Back To The Future’s Christopher Lloyd Recalls ‘Biggest Fear’ After Learning Michael J. Fox Was Taking Over As Marty McFly

When looking over Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox’s resumes, there’s no question that Back to the Future is one of the most popular entries in their respective bodies of work. It’s been over 35 years since the time travel movie opened in theaters, and it’s still beloved among generations of moviegoers both young and old. However, originally a different actor was supposed to play Marty McFly, and Lloyd recently talked about how he was initially fearful when he learned Fox was taking over the role. 

At the start of Back to the Future’s production, Eric Stoltz of Mask fame was the one bringing Marty McFly to life in front of the camera. However, over a month into principal photography, Stoltz and director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis started clashing about the tone of the movie, and the latter eventually decided the former wasn’t right for the role (though one shot of Stoltz remains in the movie). Fortunately, Michael J. Fox was able to accommodate Back to the Future into his schedule and took over as Marty McFly. For Christopher Lloyd though, he was worried that having a new co-star would negatively impact his performance as Doc Brown. As Lloyd recalled:

My biggest fear was that, because I was really working to get Doc right, I thought ‘I don’t know if I can get it up to do that again.’ I was worried about it, but it all worked out. Michael, we had a chemistry which lasted the whole time. We could come back after a break and just be there. You know, we didn’t have to work for it. So that was great.

Considering that Michael J. Fox was Robert Zemeckis’ first choice to play Marty McFly, and the only reason he didn’t initially sign on to Back to the Future was because Family Ties producer David Goldberg thought his absence would damage the show’s success, things certainly worked out for the filmmaker in the end. The same ended up being the case for Christopher Lloyd too. Sure, he had to build a different kind of groove with Fox once he came aboard, but eventually they formed a chemistry that was easy for them to reestablish when the duo reunited years later for the latter two Back to the Future movies.

While Christopher Lloyd broke down his most iconic characters with GQ, he also talked about how he learned that Eric Stoltz was no longer involved with Back to the Future straight from executive producer Steven Spielberg. In the actor’s words:

There was another actor, and Michael came in after we shot for six weeks. They just decided that they needed somebody with a comic flair, you know? And Stoltz is a wonderful actor. I had no idea that there was a change coming. One night we were shooting the mall beginning sequence. We were all asked to come to one of the trailers at 1:00 in the morning, and Spielberg was there and he made the announcement of the change. 

Back to the Future kicked off principal photography with Eric Stoltz on November 26, 1984, and as a result of his exit and needing to reshoot scenes with Michael J. Fox, the production didn’t wrap up until April 26, 1985. The completed movie hit theaters on July 3 of the same year, earning a lot of positive reviews and making nearly $389 million worldwide. Back to the Future: Part II and Part III followed in 1989 and 1990, respectively, but it’s been abundantly clear over the years that Back to the Future 4 will not happen in any form. However, a musical adaptation of the first movie premiered back in 2020, and it is currently in the midst of a run at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End.

As for Christopher Lloyd, he most recently starred as Grandpa Moehringer in Amazon’s The Tender Bar, as well as played a live-action version of Rick Sanchez in some TV spots for Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. Should any other interesting tidbits about Back to the Future pop up, we’ll pass them along amidst all the other news about upcoming movies.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.