BACK TO THE FUTURE 25th ANNIVERSARY
Interviewer: So tell me about
your time in Chicago.
James Tolkan: Every time Iím
back in Chicago itís like going back to the future, because Iíve been there so
many times and Iíve got so many great experiences from Chicago, except for one
in the original. I was 15 years old and we were living in North Michigan, my
parents had just got divorced, and it was the worst year of my life. I was
living alone in a basement, and I lied about my age and got a job on the Chicago
North Western Railway. But then we moved to Arizona and my whole life changed
and Iíve been on scholarship ever since then. But now when I come to Chicago,
itís just like going back to the future because [in] Chicago the last play I did
was Wait Until Dark and then in the 60s I did a National tour of The
Best Man with Melvin Douglas, Craig Lovejoy and these were all great
Interviewer: How did you get
James Tolkan: How did I get
into acting? When I got out of the Navy I went back to school in Iowa and there
I got interested in acting. I transferred to Iowa as it had a great theatre
department and I met all these great people and they said you must go to New
York, so I went to New York and I got off the bus and was scared to death. In
those days when you went to New York it was full of promise and hope and I got a
scholarship and then I started working and studying with Lee Strasberg and it
was just painful. But it was a great experience and most of my work was in
Interviewer: Were you always
playing character roles since you were young?
James Tolkan: Yes, since I was
young I was playing old.
Interviewer: And you donít look
any different [now] than the first Back To The Future 25 years ago. So if you
think back to Back To The Future, is it one of the movies that people still
recognise you from?
James Tolkan: Very much so,
itís amazing because this one was kind of a surprise success and as the producer
used to say, ďthe planets were all alignedĒ.
Interviewer: In what way did
you think it was the right time?
James Tolkan: I donít know if
it was the right time, but everything was perfect, everything worked
beautifully. All the choices they made were the right choices.
Interviewer: I suppose every
time someone comes up to you and recognises you from the film, they say one
specific line to you...
James Tolkan: They say
ďSlacker!Ē or something like that you know.
Interviewer: Itís so funny
because it comes right back to you.
James Tolkan: Well Iím a New
York actor as I said and I always said I would never go to Hollywood. I got the
call from Robert Zemeckis and I didnít know who Robert Zemeckis was then, but I
thought, OK this is my chance to go to Hollywood. But youíve got to be careful
what you wish for. I did a series with Mary Tyler Moore and that didnít really
work out, then I did The Hat Squad and Cobra and then I got more
interested in playing snooker than working.
Interviewer: Can you tell me
about some of your favourite moments from being on the set or maybe some of your
favourite scenes that you were in?
James Tolkan: Well, one of the
things I always remember is in the first movie we had cabins which were made out
of little cubicles, very modest, and then when we did the 2nd and 3rd
movie we had huge trailers and it was unbelievable and thatís what I remember,
the fun of it. Itís the most fun Iíve ever had doing a movie.
Interviewer: Now were you
surprised to be in the 3rd movie, as it goes back to the wild west?
Did you wonder how they were going to fit you in?
James Tolkan: Not at all, they
said ďdo you want to do it?Ē and I said yes and they just worked out how they
would work me into it.
Interviewer: I read that you
were the first choice, and as you didnít know who Robert Zemeckis was how did he
find you or pick you out, or why did he want you?
James Tolkan: Well I thought
that he had seen the play that I had been doing in New York, but thatís not the
case. They had seen a movie I had done called Prince of the City, a movie about
Police corruption in which I played a DA modelled on Puccio, and I was Puccio,
and from that they called me.
Interviewer: Now, I hadnít
watched them in a long time and I rented all three this past weekend and did a
little marathon and I noticed, was it just me, that the first one seemed a
little more family oriented and as they went on they [got] a little bit
James Tolkan: I agree, I was
surprised but I think they made that choice and it happened with the times, the
current times and what was going on with the internet and all that stuff. I
think they were pushing a bit in that direction, Iím guessing.
Interviewer: Did everything
change for you after the success of the first one, as it was the biggest money
maker of the year?
James Tolkan: Nothing has ever
changed for me. You know, it is what it is.
Interviewer: But as far as
being recognised on the street?
James Tolkan: Well yes, there
were other things that I have been recognised for but Iím very proud to be
recognised for this movie with all the people involved.
Interviewer: So what are the
other roles that people come up to you with?
James Tolkan: Mostly Top Gun,
but some people for Masters of the Universe. I get requests for pictures
for Masters of the Universe. Sometimes they come and request pictures
from the TV stuff that Iíve never really done
Interviewer: Can you tell me of
any memories of working with Michael J. Fox?
James Tolkan: It was very
impressive, his demeanour on the set and the ease in which he went into his
characters, I always suffered through acting. He made it look so easy and so
simple you know and now of course when you see him how he is, itís quite sad.
Interviewer: Do you keep in
touch with him?
James Tolkan: No, but we did
see him last fall. He turned up when we did the Hollywood show and it was great
to see him. He would like to be directing I think, but I think some people might
choose not to go along with that.
Interviewer: So if they ever
came back and said weíre going to do another one, weíre going to do Back To The
Future IV, would you do it?
James Tolkan: Of course, but
itís not going to happen. How could it possibly happen, I, II and III were so
special you just couldnít go back.