When Lea Thompson agreed to participate in the "Back to the Future" sequels, she naturally assumed that she would once again return to the role of Lorraine. She was not however, prepared for the number of different Lorraines she would ultimately play.
In "Back to the Future Part II," she appeared as the 17-year-old Lorraine Baines, the 77-year-old Lorraine McFly, and two versions of a 47-year-old Lorraine. For "Back to the Future Part III," the actress reprises the role of Lorraine at 47 and had another pleasant surprise waiting for her. "I got to play my first 'Back to the Future' character who isn't another incarnation of Lorraine."
Although she wasn't playing Marty's mother, Lea's character is still a relative of our hero, as she assumes the guise of Maggie McFly, Marty's great-great grandmother.
"Maggie is an immigrant who comes from good Irish stock," explains Lea. "I visited Ireland last year and met a woman there who I used as inspiration for Maggie. Also, I'm of Irish ancestry, and I saw a lot of righteous indignation in her character, which reminded me a lot of my own grandmother."
Thompson researched the time period in preparation for the role. "I read Trinity to try to get an idea of what those people were feeling and experiencing at the time. I worked with a dialogue coach to perfect the accent, and the wardrobe itself played an important part in establishing the way I played the character. Wearing a corset, for instance, makes you sit up higher and creates a more formal attitude."
Thompson acknowledges the importance of research but was also careful not to immerse herself too deeply in historical data. "I did want to know what it would have been like to have lived in the 1800's, but only up to a certain point, since this is 'Back to the Future,' which is its own distinct world.
"The situations we portray in this film are a great deal funnier and a lot more comfortable than was the reality of the Old West. Actually, if we were presenting a true depiction of 1885, I wouldn't have had much fun, since it was not a good time to be a woman in the West. Women worked extremely hard and had no rights. They couldn't own land, they couldn't have a passport, and they had to skin a lot of rabbits."
"The most important thing for an actor to remember is that no matter what year your story is set in, people are just people. Their urges, desires and frailties remain the same from generation to generation. Everyone back then had the same feelings that we experience now, be it love, fear, greed or whatever. If you distance yourself too far, or become overly obsessed in being factually correct, you risk the possibility of an audience not being able to relate to or accept your character."
Thompson has definitely adhered to that policy, as audiences worldwide have not only accepted her characters, but have taken them to their hearts, no matter which version of Lorraine she has portrayed. Summing up her feelings at the completion of the trilogy, Thompson expresses appreciation for the opportunities the filmmakers have afforded her over the past five years, as well as the diverse range of characters created for her. "My agent once told me that in the movies, women either play virgins, whores or mothers. The great thing about the 'Back to the Future' movies is that I got to play all three."
Steven Spielberg Presents A Robert Zemeckis Film. "Back to the Future Part III." Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson. Music by Alan Silvestri. Edited by Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas. Production Design by Rick Carter. Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, A.S.C. Executive Producers, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy. Story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. Screenplay by Bob Gale. Produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. A Universal Picture.
as of April 24, 1990