What The Cast Of Back To The Future Looks Like Today
It’s been nearly 35 years since Back to the Future roared into theaters, and Robert Zemeckis’ time-traveling adventure comedy remains one of the most influential and popular films to come out of the 1980s. The story of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a young man who just happens to be friends with the scientist who perfects time travel (Christopher Lloyd), Back to the Future is a fast-paced, endlessly rewatchable journey back to the 1950s. Marty must contend with familiar bullies, make sure his Dad finds the courage to be who he’s supposed to be, and get his mom to the dance on time, even though she’d rather be dating him (it’s complicated).
Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox was already an American TV star thanks to the success of the sitcom Family Ties when he famously replaced actor Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty McFly. Back to the Future made him a megastar, and other hits soon followed, including Teen Wolf, The Secret of My Success, Casualties of War, and Doc Hollywood, as well as both Back to the Future sequels. In 1996, he found renewed sitcom success with Spin City, but chose to begin slowing down his career in 1998, when he revealed he’d been diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s Disease in 1991. In 2000, Fox announced his retirement from acting and founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is today the largest nonprofit source of funding for Parkinson’s drug development in the world.
Christopher Lloyd – Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown
Christopher Lloyd was also a recognizable face to American audiences thanks to his work on a hit sitcom, in his case his role as Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. His wild white hair, enthusiastic attitude, and frequent freak-outs over scientific conundrums and possibilities as Doc Brown made him a perfect counterpart to Fox’s laid back, often puzzled Marty, and their chemistry is the driving force of the film.
Since Back to the Future, Lloyd has continued to appear frequently in memorable film and television appearances, including The Addams Family, Dennis the Menace, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Quicksilver Highway, Stacked, and much more. He has also frequently reprised his role as Doc Brown even beyond the two Back to the Future sequels, appearing as the character in the short-lived Back to the Future TV series, voicing the character in Back to the Future: The Game and LEGO Dimensions, and even briefly playing the character in the bizarre Funny or Die spoof Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie. His most recent major role came as the Missionary on the acclaimed Syfy series 12 Monkeys.
Lea Thompson – Lorraine Baines McFly
Lea Thompson’s star rose quickly in the 1980s with appearances in Jaws 3-D and Red Dawn before her starmaking turn as Lorraine in Back to the Future. In some ways, Thompson’s role was the most challenging, as she had to balance comedy with drama and sex appeal unlike any other castmember, and had the added complication of playing two versions of herself in two different timelines.
Thompson, like most of the other main cast, returned for both Back to the Future sequels and continued to have a prolific career throughout the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. Her other most famous roles include Howard the Duck, Some Kind of Wonderful, the TV series Caroline in the City and her most recent acclaimed role as Kathryn Kennish on the hit Freeform series Switched at Birth. In 2006, she made her directorial debut with the TV movie Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall, and has continued directing ever since, including directing her daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch in The Year of Spectacular Men in 2017.
Crispin Glover – George McFly
From his posture to his voice to his unusual laugh, Crispin Glover immediately set himself apart as George McFly, and the strangeness and awkwardness he brought to the role is a memorable offset for everyone else in 1950s Hill Valley. Like everyone else in Back to the Future, the film granted Glover numerous opportunities, but unlike many of his co-stars, he did not return as George McFly for either of the film’s sequels.
Instead, Glover went his own way, and has continued to blaze his own path creatively in the three decades since. In the 1980s and 1990s, he acted in films including At Close Range, River’s Edge, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Rubin and Ed, and Oliver Stone’s The Doors. He also undertook a directing career, releasing What Is It? in 2005 and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. in 2007, with an untitled third project on the way. These projects can only be seen on Glover’s live tours, which are how he spends much of his time these days. He has also released numerous books through his own company, Volcanic Eruptions. Most recently, he’s been seen as Mr. World in the Starz series American Gods.
Thomas F. Wilson – Biff Tannen
It’s almost impossible to believe that Back to the Future could, after giving us Marty McFly and Doc Brown, spawn yet another iconic character, but in Biff Tannen, the film succeeded. As the bully who haunts and taunts the McFly family across two films (and the ancestor of that same bully in the third), Wilson is brilliantly wicked and hilariously dense at the same time, spouting classic lines and giving legendary looks all the while.
After playing various generations of Tannens in the Back to the Future trilogy and TV series, Tom Wilson continued a prolific career as an actor for film, TV, and the stage. He appeared in Freaks and Geeks, Ed, Help Me Help You, and more while lending his voice talents to everything from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command to The New Batman Adventures. In 2012, he published a memoir of his Hollywood experiences titled The Masked Man, and is a prolific trained painter. He was most recently seen as Hank Heywood in the CW DC Comics series Legends of Tomorrow.
James Tolkan – Mr. Strickland
James Tolkan was already a 20-year veteran of screen acting when he was cast as Principal Strickland in Back to the Future, and his intimidating look, voice, and presence made him the perfect force to push back against Marty McFly’s rebellious streak and Biff Tannen’s bad attitude. He was so convincing as an authority figure in the film, in fact, that he became an ’80s icon thanks to this role and another hard-nosed character he played in a classic of the decade: Top Gun.
Tolkan also stuck around for both Back to the Future sequels, and continued to act regularly after the film’s success. Other major 1980s roles included the TV series Mary and Remington Steele, followed by The Hat Squad and Cobra in the 1990s. Now in his 80s, he continues to act sporadically, and his most recent role was in the acclaimed western film Bone Tomahawk.
Claudia Wells – Jennifer Parker
Claudia Wells was Jennifer Parker, Marty’s supportive high school sweetheart in the film.
This was Wells’ movie debut, and although she was featured only at the beginning and the end of the film, her role was a vital bookend for the film.
Sadly, the actress was recast in Back to the Future Part II in 1989, with her role being played by Elisabeth Shue.
Wells later revealed she walked away from Hollywood in 1986 for personal reasons.
“My mother had fourth stage lymphoma,”. “I had so much happening personally that deep down, I never considered reprising my role and deep in my soul, I knew [leaving the business] was the right choice for me.”
,As Marty’s girlfriend, she bookended the film, supporting him in early scenes and reuniting with him for the cliffhanger of an end. Unlike her costars, she didn’t appear in the sequels.
’80s TV star Claudia Wells made her movie debut in Back to the Future.
She was replaced by Elisabeth Shue in the subsequent films after leaving acting to care for her mother who was diagnosed with cancer.
- Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com
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