Lloyd a man of 1,000 characters
FILMMAKER ELLIOT KOTEK interviewed longtime character actor Christopher Lloyd during the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival.
From an asylum inmate in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to a mad scientist in “Back to the Future” to whatever Uncle Fester was in “The Addams Family,” Christopher Lloyd has never shied away from an off-beat character role. His lofty career was celebrated on Thursday during the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, where festival Director Kevin McNeely presented him with the Award of Excellence.
While he’s known for big characters, Lloyd himself is quiet, humble and easy going. He was a frequent fixture around Sonoma during the festival, attending several screenings and visiting the Backlot Tent where he took dozens of photos with fans.
“It’s a nice town you’ve got here,” he told the I-T.
Thursday evening began with a screening of Lloyd’s short film, “Cadaver,” in which he voices a corpse in search of love. The sold-out crowd then saw the premiere of “Last Call,” in which Lloyd plays a drunk and depressed Irish bar owner who is up to his neck in debt before being sentenced to 90 days in rehab. His son and clueless nephew are charged with taking over the struggling family business, with often disastrous results.
Lloyd sat in the audience during the screening, before being interviewed by filmmaker Elliot Kotek during the tribute. The two touched on the highlights and back stories of Lloyd’s varied career, ranging from the time he spent in an Oregon state mental institution preparing for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to the wisdom of Rev. Jim on “Taxi.”
“… Rev. Jim said, ‘If you find yourself in a confusing situation, simply laugh knowingly and walk away.’ That seems to be a pretty good recipe for life,” Kotek said.
Lloyd replied, “That’s a good philosophy.”
When looking back on his work, Lloyd said he sees a series of happy accidents. He was drawn to roles he could play, not necessarily films he thought would become blockbusters. His biggest commercial success, the “Back to the Future” trilogy, earned early buzz when Robert Zemeckis signed on to direct, with Executive Producer Steven Speilberg.
“There was kind of a feeling about it because of the people connected to it … I don’t think we anticipated it’d have a 2 or a 3 or that it’d do as well as it has,” Lloyd said. “I love it.”
When asked if he’d taken any souvenirs from the set, he admitted he had a yellow shirt with a train print he was given from the set of “Back to the Future 3.”
“I wear it once in a while – very once in a while,” he said. “My kind-of lady friend doesn’t like to see me in it.”
McNeely presented Lloyd with the festival’s Award of Excellence, an engraved wine bucket from Tiffany’s, along with a festival crown hand-made by McNeely’s daughter, Hannah Rose.