'Back to the Future': Catching up with the cast
Lea Thompson has run the gamut in her 30-year Hollywood career, from Dancing With the Stars to her own NBC sitcom, Caroline in the City.
But to fans of the 1985 hit Back to the Future, she'll always be Lorraine Baines, mother to time-traveler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox).
"This movie is definitely a part of me. I am really happy to be known mostly around the world as Lorraine McFly," says Thompson, who also appeared in 1989's Back to the Future Part II and 1990's Back to the Future Part III. A 30th anniversary DVD/Blu-ray release of the trilogy is out this week.
"Even if my body of work is really big, people know me because of these movies," says Thompson, 54. "It's just an amazing part."
The role in the Robert Zemeckis-directed original gave Thompson a powerful springboard early in her career that still helps.
"The best thing it did was establish me as a good actor. Whatever I've done that hasn't been great, people could always go, 'She was really good in Back to the Future. She must be a really good actor,' " says Thompson. "So it has protected me from some of the bad work I've done. It's hard to survive in Hollywood as a woman. So I have taken some jobs that might not have been the best."
Right now, Thompson is finishing the fourth season as Kathryn Kennish in ABC Family's Switched at Birth and is directing her own movie, The Year of Spectacular Men, with daughters Madelyn, 24, and Zoey, 20 (their dad is her husband, director Howard Deutch). And Thompson stays close with BTTF co-star Christopher Lloyd as they hit fan conventions: "We're keeping the dream alive."
Here's what's happening with the other actors who have allowed the movie to travel through time:
Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly)
Fox already was an established star as Alex P. Keaton in NBC's Family Ties when he was brought on as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, replacing Eric Stoltz, who wasn't capturing the screwball energy that filmmakers were seeking.
The beloved portrayal shot the Canadian-born actor to a new level of stardom. He parlayed that into the two sequels and dramatic roles in the Vietnam movie Casualties of War (1989) and as a troubled magazine fact-checker in Bright Lights, Big City (1988).
Diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's disease in 1991, Fox announced his condition to the world in 1998. In 2000, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the same year he announced his retirement from ABC sitcom Spin City after his 100th episode.
He returned to acting in 2012 and appears on CBS' The Good Wife as an attorney who suffers from a neurological condition. One of his three books is 2010's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future, a compendium of wisdom for graduates.
Fox, 54, has been married to his Family Ties co-star, actress Tracy Pollan, since 1988.
Tom Wilson (as Biff Tannen)
Wilson was the perfect BTTF villain Biff, reprising his bullying role in each movie. The actor has continued to work in movies (recently as the "beaten into submission" police Captain Woods in 2013 comedy The Heat) and on TV (Nickelodeon's upcoming School of Rock). He voices characters in SpongeBob SquarePants and a loud egomaniacal banana on Nickelodeon's Pig Goat Banana Cricket.
Wilson, 56, also continues to perform stand-up comedy. He's a trained painter who shows his work at his Big Pop Fun Gallery in Laguna Beach, Calif., with a show set for 2016.
"I'm finishing a series of paintings that explore my unusual, iconic position in pop culture and pop art," says Wilson. Claudia Wells and Michael J. Fox in 'Back to the Future.' (Photo: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) Claudia Wells (as Jennifer Parker)
Wells appeared only in the original BTTF as Marty McFly's girlfriend. But Wells says her career came to a halt when her mother's cancer caused her to drop out of the sequels (replaced by Elisabeth Shue) and acting.
"(My mother's) health struggles took up so much of my heart and my life that I decided to not continue my career during those years," says Wells.
In 1991, she opened a high-end men's resale shop, Armani Wells, in Studio City, Calif., near her home. Wells, 49, has returned to acting (including 2011's Alien Armageddon) and voiced Jennifer in 2011's Back to the Future: The Game.
"That was beyond exciting and fun," says Wells, who travels around the world for BTTF events. "It makes my heart sing that I got to have all of these beautiful experiences, directly related to my having been the original Jennifer."
James Tolkan (as Principal Strickland)
Tolkan already had established himself as a hard-nosed actor before Back to the Future in roles such as the police lieutenant in 1973's Serpico. But he cemented his place in pop culture as high school principal Gerald Strickland, telling Marty McFly, "You're a slacker."
He's still repeating the line for fans today. Tolkan went on to appear in all three BTTF movies, including as Chief Marshal Strickland in Part III. He continued to portray forceful roles, such as the aircraft carrier commander in 1986's Top Gun.
But he'll next appear as what he calls "a sleepy piano-playing drunk" in the upcoming Western Bone Tomahawk (in theaters Friday). And he's actually a chill guy with wife of 44 years, Parmelee.
"I'm living the good life in the Adirondacks (in upstate New York), with two Corgis, two cats and a near perfect wife," says Tolkan, 84. "I give thanks every day."
Crispin Glover (as George McFly)
Glover memorably appeared as Marty McFly's Brylcreem-loving father George in the original BTTF, but parted ways with the franchise. (Filmmakers have cited financial reasons, while Glover has told reporters there were creative differences.) He was replaced by an lookalike actor wearing prosthetics in the second BTTF.
The eccentric Glover, 51, is still remembered for his bizarre appearance on Late Night With David Letterman in 1987, which ended with Letterman walking off the stage as Glover high-kicked the air.
"He's definitely into being strange. Some can hang with that, and others don't have any patience for it," says Thompson. "The bottom line is that doesn't matter. He was brilliant in our movie."
Glover has continued to act in off-center parts including the Knave of Hearts in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).
Donald Fullilove (as Goldie Wilson)
Since appearing as Mayor Goldie Wilson in the original film and hovermobile salesman Goldie Wilson III in Part II, Fullilove, 57, has continued his television and film acting career, which has spanned 40 years. He has had recurring roles on the animated American Dad! and voiced Nurse George, who comes to take Carl Fredricksen away in Pixar's Up.
"History has proven Back to the Future to be one of the most important things I have ever done," says Fullilove.