Back To The Future’s Biff Is One Of Cinema’s Iconic Villains, But Thomas F. Wilson Revealed Why He Didn’t Want To Play Him Initially


Nearly 40 years after Back to the Future first hit theaters, the film and its sequels are still considered among the best sci-fi movies of all time. The trilogy just possesses so many great quotes and scenes that stand the test of time. Not only that, but the cast’s performances are just endlessly entertaining and fun to rewatch. Among the ensemble, Thomas F. Wilson, of course, has gone down in history as playing one of the most iconic villains ever — Biff Tannen. Interestingly though, as the actor has now shared, he initially wasn’t attracted to playing a big bully. 

Back to the Future has some all-time great scenes that feature the geek-beating bully (especially those moments in the first film between Biff and George McFly). When Thomas F. Wilson first became aware of the role, he thought there needed to be some changes made to what was on the page. In his words: 

‘I’m gonna kick your ass.’ It had to be my approach. It had to be. I don’t even like to say ‘ass,’ I say ‘a double scribble.’ The role was for a bully. I’d never played a bully before. I didn’t want to play the role of a bully. I’ve been pushed around by bullies my whole life.

The Action Jackson star revealed his trepidation about playing Biff via a YouTube documentary he made about himself called Humbly Super Famous. In it, he talked about his experience and legacy in the Robert Zemeckis-helmed movies. While opening up, he also described how Tannen’s formative years greatly clashed with his own experiences as a youth:

Look, when I was young I was as thin as a twig. I weighed as much as a small dry leaf. I had sensitive, artistic inclinations. I had asthma. That’s 0 for 4 in bully language. I was pushed around by everyone, everywhere. I was a kid in the city of brotherly love. ‘Get off the bike, Wilson!’ ‘What, it’s my bike?’ Bam, right in the face.

While you wouldn’t know it, considering how well the Epic alum plays a bully in the Back to the Future movies, he disclosed that he himself was pushed around as a kid for being more like George McFly. As the star described it, he was “as thin as a twig,” was interested in art and had asthma. He even recalled a time when a bully punched him in the face and stole his bike. 

On one hand, it’s rather surprising that he was actually the victim of bullying, given how he came off in the trilogy. And, on the other hand, perhaps his own first-hand experience with them gave him the extra inspiration he needed to play Biff so well? 

Last year, the Back to the Future cast reunited for Fan Expo Portland to meet fans. Thomas F. Wilson was back with Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd for the occasion, and franchise devotees were living for it. While filmmakers have been clear that they don’t want to make another movie or see a reboot happen, some of the cast has been involved in promoting the BTFF musical, which went from the West End to Broadway in recent years. 

No matter what Wilson felt about the role, he was incredible as Biff (and his various counterparts), and it’s great that he got past his initial hesitation. I think it’s fair to say that his performances will live on forever!

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