Back to the Future II Was a Surreal Experience for Elijah Wood thumbnail

Back to the Future II Was a Surreal Experience for Elijah Wood

An incredibly young Elijah Wood and John Thornton wearing what the '80s mistook for 2015 fashion in Back to the Future II

Elijah Wood has had a long career—Sin City, The Faculty, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings just to name a few—but there’s one entry at the start of his resume we’ll never forget.

Wood played “Video Game Boy” in Back to the Future II in a brief but classic scene. Upon entering Cafe ‘80s—in 2015—Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly notices two young boys plugging in an arcade game called Wild Gunman. They aren’t sure how to play it so he gives them an expert demonstration. “You mean you have to use your hands?” Wood said, off-camera, before the other boy (John Thornton) follows up with, “That’s like a baby’s toy.” They both shake their heads in disgust and leave Marty deeply confused.

Speaking with Deadline’s video series The Film That Lit My Fuse, Wood was asked what films got him interested in acting. Growing up in Iowa, the actor told them there wasn’t really anything specific it hinged on. “The story goes, my mom saw a commercial when I was five. I had a lot of energy and she thought that would be a great outlet for his energy.” But he did name a few films he saw early in life that he has vivid memories of. “I remember seeing Gremlins when I was young, Back to the Future, the original Back to the Future was something I saw as a kid and I loved…The Goonies. But I never watched those movies thinking that I could ever have anything to do with them or that that would be a vocation of mine.”

Though he did get his start in commercials, his first film role turned out to be Back to the Future II. “That was wild because it took what I understood about cinema and put it into this very real realm. And I think that may actually sort of be the first time that I think I was able to reference that based on what I had seen, to what I was physically doing,” he explained. “Which isn’t to say I didn’t understand the work that I had done prior in commercials as it being, you know, an acting role that people would see. But when it’s referencing a movie that I grew up watching and suddenly I’m in that environment, was completely mind-blowing. And so that may have been the first time that it sort of registered to me what this was and that this could be a life, I suppose.”

A life indeed. Do you remember when you first realized it was Wood in that small role after he’d become more famous?

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