Christopher Lloyd has appeared in literally hundreds of films, television series and plays since his professional acting debut in the late Sixties. And while you may have loved him as Mr. Chauncey in Bad Girls from Valley High (2005), or Charlie Wilcox in Suburban Commando (1991, with co-star Hulk Hogan), he is probably best known for his delightful turn as mad scientist Emmett “Doc” Brown in the three Back to the Future films (1985, 1989, 1990).
Lloyd has now reunited with BttF co-star Michael J. Fox, for a Toyota ad, Fueled by the Future, which is about turning trash into fuel, just like Doc did with his Mr. Fusion contraption in the movies. The ad was created to celebrate the on-sale date (California only) of Toyota’s new, fang-faced hydrogen-powered vehicle, the Mirai. This date, Oct. 21, 2015, just happens to be the precise point in the titular future to which Lloyd and Fox go back in Back to the Future II, a movie as famous for its product placements as its impossible science.
This branded feeding frenzy provided an opportunity to call Lloyd for an auto-centric conversation in which he discussed classic Porsches, shitty DeLoreans and filming in hot cars with smelly dogs.
The Drive: Back to the Future II prognosticated that we’d have some frivolous toys like hover boards and self-lacing shoes by now. In your opinion, what’s really missing from our contemporary era?
Christopher Lloyd: Clean energy. We’re still over-reliant on fossil fuels. We need to get off of them some way. I feel that sources of clean energy—wind, solar, hydro, whatever—that’s something that we really need now, and into the future.
The DeLorean is probably better respected for being featured in your Back to the Future films than it ever was as a performance automobile. Have you ever had the chance to drive an unmodified DeLorean?
I’ve driven the ones that they had on the set for Back to the Future. I mean, they were fun to drive. But the consensus among the stunt drivers and engineers that worked on the films was that it was not a well-made car. It was not engineered that well. There were too many days it would break down, that parts would have to be replaced. So it looked great—it was a perfect-looking car for Back to the Future because it was so futuristic. Streamlined and steely and all that. But it didn’t operate that well, it didn’t stand up well with stunt drivers.
Do you collect cars?
I’m not a collector. But I did have an original 1965 Porsche 356C. I wanted to get that car back then. I knew somebody who was very much into cars and kind of an engineer himself and he said, this is the car to get. I wanted a car to last me a long time, and it was apparently very durable and well made. So, I went out to order it at the dealer in 1965, a 356 C, and the salesman said they’d just stopped making them, like, a month before. He showed me the 911, going to the next model, and it just didn’t appeal to me at all. I was very disappointed.
A little while later, the dealer called to say that there was a 356C on the way over, on a boat. It had been ordered, but the customer had cancelled the order, and he wanted to know was I still interested. I jumped on it. And I had that car until about five or six years ago. I drove it I don’t know how many thousands of miles. I mean, it was fabulous. And I sold it to a real collector. He had, like, an airplane hangar full of collectible cars. But that was my one romance with a car.
What made you get rid of it after all those years?
It had got to the point where the steering assembly wasn’t totally safe, or something. It would require a lot of bucks to make it safe again, and it just got to a level where it didn’t make sense for me.
So what’s your regular daily driver now?
Very Hollywood. Nice choice. Don’t tell the Toyota people.
We’re here! [Toyota PR people scream over speaker phone.]
Give Christopher a Land Cruiser.
I’ll tell them I’m about to exchange it.
What’s the most unpleasant thing that’s ever happened to you in a car?
There was some sequence, I think it’s in Back to the Future II, where I’m in the car with Marty’s girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Shue, and we’re with Einstein the dog. And the windows had to be closed. And we were in the car quite a while on a hot day. And the dog stank. We were just trapped on that stage for several hours doing retake after retake with a smelly dog.