Josh Gad staged a virtual Back to the Future reunion on his new Reunited Apart YouTube series this week, and the turnout was pretty amazing. Not only did Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, director Robert Zemeckis, and screenwriter Bob Gale take part, but they also roped in Lea Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, and both actresses who played Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue and Claudia Wells), along with “Power of Love” singer Huey Lewis and composer Alan Silvestri. J.J. Abrams had no involvement in the trilogy, but he’s a big fan and they let him join the fun, too.
One notable absence was Thomas F. Wilson, who played Biff, Biff’s grandson Griff, and his great-grandfather Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. He’s the third most-important actor in the three movies, after Fox and Lloyd, but he has been reluctant to take part in reunions like this over the past couple of decades. Even in October 2019, when the calendar finally hit the date that Marty and Doc traveled to in the second movie, he didn’t emerge for any of the celebrations. He was also the only key cast member not interviewed for a documentary that came with the Blu-ray box set.
His reluctance isn’t hard to understand. Imagine strangers yelling out, “Hey, Biff!” whenever you leave your house, or asking you to call them a “butthead.” There is nothing successful actors fear more than typecasting, and Biff cast a long shadow over Wilson’s career that was hard to escape, even though he was excellent as the gym teacher on Freaks and Geeks and is now a part of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Wilson does have a good sense of humor about the never-ending legacy of Biff, though. Check out this song he used to play as part of his stand-up routine about annoying Back to the Future fans. It’s a good window into life as Biff.
“When I’m flying in a plane or I’m on the street,” he sings, “There’s a lot of friendly people that I like to meet/They shake my hand but never ask my name/And they start asking questions that are always the same.” The questions deal with everything from the famous manure scene to whether hoverboards are real. “It’s a movie!” he sings. “Stop asking me the questions.”
Despite this attitude, Wilson has shown up with the rest of the cast at a handful of major conventions in recent years. (Unlike Reunited Apart, they pay people to participate.) And once he’s on the stage in front of the fans, he’s extremely jovial and engaging. But you can’t blame the guy for not wanting to tell the same stories years after year.
It should be noted that Crispin Glover is the only Back to the Future cast member less interested in things like fan conventions and reunions than Wilson. He refused to even be in the sequels (at least for the money they were offering), and he sued the producers when they cast a look-alike in the second movie. He’s still pretty bitter about the whole thing. Hey, maybe he should write a song about it.