For this, the final installment of "Back to Back to the Future," we were honored to film at the infamous Clock Tower on the Universal Studios lot in Universal Studios, CA. In addition, to mark the momentous occasion, we were floored to be joined by Back to the Future actress Claudia Wells, who portrayed Jennifer in the film! Thank you to Claudia for joining us and making this exciting event even more memorable!
For more information on Claudia Wells, be sure to visit her official website, her Studio City store's website, or on Facebook, and Twitter!
Click here to revisit Fanboy Comics' year-long "Back to Back to the Future" series!
Video/Editing by grahamstonejohnson.com
October 21, 2015
By Samm Levine
Like all kids born between 1970ish and 1990ish, the Back to the Future trilogy was a huge part of my childhood and adolescence. They were movies the whole family could watch together, and no one felt like they were above the material. (Being an adult now, I can only imagine how tough it was for my father to pretend he was truly interested in re-watching An American Tail with me for the 18th time.)
Seeing those movies was a seminal part of growing up. And, while I was just a three year old when the first Back to the Future opened, I have crystal-clear memories of seeing Parts Two and Three in theaters. Of course, thanks to the magic of home video, I was more than caught up on the story leading into the first sequel. And, the instant Parts Two and Three were released on VHS, my collection was complete, and my bi-weekly habit of watching all three films began. Needless to say, I was a fan. A serious fan.
Now, at some point in the '90s, during the few hours I wasn’t watching one of the Back to the Future movies, I had this crazy idea of trying to become a professional actor. A couple of giant strokes of luck later, in the beginning of 1999, I found myself on the set of a TV pilot called Freaks & Geeks. Sure, getting to act in anything, let alone an amazing pilot, was incredible. But, to me, the best news of all was finding out that ‘Coach Ben Fredricks’ would be played by none other than Biff Tannen himself, Tom Wilson. (Sure, you may know him as ‘Thomas F. Wilson’ thanks to silly SAG rules about actors’ names, but to me, he’s Tom.)
I was beside myself with joy that I’d have at least one full day of working with him, where I could fanboy my little 17-year-old heart out, and ask any Back to the Future questions I wanted. I mean, he’s stuck on set with me – what’s he going to do, drive away?
Tom didn’t disappoint. He couldn’t have been nicer or more generous with him time and willingness to discuss my nagging questions about hover boards, horse riding, and manure. And, he even did me the greatest service of all – he recorded my outgoing answering machine (yes, answering machine, not voicemail) message as Biff. (Sadly, in spite of my best efforts, I could not locate said message for this piece.) Certainly from where I stood, it was a wonderful day. The giddy fan smile was impossible to wipe off my face. I thanked Tom profusely for everything, and we went our separate ways.
And then, some two months later, the most outrageous thing happened. NBC picked up Freaks & Geeks to series, with production to begin that summer. I would get to see Tom a lot more.
At first, I hadn’t even thought about what other questions or stories I wanted to ask Tom about. At this point, I was probably only watching the Back to the Future movies once a month or so (barely a fan!). But, the minute we were on set together again, all sorts of queries came flooding into my teenage brain.
“Did Crispin Glover really sue the studio over the second film?”
“What was actually in that spittoon you got covered in?”
“Did you guys honestly shoot for several weeks with a different actor as Marty?”
Sure, most of these questions have been well covered by the internet since then. But, at the time in 1999, many had not. I couldn’t wait to tell my brother, my friends – anyone who’d listen, all the secret insider knowledge I’d acquired.
I was a sugar-crazed kid locked in a candy store. No – that’s not right. I was a sugar-crazed kid locked in a bank vault with a living, breathing, life-sized gummy bear. A gummy bear I would sink my teeth into any time a craving struck (and those cravings struck often). And, that’s when I pushed too far. I’d taken one bite too many from gummy bear friend.
It was sometime around the end of October of 1999 when I asked Tom my 400th question. As always, he answered as best he could, with no qualms. But then, he made a proclamation.
“Here’s the thing, Samm. I’m very proud of the work I did in the Back to the Future movies. And, it’s pretty much the number one thing people ask me about. So, I’ve been talking about it nearly every day since the first one came out in 1985. Now, you’re a sweet kid and I know you’re a big fan, but we might be working on this show together for a long time. And, I don’t want to avoid talking to you if I’m afraid every time I do, Back to the Future is going to come up. So, how about this – you can ask me anything thing else you want about those movies until the end of the year, and then we’ll leave it there. The year 2000 will mark 15 years since the first film came out, and that seems like a fair amount of time to have passed for me to move onto the next part of my life. So, come January 1st, I’m calling a moratorium for you on Back to the Future questions. You good with that?”
How could I not be? It wasn’t until then I realized that 90 percent of my conversations with Tom had been about those three (awesome) movies. And, he’s such an interesting man, with so many other accomplishments, talents, and interests, I’d been blowing this great opportunity to actually get to know him.
I think I only brought it up once or twice between then and the end of the year. Come January 1st, 2000, I was done. And then, I finally got to chat with Tom like a person. I picked up on his incredible stand-up comedy career. (He still performs regularly, by the way.) I found out he’s an amazingly gifted artist (I may even have a Tom Wilson original in my home.) and musician. I even learned that his wife used to have a super secret government job she wasn’t allowed to talk about at home! I mean this guy has stories!!
I felt pretty crappy about having abused my forced presence in Tom’s life for so long. But then, one day in the first week of February 2000, while we were shooting some scenes way out past Hacienda Heights (Trust me, it’s a drive)., Tom pulled me aside.
“Hey, Samm, I thought I’d mention this since I think it might be of interest to you. Where we’re shooting today isn’t too far from the Puente Hills Mall, which just so happens to be the same mall where they shot all the exterior scenes from Back to the Future. The Twin Pines Mall (a.k.a. the Lone Pine Mall) stuff. You know, when Doc shows Marty the DeLorean for the first time, and he outruns the terrorists. Now, I won’t take you there, but I circled where it is on this map for you. You should go check it out before it gets dark.”
And, that’s why Tom is the best. And, why I’m beyond lucky to call him a friend. And, why watching any Back to the Future movie feels a little more personal to me since then.
Thanks again, Tom. I’m still a butthead.