There’s always a great energy in the room anytime a major mainstream celebrity makes a panel experience at a convention, but for the Back to the Future panel at the packed Main Stage of New York Comic Con 2022 on Saturday, October 8th, there was a palpable sense that the vibes among the crowd were uniquely special.
It wasn’t just that Back to the Future is a trilogy of iconic sci-fi/comedy classics that’s been enormously beloved among audiences of all ages ever since the release of the original film in 1985. Arguably just as important to fan’s affection for the franchise is the relationship between Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, who starred as teenage “slacker” Marty McFly and his older scientist mentor, Emmett “Doc” Brown, respectively. Fox, 61, and Lloyd, 84, have apparently remained close in the nearly 40 years since meeting on set, although Fox’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease has slowed down his output as an actor in recent years (he was first diagnosed in 1991, at the age of 30). These days, Fox is just as beloved for inspiring others with work in Parkinson’s advocacy as he is for his acting, largely because of the work he has done with his own Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Before the moderator brought Fox and Lloyd onstage, he kicked off the event by inviting the legions of Back to the Future fans who arrived in costume to gather onstage to show off their looks. The vast majority of cosplayers were dressed as Marty McFly with his denim, checkered shirt, and iconic red vest; one imagines that it’s an easy cosplay to prepare. But there were a few Doc Browns in attendance too, and at least one fan dressed as Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer (played by Elizabeth Shue in the films).
Once the cosplayers were settled back into their seats, the moderator brought out the real Back to the Future stars, Fox and Lloyd, to thunderous applause and an extensive standing ovation. Fox and Lloyd took a long moment to hug each other and absorb the crowd’s warm reception before taking their seats.
The moderator tried to start things off light with his first question by asking the stars what food they “absolutely have to eat” when they’re in New York, but the actors gently made it clear that they weren’t particularly interested in such softball questions, which was presumably true of the audience as well. Predictably, most of the conversation was centered around the three famous films they made together with director Robert Zemeckis between 1985 and 1990. Fox and Lloyd shared several behind-the-scenes stories, including where they were in their careers up until the point that their blockbuster success made them household names, what they thought of each other when they first met, and where their lives have taken each other in the decades since.
While it did nothing to detract from the audience’s warm reactions, it it worth noting that Fox and Lloyd had some difficulty communicating for apparent age and health-related reasons. Lloyd is still a busy actor, having appeared in four films in 2021 alone, but his memory may not be what it once was. When asked what song he’d choose to listen to for the rest of his life, he answered that he could not remember the name of the song, the artist, the lyrics, or the melody, but since his wife considers it “our song,” he loves it too — prompting some earnest “awws” of affection from the audience.
Somewhat similarly, Fox’s Parkinson’s disease does not allow him to speak as clearly as he once did, but he was no less charming, witty, or wise. The audience nodded along intently as he told stories of his struggles to overcome Parkinson’s, and he got some big laughs, too. For example, after telling a vulnerable anecdote about the necessity of learning to accept the curveballs life throws at you, for better or worse, he leaned in close to the moderator, who is bald, and told him “your hair is never coming back.”
Despite the fact that Fox and Lloyd are 23 years apart in age, Lloyd treated Fox as a peer, and indicated enormous respect for Fox’s inspirational life story and activism. That seemed to be the case among the audience, as well. There are many celebrities who become famous for starring in popular movies, TV shows, etc., but it was clear that this audience was just as appreciative of the important work Fox has done offscreen, as well.
Did you miss New York Comic Con? Catch up on everything from streaming panels to panel writeups and news by checking out Popverse's NYCC roundup.