‘Taking over Crispin Glover’s most famous role didn’t ruin my career,” laughs Petaluma actor Jeffrey Weissman, “but it didn’t help.”
Weissman (Spreckels’ Young Frankenstein) is a tremendously skilled performer, known for his inspired supporting roles, but he’s the leading man in one of the more fascinating footnotes in modern film trivia.
Back in the ’80s, while working in Los Angeles, Weissman appeared in several major films, including Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider and a notable turn as a terrified airline passenger in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Then came Back to the Future II, and III. For reasons still being debated in Hollywood, Crispin Glover, who played George McFly in the original, was not eager to do the sequels. Enter Jeffrey Weissman, a master mimic, who was hired to take over the role, brilliantly recreating the George McFly character.
“I was so happy to be working with these great talents, especially Michael J. Fox,” recalls Weissman, “and yet I also felt like this was maybe not going to be taken so well by Crispin.”
The resulting brouhaha—lawsuits and claims of identity theft—have since passed into Hollywood legend, while Weissman, who still works regularly in independent films, found it increasingly difficult to build on his earlier successes. Ironically, his masterful performance in the movies was so good, only trivia-watchers and die-hard fans even know it was Weissman who played the part.
“A lot of people think Crispin Glover was in those movies,” sighs Weissman. “I suppose that’s something I should be proud of.”
As a result, Weissman has built a sometimes fanatical following, though it’s mostly overseas. “When I do fan conventions in London,” he says, “they love me. They know the whole story! They can’t wait to get my autograph.”
But the most valuable thing Weissman took from his Back to the Future experience, he says, is his friendship with Michael J. Fox.
“We got to know each other pretty well,” he says. “We still keep in touch. His illness has made it hard for him, but he’s still doing amazing work as an actor. He’s amazing.”
Fox’s Parkinson’s diagnosis inspired Weissman to start campaigning for a cure, an effort that comes to a climax this November with the first ever BTTF Cruise to End Parkinson’s (bttfcruise.com), featuring several cast members from the movies, an Enchantment Under the Seas dance and a live conversation via Skype with Fox.
“It’s going to be a very fun time,” he says, “and for science fiction fans, it just got better. I just learned there’ll be a Star Trek event happening on the same cruise!”