‘Back to the Future’ alums join NSO at Wolf Trap

June 24, 2024 | WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Back to the Future' at Wolf Trap (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — “Back to the Future” fans already have several dates circled on their calendars.

July 3 marks the 30th anniversary of the 1985 original, Aug. 10 brings a National Mall screening for Screen on the Green, and Oct. 21 brings the futuristic date visited in the 1989 sequel.

But you don’t have to wait that long to fire up your Flux Capacitor with 1.21 gigawatts.

This Friday, Wolf Trap will project Robert Zemeckis’ sci-fi classic in HD, accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s legendary score performed live by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Before the live performance, you’ll enjoy an hour-long discussion with Silvestri and actress Lea Thompson, who played Michael J. Foxx’s mother, Lorraine McFly.

Thompson called WTOP from the set of ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” for a preview.

June 24, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

“I have a sister in Baltimore,” Thompson tells WTOP. “I’m the youngest of five, and my other sister is gonna come with me, so we’re gonna have three sisters in D.C.! It’s gonna be fun.”

Thompson is no stranger to Wolf Trap. She jokes that she danced ballet there in “1870” at age 19.

“I love Wolf Trap … so I’m excited to see it again,” Thompson says. “There’s an alchemy about our business, and you never know when it’s going to work, when the magic’s gonna all come together. Every element of ‘Back to the Future’ really works. There’s no bad scenes. There’s no bad actors. It’s all so good. And the music is definitely a gigantic part of it.”

Thompson not only loves Silvestri’s score, she also loves the various source music, from Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love” to The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Thompson herself takes credit for the film’s use of The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman.”

“I used to hum ‘Mr. Sandman’ before I played Young Lorraine,” she says. “Every single scene I would hum ‘Mr. Sandman’ to get into character. … They incessantly heard it.”

Young Lorraine was just one of many iterations of the character she played throughout the trilogy.

“They’re all dear to my heart, but I really did love the Biff — the drunken floozy with the big boobs (in Part 2),” Thompson says. “Now that I’m past her age, I’ve been trying to play that character. No one will cast me as that. I have her on my reel. … I could play her still.”

Thompson says it was a most unique experience working across Michael J. Foxx and having to play both his future mother and his hungry love interest.

“It was definitely funny and confusing and weird. It really was an interesting, subversive role. Even though everyone just thinks of it as being innocent, she really basically was just very horny.”

Thompson also says it was impossible to keep a straight face across from Crispin Glover, who played her destiny — or “density” — as George McFly.

“He was hilarious. He was actually genius in that part,” Thompson says, laughing. “We were especially laughing at him in the first movie when he’s watching ‘The Honeymooners.’ … I remember specifically nobody on the crew could make it through that night, because he was so funny.”

Most importantly, Thompson cherishes her time with such a visionary director like Zemeckis.

“He is a genius,” Thompson says. “He is not respected enough, in my opinion, because he is 100 percent genius. Every one of his movies is innovative, inventive and has so many different elements of comedy and suspense and wonder. He’s an amazing director.”

You can hear similar questions during Friday’s night’s Q&A. The discussion will be moderated by conductor Emil de Cou, who enters his 11th season as conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. The Q&A begins at 7:30 p.m. and the movie begins at 8:30 p.m.

June 24, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

De Cou will conduct more than 15 minutes of brand new music by Silvestri, who earned his first of four Grammy nominations for “Back to the Future,” followed by Zemeckis’ “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988), “Forrest Gump” (1994) and “The Polar Express” (2004).

The NSO will perform similar Wolf Trap events for “Star Trek” on Aug. 1 and “The Music of John Williams” on Aug. 8. Until then, kick back to the sights — and sounds — of “Back to the Future.”

“I’m really honored that people are still celebrating these movies,” Thompson says. “I love all the ‘Back to the Future’ fans. We’re all so amazed and happy that they have such longevity. … That’s definitely my middle name: Lea ‘Back to the Future’ Thompson. And that’s OK with me.”

Click here for ticket information.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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