Christopher Lloyd is many things to many people. To millions of TV viewers, he’s Reverend Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. Moviegoers around the globe remember his performances as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Uncle Fester in the Addams Family features. And to Star Trek fans he made his mark as the Klingon Commander Kruge, who gave Kirk (William Shatner) and crew a run for their money in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Lloyd doesn’t consent to many interviews, but in advance of his appearance this weekend at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Chicago, Lloyd agreed to talk with StarTrek.com. The result was a conversation in which he recounted his STIII experience, marveled at the enduring popularity of both STIII and Back to the Future, and updated us on his current projects.
You’ve done so much work over the years. How odd is it to you that you’re in demand for conventions like the one in Chicago and that people are still so interested in talking to you about your performance as Kruge in Star Trek III?
Lloyd: Well, it’s part of the Star Trek mystique, I guess. It’s a role that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was fun to play an evil character that has no remorse about anything he does. The conventions are very interesting. They’re a lot of fun. It means a lot to the fans to come and meet the people from the shows and the films that they appreciate. It’s a chance to say hello and to have something signed.
You were buried under makeup and prosthetics as Kruge. Are you an actor for whom makeup complements a performance or does hours in a makeup chair wipe you out to the point it’s a struggle by the time you get to set?
Lloyd: It always enhances what I’m doing in a scene. That kind of makeup, when it’s put on well, it enhances what you’re doing and gives you more confidence that you’re going to be able to portray the character and make it believable.
What else do you remember about the Search for Spock shoot?
Lloyd: I hadn’t done that much film work before then and I didn’t quite know what about me they saw from previous work that convinced them that maybe I’d be a good Klingon. But I love doing that kind of thing, a far-out character, and a far-out character with a good script and a wonderful cast. I’ve seen the movie (again recently) and it holds up very nicely.
Kruge’s death – Kirk kicking him off a cliff and down into lava – is a favorite demise among Trek fans. That was done with a combination of elements: you, a stuntman, a puppet/dummy and animation. What did you think of the scene when you saw it all put together?
Lloyd: I thought it was great. I’m pushed off the edge of the cliff there and I just fall down into that chasm and I’m roasted. I thought it was a great ending for the character, very entertaining. And I couldn’t tell where I ended and the puppet started.
Sci-fi fans also loved you as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future films. The trilogy will be released October 26 on DVD and Blu-ray as a 25th anniversary special edition and the original film will return to theaters on October 23 and 25. Back when you made the original film did you think it could be something special or was it just another movie?
Lloyd: I never thought of it (becoming a classic). It never occurred to me. I was going to be happy if it had a good, strong run, if it was a popular film. I thought it would run its course and that would be that. But it just kept rolling along and it keeps rolling along, and generation after generation keeps showing up to see it. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of something that means so much to so many people and that just keeps thriving.
You’ve been touring the country in a Weston Playhouse production of Death of a Salesman. The story goes that you were asked what show you wanted to do, what role you wanted to play, and you said Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Now that the tour is nearly over, how has it been, inhabiting that character?
Lloyd: That story is true. I just thought, “Why not?” Willy Loman is not the kind of role that most people would consider casting me in and I wanted to sink my teeth into something of that depth. So I went for it and I’m just so happy that I did. I’ve loved doing it. Initially I thought of him more as a defeated man or more accepting of defeat, but as I got into it, and from working with the director, Steve Stettler, I feel Willy Loman is fighting to figure out a way to come out standing on his feet no matter how the cards are stacked against him at this point in his life. He is not defeated. He is fighting as hard as he can to make sense of the circumstances and to have something positive come out of it. He does succumb, but he doesn’t start the play in a defeated way.
If we go by IMBD you have a bunch of upcoming projects. Does this list sound about right to you: InSight, Chateau Meroux, The Witches of Oz, Last Call and Serial Buddies, among others?
Lloyd: I’d love to see all of them get into theaters. But you do some films and you don’t know if you’ll ever hear anything about them ever again. I love working and I had a great time doing each of them. I’ll be finished doing Death of a Salesman in a couple of weeks and there are a couple of other things out there. We’ll just have to see how it goes and what else comes up, but I’m anxious to get into something else.