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Interview: Christopher Lloyd Talks Indie ‘The Boat Builder,’ The Power Of Laurence Olivier, And More

Interview: Christopher Lloyd Talks Indie 'The Boat Builder,' The Power Of Laurence Olivier, And More

Last month, Christopher Lloyd revisited the past with the thirtieth anniversary of “Back To The Future.” Fans flocked to revival screenings and were able to enjoy a nostalgic ride in the cinematic DeLorean. However, even as Lloyd looks back, he continues to move forward, and making its World Premiere on Friday, November 6th as part of the Opening Night events for the 30th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is “The Boat Builder.”

The independent drama, directed by Arnold Grossman, and produced by Richard J. Bosner, provides a centerpiece role for the actor who plays Abner, a bitter, widowed, mariner who forges an unlikely bond with a young orphan as they embark on building a boat together. And speaking with Lloyd recently, he shared how he relished the opportunity to dive into a part that had a measure of complexity to it. “…he’s of retirement age, he’s elderly, he doesn’t have a lot of resources, he’s not independently wealthy. He has some family and it doesn’t seem, in the script anyway, that he’s that close to them or that they are important to him….But he’s always been on a ship, either employed on a ship or sailing. That’s all he does,” Lloyd explained. “He just feels like he wants to get out of town, he wants to build a boat, set sail and whatever happens happens…he’s doing what he wants to do to find his own way for the remaining years he has and he loves being out there in the ocean.”

The sense of freedom and escape was one that Lloyd could relate to as he approached his work in the film. “…not that I’m about to do anything similar but I can imagine that excitement of building this boat and getting in it and launching it and just stocking up and just going off into the sunset and really living that life,” Lloyd reflected. 

Lloyd’s ability to deeply relate to the characters he plays has served him well across a career that has seen him star in blockbusters, classic films (“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest“), hit TV shows (“Taxi“), and more. And it was seeing one of the best actors of all time that made an impression on a young Lloyd. “…my mother, she wanted to go to [Laurence] Olivier‘s’ ‘Hamlet.’ He directed it and it was one of the very first Shakespeare films to be directed. She wanted to take me too but thought I was too young to understand. But I went anyway and was totally enthralled with it. I just loved it, I love that film to this day. If I watch it it stops me cold,” Lloyd shared. “At the time I went out and I got the recording of the movie. I think I memorized all of it. I was just so enamored with that film.”

While this didn’t cause a direct leap into acting for Lloyd, it seems he couldn’t stay away from spotlight. “I grew up near New York and there were a lot of summer stock theaters in the area. I started an apprenticing with some of the theaters. Not really acting in them, I did everything else, everything but act. But I’d do a walk on or a one liner. I just didn’t think too much about it, I just felt comfortable in that environment and by the time I finished high school I made up my mind I’d do more and go to drama school to be an actor,” he explained. “I had no confidence I’d ever get anywhere with it, but I persisted and something worked so here we are.”

Indeed, it’s a passion that was palpable in my talk with Lloyd, and cinema hasn’t lost its lustre for him. “I love watching film, I love watching stories, I watch the people in them…Even sometimes films that nobody else can watch — ‘How could you look at that, it’s lousy?’ — I can look at it and be totally into it,” he said.

Lloyd will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Friday, and keep an eye out for “The Boat Builder.”  

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