This week’s fantastic episode of The Leftovers, the aptly-titled “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” (read Alan Sepinwall’s review here) featured a lot more flopping dongs and gratuitous sex between people dressed up in lion costumes than one might typically expect from a Matt-centric episode of the HBO series, and it also featured a super sneaky, super subtle Back to the Future reference as well. GQ spoke with showrunner Damon Lindelof, actor Christopher Eccleston (who plays Matt Jamison), writer Lila Byock, and a few others about what many are lauding as one of the series’ best episodes yet, and apparently the whole idea of the character who called himself “God” (and later became lion chow) handing out business cards started as a writer’s room inside joke.
See, the real life actor Thomas F. Wilson, who played “Biff” in the Back to the Future trilogy, is also known for handing out somewhat pissy cards to people who approach him on the street. And from there they just ran with it.
Lindelof: We’re laughing in the writers’ room a lot. One day, I was telling the story of Thomas F. Wilson, who played Biff in the Back to the Future movies. Those movies came out in the mid-1980s, but anytime anybody sees this guy, they walk up to him and they’re like, “Hey! Were you Biff in the Back to the Future movies? What’s Steven Spielberg like? What’s Michael J. Fox like?” Et cetera, et cetera.
Byock: You might not expect it, but it was a fun writer’s room. We were laughing constantly.
Lindelof: He got so used to and/or annoyed by people doing this to him that he printed out these cards and when you walk up to him, he just hands you one. You can Google it. And the first thing it says is, “Steven Spielberg did not direct Back to the Future, it was Bob Zemeckis.” Even the card is kind of annoyed. I was telling this story and everybody was laughing, and I was like, Let me put that in the back of my brain and figure out a way—oh, what if God hands out that card? Anything that evoked laughter in the writers’ room became fair game for actual stories.
Byock: It was one of those things where we thought he was sort of pitching a general idea, and then we would get somewhere else. And then it was like, “Oh no, that’s the just most amazing thing ever, let’s just do that.”
Sure, The Leftovers often contains near suffocating, dense, depressing subject matter, but is anyone else not even remotely surprised that they had fun in the writer’s room? You don’t have an entire episode revolve around a floating, lion cult-themed orgy and tell me those writers didn’t have at least a little bit of fun with that.