Interview With Jeffrey

Question 1 - First of all, tell us when you started in the business?

I remember when I was very young, seeing movies, I wanted the adoration that actors would get from cute girls.

I started acting in my youth. I started enjoying the attention I'd get as the class clown. And started performing in shows at school.

I tried for many years to get my folks to help me start acting in the industry, but they were very against it due to the stories they knew of Hollywood failures, and how difficult life can be for an actor. They later admired my perseverance and were happy that I started working in films.

Question 2- You played George McFly in the adventure/comedy/sci-fi films Back to the Future II and III. What do you remember from these experiences?

I was honored to be a part of them, and yet it was often uncomfortable. During the casting process I was kept in the dark. I was told that I was up for being a photo double. The make up man, Ken Chase (not the director nor the casting agents) told me that Crispin Glover was not returning to do the sequels, and that I would be playing the role... when I told my agents this, they didn't really believe it and fight for good money or good billing for me.

I ended up negotiating my shared title card with the director on the set, much to the dismay of the producers.

I had not been included in any readings or rehearsals. I was even cut out of the making of the Trilogy's documentary. The story was that the producers couldn't work out their problems with Crispin; he apparently wanted script approval and a million dollars. Because he had been a pain to work with on the first film with unusual demands and eccentric behavior, they wrote his part smaller and did things like having 77 year old George hung upside down to torture him, which I ended up having to endure in the McFly home of the future.

They needed to have Crispin to recreate scenes believably for the sequels to work. When I first came on the set as young 17-year-old George, made up in prosthetics to look like Crispin, Michael J. Fox looked at me and said, "Oh man, Crispin's not gonna like this!", which made me feel like a scab worker.

Eventually I got along alright with Michael and others like Billy Zane on and off the set, but I was rarely referred to as Jeffrey -- Robert Zemekis and Lea Thompson would call me Crispin, which was a bit uncomfortable.

I had worked with Crispin on a project at American Film Institute (AFI) early in the 1980's and considered him a good actor. When I heard I was up to be his photo double, I called him to see if he remembered me and ask if he would say a good word for me as his stand in so I could get the job to help pay for my recently-born second son. He didn't call me back until he wanted to sue Universal for my work.

Apparently my presence in the movie was kept a secret so as not to call attention to the mistake the producers made in trying to use Crispin's likeness without paying him. Things started going terribly wrong; I had the plug pulled on a 10-city promotional tour for Universal, Florida. I wasn't allowed to promote myself on the film, and I was put off by the producer's office on requests for my footage, among other promises, such as having a part in part III without the heavy makeup.

As things would have it, Crispin contacted me and told me a sob story of how he felt abused on the first film and how they were swindling him by using his likeness and only paying him scale for a few days of re-use footage from the first film.

Feeling compassion for him, I inadvertently gave him and his attorney fuel for their fire with stories of how Steven Speilberg came up to me during shooting and said, "So Crispin, I see you got your million dollars after all." Crispin's suit named John Doe 1-100 as defendants, where he didn't have to name all of the persons he was suing, and I think that drove the producers, director and the Universal attorneys crazy, so Universal ended settling out of court for $765,000.

Crispin's attorney revealed during a deposition that we had met, so Universal had me blacklisted. I learned about the blacklisting when I was specifically excluded on a casting call for an episode of a television show they produced. It was bad, it turned my life upside down. I ended up going into avoidance behavior and having a nervous breakdown over the shock, and that resulted in the break up of my first marriage.

Question 3- Do you like the first movie of the series?

I loved the first film -- entertainment excellence. I thought everyone was great. I was delighted to have a chance to be a part of a Hollywood classic.

Question 4 - The Back to the Future trilogy is still very popular. Why do you think the trilogy is still a classic?

It is so much fun. My kids and I watch it regularly still. The innocence and fantastical fantasy of altering the future by going into the past, righting wrongs, the good guys being the underdogs and coming out on top, the celebration of love, the poking fun at political and sociological states. There's a huge amount of intelligence in the writing and the cleverness is not winking at you, but rather you feel a part of it.

Question 5- How was it for you to work on Twilight Zone: The Movie?

It was a real treat. I had been thwarted in my attempts to make a breakthrough in movies. I had been screen tested for the lead in The Genius which later became the blockbuster War Games and the original director, Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop, Scent Of A Woman, etc.) told my agent that I was his favorite for the role, but UA/MGM wouldn't give the part to a complete unknown, and instead used Matthew Broderick who had had success with some work in Neil Simon projects. I tested with Ally Sheedy, who was dating Eric Stolz at the time, and I think she was pulling for Eric, who also tested, to get the role.

Martin Brest ended up being fired from the film after being on it for over a year, and was replaced with John Badham. Matthew Broderick also lowered his asking rate for the lead in Ladyhawk, for which I was slated to screen test for director Richard Donner as well.

So I was in a bad situation, not getting the role in War Games, and having to park cars to make rent, and finally got a chance to be cast in Twilight Zone the Movie, after thinking it was dead in the water after the terrible accident that killed Vic Morrow and two child actors on John Landis' set. I met director George Miller of Mad Max & Road Warrior fame and found him to be a delightful man.

I was cast from telling a joke as my audition, and had a great time becoming friends for a short time with John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, J.D. Johnson, Abby Lane, Margaret Fitzgerald, Larry Cedar (the creature), and the rest of the cast and crew. I loved being around Gerrit Brown's new-at-the-time steady-cam, and cinematographer Allan Daviau. It was a great ensemble cast and the crew got that episode in the can in about two weeks.
Question 6- Are you a fan of the old Twilight Zone TV series?

I loved the Twilight Zone series. The episode I appear in is the remake of Nightmare at 30,000 feet, originally starring William Shatner. Even though the monster's outfit was cheesy and silly, it was a lot of fun, and to see it redone to be so scary and still have as much fun as possible was a great gift.

Question 7- You also created many characters. Can you talk about some of them?

As a relatively unknown actor that works sporadically in film & television, I have to work where I can get it. I've done murder mysteries, Renaissance faires, trade shows, private parties, special
occasions, theme parks and cruise ships.

I played Stanley Laurel, Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx at Universal, Hollywood for 17 years. As those characters, I have traveled around the world and have learned a great deal about those performers' genius.

As well, I learned that I love people all around this planet. I have found that people basically just want to laugh and feel good, and it has been a blessing to have a gift that let's me put on these characters and find joy where ever I have gone, people are just taller children that want to play.

I've developed characters from Charles Dickens' stories, made up Renaissance characters and played real ones such as Christopher Marlowe. I have played hybrid characters such as a cross between Pee Wee Herman and Norman Bates, to originals like Lobster Man and the world's worst French waiter. You can see pictures of some of these on my web site, www.jeffreyweissman.com.

Question 8- What do you do when you are not acting?

I teach theater games, I coach actors in film technique and character development. I love to play music and spend time just hanging with my two teenage boys. I collect early sound recordings, jokers, penguins, sheet music and rare ephemera.

Question 9 - Which of your movies is your favorite?

I did a great cameo as a character named Jean Goddard, in a little seen film called, To Protect and To Serve. I get horribly sick when I am conned by a cop into thinking the prostitute my character has picked up for a rendezvous is really a transsexual that may use me as a sex object in the end...it's very funny.

Also I recently finished shooting in a film called Slapdash that I think is going to be great. It just needs to get distribution. I play a two-bit dealer who tries to make a big score, but things go terribly wrong. The main characters are a drunken clown, a has-been magician and an ex-stripper.

Question 10 - Would you like to direct movies?

Yes. I have directed several live projects and I love to be a part of the creative process. Getting performances out of actors and seeing their revelations about discovery in themselves is vastly rewarding.

Question 11- Who are some of the people you enjoy working with the most?

I liked working with Michael Moriarty, Clint Eastwood, John Lithgow, and Michael J. Fox. Watching their vastly different styles in their approach to their craft is amazing. Some have come from the stage, others television, and they all have techniques that produce great work. I love working with well-trained capable talent. I also like amateur talent that is focused and follow their hearts to do projects they must do for their souls.

Question 12- What's coming up for you?

My wedding to a girl I fell in love with when I was 15 years old, 30 years later.
Question 13- Something to add to your fans?

Thank you for your kind attention...I hope that I can keep going to be a part of enlightening projects that entertain.


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