"I love westerns," says Thomas F. Wilson. "Cowboys have always been my heroes, and while it's always been a dream of mine to appear in a western, I never thought I would be the guy who walks into the saloon and have all the tables clear because they're so terrified of me."
According to Wilson, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen is, "the original evil seed in the Tannen family." Wilson is eminently qualified to make that judgment, since he is the actor who has portrayed each and every member of that family over the course of the "Back to the Future" trilogy.
"Buford," says the actor, "is much more violent and dangerous than Biff or Griff, because he just doesn't care. He's the epitome of the violent era of the Old West, where, as we know from our Time/Life history books, you could shoot a man over an inconsequential matter. I think Buford is the man who originated the concept of shooting a man for snoring. He is the evil incarnate of Hill Valley, California, and like his future descendants is the fly in the ointment of the McFlys' lives."
"If 'Mad Dog' was able to look into the future and see Biff and Griff, I think he'd be proud of his progeny, if for no other reason than that they're still torturing the McFlys and making the world a worse place in which to live, just because of their existence."
Wilson has thoroughly enjoyed playing the ruthless, yet dim-witted line of Tannens in all three "Back to the Future" films and offers an insight into the psychological make-up of the characters. "Buford and Biff lead incredibly frustrating lives. First of all, they hate the McFlys because they're an honest, loving family--something that Buford and Biff have never been a part of. There's also not a lot going on upstairs, which is illustrated by their mangling of the simplest of metaphors. They just can't win, no matter what happens. They never get the girl. The music just doesn't swell when they're on the screen."
Having spent three months on location working on a set that truly brought the Old West to life, the actor admits that 1885 is "a nice year to visit, but Tom Wilson would not like to live there. Indoor plumbing for one thing, is a convenience I prefer to take advantage of. Also, those guys would ride the range for months, and what would they bring to eat? Dried biscuits, beef jerky and water. To my mind, a cheeseburger makes an excellent meal. A chocolate shake is a wonderful thing. The prospects of getting killed by Indians or desperados was very high. As for me, I'll take my little truck and my family and dog and my house where it's warm, and live there, thank you very much."
With production completed on the "Back to the Future" trilogy, Wilson isn't quite sure of what to do next. "Over? What do you mean over?" he asks. "I've been doing these characters for almost a full year. I do Biff. I show up to work, do Biff, or whatever embodiment of Biff there happens to be on a given day, and then go home. I do 'Back to the Future' for a living, don't I? I don't? Uh-oh..."
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