Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
LEWISVILLE – Dallas Comic Show Fantasy Festival is revving up its engine for an exciting weekend for sci-fi and horror fans. The Premier Event Center in Lewisville will be taken over by comic book and media guests, costumed characters, and gaming and Anime content.
In addition to Nightmare on Elm Street 2’s Mark Patton, The Return of the Living Dead’s Clu Gulager and Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, Back to the Future star Claudia Wells will also be making a pitstop in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Perhaps best known for playing Jennifer Parker (Marty McFly’s warmhearted girlfriend from the original 1985 film), Wells will be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans at the Dallas event. She will also be venturing over to the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson on Saturday for a special screening of Back to the Future, which will be followed by a Q&A with the actor.
To serve as an appetizer for the sci-fi-flavored feast this weekend, Fresh Fiction spoke with Ms. Wells about being a part of Back to the Future’s legacy, meeting-and-greeting with fans at conventions, and what impact the film has had on her life. You can find that conversation below along with more information about Wells’ career.
Preston Barta: I’m, of course, a massive fan of Back to the Future and your role in it, but I am also a fan of you as a person. I did some homework in preparation for our chat, and I watched quite a few videos of you doing Q&As at different conventions, reunions and screenings. You are just so kind to your fans. Even if they ask the same questions over and over, you treat it like it’s the first time you’ve been asked it. It’s rare to see that.
Claudia Wells: “Wow! Thank you. I’m touched. My mom taught me a long time ago that the only dumb question is an unanswered one. So, I am all for asking questions. I do it, and I taught my son to.”
That’s wonderful. Well, there’s a lot I would love to discuss with you, but I would like to begin by asking about something you’ve discussed in a previous interview you did. You spoke about your relationship with Michael J. Fox and how you guys would bond by listening to music between takes. It’s such a lovely image to picture, but you also said he “made you feel cool.” It seems as though he was a source of culture and the new world to you because you have a unique background. Did it feel that way?
“I had a cultured background. I grew up performing in operas. I was in ten operas between the ages of 8 and 12, and I was a founding member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus. I can remember going to symphonies with my mother when I was 5. She used to draw straws amongst my brother, sister and I to see who would go with her on Friday night to the opera.
So, my background was operas and symphonies. I learned French before English growing up. It was very un-Los Angeles the way I was raised. Being a normal teenager wasn’t really me. Hanging out with [Michael J. Fox] and listening to music from the radio stations he liked, it was a new world for me. I was always working and with adults, so hanging out with someone my age (Fox was 24 and I was 18), it made me feel like a real teenager for the first time.”
Would you say that your connection or understanding of what it means to be a real teenager came from the roles you auditioned for? I recall from one of the interviews you did where you said you pretty much auditioned for most of the teen classics from the ‘80s. You were even in the television series Fast Times.
“Oh, I did a ton of them! It was down to me, Elisabeth Shue and Phoebe Cates. I auditioned for Adventures in Babysitting, Gremlins and Young Sherlock Holmes. In Fast Times [a TV show based on Fast Times at Ridgemont High], that was me being a real teenager type girl working at a hot dog on a stick store and hanging out with kids from school. It was like that on set, too. Normally when I was acting, I was a kid hanging out with adults like Ed Asner and Eileen Brennan [from the 1984 series Off the Rack] and Robert Stack [from a 1981 episode of Strike Force].
My favorite thing to do was to be an actress. I got to be different parts of me and become the characters. I had a pretty tumultuous childhood at home, which I don’t talk about much. For me, it was freedom, peace and fun. To crawl into those characters and become them was my greatest pleasure. My absolute passion. And I still want to do that. I still think that acting is something I don’t want to be done with. There are so many roles that I can play now that I have my all my life experiences. I still think there is something there for me in my future days.”
There are quite a few movies from the ‘80s that haven’t aged well. They even might be classics. But with how the world has evolved, they don’t hold up as well. We have to have conversations with our children if we want to share a movie that meant a lot to us when we were growing up. I don’t feel like Back to the Future has that problem. It’s a timeless story. How does it feel to be a part of something like that?
“I am so grateful. I feel so blessed, and I really believe God chose that for me. Out of all the movies I could have done, I would have chosen Back to the Future over every single one of them, without fail – even though starring in some of the other ones would have been more of a leading role. Back to the Future is so much about love, potential, life turning out the way you hoped it would and making a difference in that happening.
And the fans of Back to the Future are the nicest, most loyal, smartest, kindest people. It’s a heartwarming experience when I meet people. Everyone has a feeling about the movie and a story of when they first saw it. It’s an incredible blessing that I never take for granted.
Can I ask how you showed your son the film?
“That’s funny. It never occured to me when raising my son that I should sit him down on the couch and show him six of mommy’s TV series that she starred in. I worked all the time and have boxes of VHS and Betamax tapes of my work.
We went to Pigeon Forge in Tennessee for a DeLorean car show [in 2004]. It was my first experience of doing something to celebrate Back to the Future. My son was 9; he’s now 24. We were doing a Q&A. I was on stage with Bob Gale [co-writer of Back to the Future] and my son was sitting on the stairs leading up to the stage, and one of the DeLorean owners asked my son what it was like to watch his mom in such an iconic movie. My son looked at him and said, ‘I’ve never seen it.’ There was such a sad pause after that, as if I was this terrible mother for not having shown my son Back to the Future. After that, one of the guys gave him a copy of the movie.
We went to a screening later that night, but my son had food poisoning. So we had to leave after the first few minutes. It wasn’t until we got home that he watched it. He loved it! I don’t think it was that big of a deal to him until high school friends started realizing I was his mom. I think it was at the 20th anniversary that I did a Q&A after screening and some of his school friends were there. When they all went back to school, they would tell my son, ‘Wow! Your mom is Jennifer Parker!’ I think that’s when it hit him that it was something. I may have gotten him cool mom points.
I think Back to the Future may be the only thing he’s seen that I am in, and I have been a ton of other things. I just thought it would be too much to sit him down and show him my entire filmography. That would be too show-off-y.”
Well, it’s a good thing he saw Back to the Future. I can only imagine it was going to catch up with him one day. High school seems like the appropriate place for it to come up.
“Yeah. I guess it’s a good thing I took him to that car show so I was swatted on the hand. But he had a great time traveling the world with me and doing different car shows or autograph shows. He would tell me, ‘Mom, I really enjoy being a celebrity son because everyone treats me so nicely and does nice things.’ So, he liked the perks of it.”
You spoke about some of the lessons within Back to the Future. What lesson had the most meaning to you in your own life?
“That’s a great question. In reality, Jennifer Parker was exactly who I was at the time. It was so beautifully written and I just fell into the part. It came natural to me. I think the core value of the movie of love and how it conquers everything, and that things can come true. Truly, if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. Just like I say to Marty in the movie. And I’ve met some incredible people who became rocket scientists or had great careers because they saw the movie. They realized if [the characters] can do it, they could do it.
I’ve heard all kinds of amazing stories. I had a mom write me a four-page letter of how the only way she could get her son to fall asleep was to put on Back to the Future. I got a handwritten letter from a man who said he had a troubled home life and he felt like the Back to the Future characters were his family. It’s great to hear these stories. No matter how difficult the world is, you can still believe in love. To want kindness, family and support, and have the want to succeed– it’s powerful. The movie is about that, and I am honored to have been a part of it.”
Dallas Comic Show will be active August 10-11. Doors open at 11 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., and on 5 p.m. Sunday.
If you would like to know more about Wells and her upcoming events, you can visit her website at claudiawells.com. You can also visit her high-end men’s clothing store in Studio City, California. She has owned and operated the store for almost 30 years. Visit her store’s website at armaniwells.com.