is a genuine problem with a lot of people.
Jeffery Weissman: I remember in a film I did that it’s never been released called to servant to protect though I had a very wonderful sort of miracle happen on the third take and I remember calling the director for months saying how’s that third take come out because my character gets sick and uh and anyway I don’t want to tell exactly what happened because it’s ..it’s kind of disgusting but I know that on that third take this, the gods the sky opened up and god smiled and it was very very funny what happened and I’ve had that happen on other films and on nobody’s laughing and even on back to the future too I had a couple of things happen that I thought were very funny that did not make the final cut, oh one is in the bonus material it’s called pizza, a scene that was deleted and you know it’s generally either something that is improvised or that happens in the moment that wasn’t planned may not be in the script and it just brings more life and I know from working comedy for so many years that is very funny my intuition or you know experience has told me that oh that that really worked I hope it stays in but you never know whereas in on stage you get that instant gratification you know it’s already in. Yeah and it works you know if you’ve done a good job on a back job it’s just there right precise yes.
So did that fame somehow take over you? Did it make you feel like a king or something?
Jeffery Weissman: Yes! I’m a king…. no I…it just did my heart very very nice things, it made me feel uh appreciated where for years I did, I didn’t think I had uh the appreciation of say, the Hollywood establishment so much but from the fans it really made me feel good and I’m a very social person and meeting the fans around the world many have become friends over the years so it’s so it’s very it’s lovely yeah.
So Jeffrey if I’m not wrong I want to hold your hand was your first movie is that correct?
Jeffery Weissman: I think it was my first time on a professional studio live I had… it’s hard for me to remember back then it was 1977 or 78 and I just wanted to get on a movie studio and see what it was like, you know get my toe in the water, so I was doing background work just to see what it was all about and I appear in the film called The Rose with Ben Midle another one called FM with Martin Mull and Eileen Brenan and then I want to hold your hand which was directed by Robert Zemeckis.
I play a Ringo fan outside the Beatles hotel in New York in 1963 I think and I don’t think Zemeckis was comfortable directing the crowds or something so they he brought in his friend Stephen Spielberg to direct us right and that in particular was a very hot day in Burbank in Los Angeles, right it was probably a hundred degrees or so and they were supposed to be in New York in the freezing winter and we’re all bundled up and extras were dropping like flies fainting from the heat.
“Oh my God oh my God,” a lot of people think that acting is you know… acting is easy a lot of people have this perception that acting, doesn’t take anything. But I believe that a person has to feel the character and step in its shoes to really do the type of work that you guys do.
Jeffery Weissman: Well I’ve met very successful actors who have never trained true and they just have the talent already and they have the instincts from either watching family members or others that they believe in or respect and doing the work otherwise I recommend any person that wants to pursue acting get training because to have the tools that you need to be able to bring life to tell the story you need to know what triggers in you the, you know how to affect the conditions that’ll bring about the emotional states and responses that are needed to tell the story of your character right and if you know you could study there’s several different acting methods methodologies that are very viable and if you have in your pocket the tools that they offer you’re going to be better off than those actors that don’t have the training there are stars though out there who haven’t trained right and that but they also have had lots of experience on set on Saturday and yeah and and they bring that brings a lot of knowledge in itself the experience the opportunity though I teach acting and I always tell my students to try to find out right away who’s in it for fame, who’s in it for money and then try to dissuade them from it because fame and fortune is hopefully just a byproduct yeah the end is the hard work, the storytelling. Yeah and the celebration of life exactly.
You’ve been back to the future, if you could go back to the past what would you change?
Jeffery Weissman: I think I probably…when in 1982 when I screen-tested for the lead in a film called War Games, a very aggressive agent I was up in the San Francisco bay area going to school at the American conservatory theater and an agent pursued me, brought me back to Hollywood to Los Angeles where I’d grown up to try to get work right away and that resulted eventually in twilight zone movie my first co-star role and I think I would have held that off to finish my studies to get my degree from the American conservatory theater because I was in my second year towards my masters and I kind of set that aside because opportunity knocked for me to come to Hollywood as sort of a hot item and I think I would change that I think I would have gone back to finish that study.
So Jeffrey I also know that you do have some sort of online venture what is that about?
Jeffery Weissman: Well because of the pandemic yeah I have participated on a lot of different online ventures right away a producer put together a fan base of 300 different Back to the Future fans from nine different countries and we made Back to the Future part two and it’s called Back to the Future to two project 88 because he’s he cut the film up, the script up into 88 different scenes, and assigned them to these people around the world so you can find it on YouTube and also at project88.com and I do a cameo in that is reprising my role as George McFly look for that and then i was asked to play Doc Brown in a shake a version of Back to the Future as if it was the first film as if it was written by Shakespeare. So a Shakespearean version back to the Future I played doc brown by with a company called the show must go online out of London and that’s on YouTube and for them I’ve also played Sir Toby Belch in a zoom version of Twelfth Night they’re working their way they’re almost complete with the whole canon of Shakespeare’s plays doing a different play every week with very hard-working wonderful cast from around the world, I also have been doing some virtual signings there’s one coming up for Tokyo comic-con at supercollector.com where Chris Lloyd and Michael J Fox Leah Thompson myself Tom Wilson and others from the cast are doing a virtual signing for fans around the world and I’ve got a film called Delorean living the legend that I narrate, that has just started uh yesterday streaming on amazon prime and that’s once again about Delorean owners around the world the Delorean story and the Back to the Future fans and all that stuff.
Right so uh Jeffrey I won’t take any more of your time, any last words for your fans? You have a worldwide following so anything? any message any that you would like to say to the people?
Jeffery Weissman: I just pray that in this unprecedented time that everybody stay healthy stay safe and smart and diligent yeah with all the precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones and others that they don’t even know safe with compassion and that uh we just make it through this pardon me, we make it through this and hopefully we’ll get back to work I’ll get to be a part of more great storytelling and keep you know understanding the human condition and enlightening and educating.