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Free Movie: Back to the Future Part II

Actor Jeffrey Weissman, who played George McFly in the 1989 classic, will be on-hand for a Q&A before the October 17 screening at the Orinda Theatre

Fans of Diablo’s monthly Classic Film Series at the Orinda Theatre are in for a treat during our October 10 screening of Back to the Future Part II.

Actor Jeffrey Weissman, who played George McFly in Back to the Future II and III, will appear at the Orinda Theatre to talk about his experiences working with director Robert Zemeckis and star Michael J. Fox on the hit films.

The October 17 (rescheduled from October 10 due to PG&E outages) screening at the Orinda Theatre is free—seating is first come, first served—and the fun starts at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Weissman caught up with Diablo to talk about Back to the Future’s popularity, working with Clint Eastwood on Pale Rider, and his fondness for an East Bay silent film museum.


Nice to meet you, Jeffrey. How often do you go to screenings of Back to the Future Part II?
I’m asked to do appearances by cult theater programs and Back to the Future fan clubs a couple of times per year.

What is the date that was used in the movie—the one that was way out in the future when the film came out in 1989?
It was October 21, 2015. Now the future is in the past.

What did you do on that day in 2015?
That was a triple duty day. There is a large fan event called We’re Going Back Fan Celebration. Fans come to Los Angeles from all over the world to all the locations we shot the movies at. We end up at an Enchantment Under the Sea dance. We will be doing it again October 24-27 this year

What did you think of Back to the Future when you first saw it in 1985?
When I saw the first film in the theater I had a blast—especially watching Crispin Glover just knock it out of the park. I had worked with Crispin about two years before. I was thrilled to see him working and I was working on Pale Rider, so everything was great.

When you were cast to play George McFly in the Back to the Future II and III, you got to work with director Robert Zemeckis. Didn’t you also work for him in his Beatles fan movie, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, back in the 1970s?
I was in  I Wanna Hold Your Hand, I played a Ringo fan. I was still a teenager and I was in a crowd scene dressed as a Beatles fan. The scene was supposed to take place in the depths of winter and we were shooting on a Burbank lot in 105 degree heat. The extras were dropping left and right. But Zemeckis didn’t like filming big crowd scenes—so he brought in Steven Spielberg to film those parts. So I was actually directed by Spielberg in I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

It was a delight to work with Bob Z [in Back to the Future II and III] He is a really trusting actor’s director, and he was a joy to work. He was very collaborative, and listened to a lot of my ideas. It was great to have that kind of input.

Part of the fun in Back to the Future Part II was taking in all the crazy inventions and cultural ideas that might exist 25 years in the future. How accurate was the film about the world we are living in now?
You know, it is pretty amazing to see how many things they did get right: multiple channels on TV and the kind of advanced security systems that we have. We still don’t have the flying cars, or the hydrometer that makes a pizza in a couple of seconds. But there is a guy in France who has built a version of the hover board. And the Cubs winning the World Series—they weren’t far off from that.

You mentioned working on Pale Rider in 1985. What was it like to work with Clint Eastwood on that film?
He is wonderful. He has this effortless, relaxed way about him. His crew loves him and they are always thinking two or three scenes ahead, so the shoot is incredibly efficient.

Clint doesn’t call “action.” He usually says, “When you’re ready,” which is a lovely thing to hear as an actor.

I learned so much from being on the set and watching him work. For example, there was one scene that took us three days to shoot. It involved the actor playing my dad being shot. It was a very complicated shoot, because the actor playing my dad would have to be rewired and the snow would melt. On the three days we shot, we had sunshine, a blizzard, and overcast weather on the three different days. It is so well edited that you don’t notice it the differences when it is all cut together.

There was one take, [during which another actor and I missed our marks] and I almost kicked [the actor playing] my dad. Clint finished the shot and said he was ready to move on, and I had to ask if he was sure, because I thought it had been a mistake.

Clint said, “No it looked fine, we’re just going to cut from your face.” He knew exactly what he was doing and could see it all come together in his head. It was amazing. And I thought, “Wow, I got a close up!”

Finally, I noticed that you are a popular Charlie Chaplin actor for the Niles Film Museum's Chaplin Days events. This film museum is such a wonderful gem in the East Bay, I hoped you could tell us a little bit about it.
Oh, it is wonderful. I was just there for an event last weekend. Chaplin made a handful of films early in his career.

Essanay Studios, they were in Chicago and New York and Niles (near Fremont. Bronco Billy Anderson had his outfit there making westerns. They signed this up-and-coming comedian named Charlie Chaplin. He only made six films there, but they were the formative films for his Little Tramp character.

The film museum is recognized as one of the great preservation champions of film history, it’s really beloved by all the preservation buffs around the world.

Photographs courtesy of Jeffrey Weissman. To learn more about Jeffrey Weissman's work, go to JeffreyWeissman.com.