Lea Thompson Talks Back to the Future 35th Anniversary 4K, the Mandela Effect & Eddie Van Halen [Exclusive]
Despite appearing in quite a few classic movies from both the ’80s and ’90s, Lea Thompson has spent a great deal of the past 35 years talking about her iconic role as Lorraine Baines McFly in the Back to The Future trilogy. Perhaps every question any fan could possible have has already been answered. Luckily, we have something new to talk about as the franchise celebrates its 35th Anniversary this year. Universal Pictures is releasing the Back to the Future Ultimate Trilogy 4K today. And it comes packed with quite a few new extra features.
We caught up with Lea Thompson, having first spoken with her back in good old 2015, when Back to the Future was celebrating its 30th Anniversary. We continued our conversation from 5 years ago touching on a number of topics we didn’t get to the first time around. Our first point of discussion is the new 4K box set, which contains quite a bit of bonus content. Perhaps the most exciting of which is the Lost Audition Tapes, which feature Lea Thompson in rare never-before-seen footage reading lines from the script opposite such now famous leading men as Ben Stiller, Jon Cryer, Billy Zane, Peter DeLuise and C. Thomas Howell. We also see that Kyra Sedgwick was gunning for the role of Lorraine Baines.
Lea Thompson also opens up about the recent passing of Eddie Van Halen, who’s iconic guitar solo is used in the infamous ‘Darth Vader From Planet Vulcan’ scene in Back to the Future. He also scored Lea’s classic 1984 comedy The Wild Life, and the two actually have an interesting history together.
The actress also delves into The Mandela Effect and Back to the Future‘s influence on the phenomenon. Plus, she wonders along with us where all the Lorraine toys are? She also answers plenty of other fun questions along the way, hinting that she wants to see her daughter Zoey Deutch take over the role of Lorraine Baines if Back to the Future: The Musical actually does become a movie.
I learned something today. I didn’t know that Caroline Duffy is part of the Friends universe.
Lea Thompson: Oh, yeah, I was on Friends once. My claim to fame.
That’s kind of crazy. Friends interconnects with a whole bunch of other tv shows to make this Avengers universe of sitcoms. And Caroline in the City is a part of that.
Lea Thompson: Yes. And, like, half of the guest stars on Caroline in the City went onto get their own shows. It was a great show to be on to get your own show.
Lea Thompson: I ran into Shia LaBeouf recently, and he was like, ‘Oh, I worked with you.’ And I was like, ‘Really? When?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I was on Caroline in the City.’ And I go, “Were we nice?’ He goes, ‘Of course, you were really nice.’ I was like, ‘Mhm.’
That’s a good thing. I didn’t know your show had a reputation for being mean.
Lea Thompson: No, we didn’t. But he was a little kid. So I was happy that he had good memories of it.
With Back to the Future celebrating its 35th Anniversary, I want to know…Where are all the Lorraine toys? We have a bunch of new toys coming out right now, and Lorraine is never in the mix.
Lea Thompson: I don’t understand that. I think it’s really stupid. I don’t know what they think they saw, but Lorraine was a very important part of this movie. And she has a very big fan base. We need more Lorraine dolls.
That’s an understatement. Everybody I talk to is upset about it, because they’ve been making Back to the Future toys for a long time now. They don’t make any George McFly toys either. I thought maybe you and Crispin Glover didn’t have an agreement for toys? But it really sounds like they just aren’t making them.
Lea Thompson: I don’t know. That’s a good question. But no one’s ever bothered to come and ask me. I’m sure that Michael and Chris are not getting paid for those toys, So, it’s a good question. There’s only one toy that I have, and it’s not the ones with the big heads…But there is one George and Lorraine doll…Or no, it’s Marty and Lorraine. Anyway, I have a box of them and I give them to my very favorite of fans.
We’ve gotta start demanding this stuff. I want to know. Eddie Van Halen passed away recently, and he is a huge part of your movies. He did the score for The Wild Life and he has that infamous solo in Back to the Future, where Marty slips the headphones on George. I think it’s kind of crazy that his filmography is so tied into yours.
Lea Thompson: I know. Not only that, my daughter Madelyn dated Wolfie Van Halen when they were in second grade. So that was an important event in my life.
Did she know that his dad had such ties to your movies at the time? Or does something like that even come up between second graders?
Lea Thompson: No, uh-uh. He was just, like, Wolfie. We had lots of playdates. Eddie, I remember…Oh, my God. This was embarrassing…Eddie…I had a guitar and Eddie played it. It was a Les Paul, and he was over at my house. He was just looking at the guitar and he’s like, ‘This is a cool guitar.’ And then he was like, so upset because…Not upset….But he was…Like, all the strings were rusty. And I was dying of embarrassment that my Les Paul had rusty strings. And Eddie Van Halen was playing it. But he was the greatest guy. I I cried. It was so sad. I cried. He was the greatest guy.
I didn’t know you played guitar. But that brings up a question in line with this 35th anniversary Back to the Future Ultimate Trilogy 4K release. We see quite a bit of Back to the Future: The Musical. Which got me thinking. They made a big deal when Whoopi Goldberg returned to the stage for Sister Act. Is there any chance you’d reprise the role of Lorraine to sing and dance in this stage musical at some point down the line?
Lea Thompson: They would not ask me because I’m way too old. But of course I would. But I’m way too old. I always thought that they should have Chris Lloyd in it. I know everyone always asks me if there’s gonna be a sequel. And there won’t be. There won’t be a reboot. But I’m pretty sure they’re probably already working on making a movie of the musical. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it. I don’t know anything like that, but that’s my opinion.
I asked Bob Gale about that. He was kind of cagey. It sounded like that was an idea that they’re planning. So if that’s the case, I don’t imagine you would reprise Lorraine. But is there a role you would like to take on in the musical if that happened? The movie?
Lea Thompson: Oh, I would do whatever they would ask me to do. But I would hope my daughter Zoey would get in audition for the Lorraine part. I think that would be awesome.
I was wondering if you’d be down with that. Or if that would just be weird.
Lea Thompson: I’d be all for it. I’m not sure what her opinion would be. But she is a really good singer. She sang in The Politician, and she’s a great actress. So I think it would be a funny meta thing to do. They could put Michael Fox’s son in it. And they could put my dog in it.
I think you’ve got a plan for this.
Lea Thompson: And then they’ll let me direct it. If Bob Zemeckis doesn’t want to, I could direct it, so that would be fun.
Have you done a lot of directing work? I haven’t looked into that.
Lea Thompson: Yes, that’s what I mostly do. I directed a movie called The Year of Spectacular Men with my two daughters and I’ve been directing back 10 or 15 years. Yes, I directed that. That’s on Hulu and I directed it. I’m about to go direct Star Girl. I did Mom, Star Girl, The Goldbergs. Young Sheldon, a ton of TV. That Switched at Birth show. I did two movies for the Hallmark Channel, so I’ve been directing a lot. That’s what I do most of the time.
You were also on The Goldbergs. I’ve seen you on there.
Lea Thompson: I was on The Goldberg and I also directed that episode.
Wow. Yeah, That’s a great show. I love that show.
Lea Thompson: It is a great show. You’re right. Funny.
Another aspect of this new 4K release that’s coming out, which fans haven’t seen yet, which I thought was really interesting.You have these Lost Audition tapes. And we see you in the screen test. Did they have you already cast when they were looking for their Marty McFly? Did that come from your relationship with Universal? And having just done The Wild Life right before that?
Lea Thompson: I’m not entirely sure. I’ve only seen two pieces of footage. I saw the piece where I’m on screen with C. Thomas Howell. I think I already had the part when I did that. And then I was just listening to the Ben Stiller one. And it sounds like it’s my voice. So I think I’m off camera. I don’t remember it at all. I can’t remember that. But I do remember, I did do a bunch of auditions after I pretty much knew I had the part. But I don’t know, I’m really dumb. I can’t remember anything.
It was funny because, when I was just talking to Bob Gale, he brought up a number of actors, I guess who didn’t allow for their footage to be shown. Like John Cusack auditioned. I can’t remember the others. I don’t think it was Sean Penn, but it was somebody of that caliber who you wouldn’t expect to be trying out for Marty McFly…You don’t remember Ben Stiller. So this is probably a dumb question…But I was wondering if there was anybody you saw and thought, ‘That’s Marty McFly.’ Aside from Michael J. Fox…And I don’t know about Eric Stoltz, but I know you guys had a relationship coming off of that other universal movie.
Lea Thompson: Well, yeah, I mean…I remember that I auditioned with Eric and C. Thomas Howell. I had done Red Dawn with C. Thomas, so we were really good friends. And I had already worked with Eric. So we’re really good friends. So it’s always an awkward position when you kind of have the part and they don’t and you’re auditioning with them.
So there was no one else that really sticks out in your mind from the screen tests? Obviously not Ben Stiller. Maybe this just jumped right out of your brain?
Lea Thompson: Well, you know, auditioning is traumatic. You do have to forget about it?
You must have just been Lorraine from the get go. Because I haven’t ever heard anybody else who tried out for that part. I’ve never heard anybody say that.
Lea Thompson: You know? I don’t know. I’m not the greatest historian. But I’ve heard several things. I’ve heard that…I don’t know….I don’t know…I, for some reason…I really understood the character. I understood the lights on, lights off aspect of the older Lorraine and the younger Lorraine. It’s not just that you were trying to pretend you’re older or whatever. It was more like, that, her heart was broken. When she was older. She had so much life. And then you had to see how little life she had left. As you know, how depressed she was drinking vodka and, you know, really, really sad. But I think I really understand that. And so that was kind of the key to the character.
Was The Wild Life the last movie you’d done before jumping into Back to the Future?
Lea Thompson: There was a movie in-between. I made a movie called Going Undercover in Denmark. It was a really bad movie.
That just came up on something I was looking at as one of those lost classics. I’ve never seen it myself. But I was like, ‘Hey, I want to see that movie right now’. So, I think that poster was going around just recently.
Lea Thompson: Oh, it’s so cool. I have really big boobs painted on that poster. I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever seen the movie, to be honest with you. But it was with Chris Lemmon. He’s very funny.
This kind of ties in with Back to the Future. Are you aware of the Mandela Effect? Obviously you are, right? Having been in Back to the Future.
Lea Thompson: The what effect?
The Mandela Effect.
Lea Thompson: No. I don’t know what that is. Tell me.
Oh, well, you know how in Back to the Future, where they changed the timelines? This is a real phenomenon where people believe that our timelines got changed. Because there’s so many inaccuracies now, compared to what we think we remember about the past. Like, you must have heard The Berenstein Bears one, right? Where everybody thinks it was Berenstein and not the Berenstain Bears. But it’s actually Berenstain. Now, that’s the most common one. No. like, Ed McMahon was never the Publishers Clearing House spokesman, and everybody’s like, ‘How is that even possible?’ Because everybody remembers him being that.
Lea Thompson: You’ve lost me. I don’t understand. I’ll have to look it up.
Well, if you look it up, It has nothing to do with Nelson Mandela. The reason it’s called the Mandela effect is because people have vivid memories of him dying in jail. And then when he actually passed away, out of jail several years later, in 2013, everybody was like, What? This is impossible. We remember him passing away. So that’s where the name comes from.
Lea Thompson: So it comes from people…Like a mass hypnosis where people think something happened that didn’t actually happen?
Yes, and there’s, like, so many of these.
Lea Thompson: That’s crazy.
Well, it’s funny because this weekend they…You know what CERN is up in Sweden? Where they have this huge hydrogen collider that’s smashing atoms. Sally Fields…Uh, Sally Field? I don’t know in your timeline if its Sally Field or Sally Fields? Her brother is one of the head scientists there. It was on Thursday that they announced they are doing new experiments, where they’re going to try to enter different multiversus. But it’s not like a multiverse like you see in a movie. It’s like, a totally scientific thing. That’s all. Really. It’s like scary, so that’s happening this weekend.
Lea Thompson: I’m going to go home and look into this.
I know about your whole filmography. Of course, I grew up with you. And every movie you made in the ’80s and then going into the ’90s is an absolute classic. I’m wondering…I mean, there’s not a dud in the bunch. Even if you think there’s maybe a lesser movie, they still have these rabid cult followings. I’m wondering, for you, what movie is kind of the black sheep that no one ever seems to talk to you about. Aside from the movie you just brought up with Going Undercover? Or maybe that’s it.
Lea Thompson: It’s actually weird that people don’t ever bring up Dennis the Menace, because I think that’s kind of a really fun, great little movie. That didn’t seem to have very many legs. Dennis the Menace. And that was, you know, written by John Hughes and everything. So on it was, you know, my fourth six-months long movie that I did with Chris Lloyd. But people don’t really like that movie. It did not hold up as I thought it would. Because, you know, uh, Walter Matthau’s a genius, like he’s such a great genius. So that’s my answer. And I’m sticking with it.
There’s 3 you did back to back in the mid-90s. You did Denis the Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Little Rascals all back-to-back. And here at Movieweb, millennials love all 3 of those movies. They’re huge amongst that age group. So I think your perspective on Dennis The Menace is gonna change. Yes, you bring up any of those movies to anybody between 23-35, those are their childhood movies.
[Lea Thompson: Oh, that’s great! Oh, my God. That’s good to know. Thank you for telling me.
Real quick. What was the name of that movie you said? Going Undercover? The thing with that movie is, people think that is a Mandela Effect movie. Where, like, it actually didn’t exist in the past, and all of a sudden it just showed up. So that’s why, when you brought that up, that’s also why I was looking at it. It came from the alternate universe. It didn’t actually exist back when you think you made that.
Lea Thompson: That’s so funny.
The Back to the Future Ultimate Trilogy 4K is loaded with bonus material including a bonus disc that comes with over an hour of brand-new content such as rare audition footage from Hollywood stars Ben Stiller, Kyra Sedgwick, Jon Cryer, Billy Zane, Peter DeLuise and C. Thomas Howell, a tour of the film’s props and memorabilia hosted by co-writer/producer Bob Gale, a sneak peek at the new musical show, and a special episode of the popular YouTube Series “Could You Survive The Movies?” Join Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a time traveling DeLorean for the adventure of a lifetime as they travel to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space-time continuum!
Back to the Future: Ultimate Trilogy 4K will include all three movies in collectible discbook packaging plus a bonus disc including all-new bonus content. For the first time, the past, present and future collide in eye-popping Ultra HD resolution for a time-traveling celebration. New 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray™ deliver the highest quality picture, more colors than ever before, and immersive, multi-dimensional sound. From filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, this unforgettable 35th anniversary collection features hours of bonus features and is an unrivaled trilogy that stands the test of time making this a must-own for everyone’s movie library. All three back to the Future films will also be available on 4K Ultra HD digitally for the first time ever on October 20, 2020 – just in time to celebrate “Back to the Future Day” on October 21!