How Robert Zemeckis Came Up With Welcome To Marwen's Back To The Future Reference

Back to The Future ending with the flying DeLorean

The following article contains some spoilers for Welcome To Marwen. If you have not yet seen the film, read on at your own risk!

Robert Zemeckis is responsible for a number of iconic films, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Forrest Gump, but it would be fair to argue that the most beloved are his Back To The Future movies. The sci-fi trilogy is one of the best of all time, and there is no measuring the stamp it's made on pop culture. This even extends to Zemeckis' own work, as a very special reference to Back To The Future is included in the third act of the writer/director's new feature, Welcome To Marwen. He recently discussed it, saying,

In the story I came across this moment when the Mark character, Steve [Carell]'s character, is ordered to create a time machine. And so I was thinking, 'Well, what would someone think a time machine looks like today?' And I thought, 'It probably looks like a flying car.'

Robert Zemeckis, along with all of the other amazing filmmakers behind the Back To The Future series, did his part to make time machines and flying cars synonymous -- forever changing the way history looks at the DeLorean DMC-12 -- and so the director cribbed from himself for a particular sequence in Welcome To Marwen. I had the chance to speak with Zemeckis about it during the Los Angeles press day for the film, and he wore a big smile through his explanation.

The scene in discussion here happens towards the end of the movie as Mark Hogancamp is finding his world spinning out of control. Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger), a doll/witch with a dangerous thrall over Mark, demands that he create a time machine for her -- and before long he has created one using a model kit and a lava lamp. And not only that, it goes into flight mode by turning its wheels from vertical to horizontal.

And it doesn't end there. Later in Welcome To Marwen we actually get to see the time machine in action, and what completes the special reference is the fact that it's accompanied by Alan Silvestri's legendary Back To The Future theme.

Back To The Future isn't specifically referenced by name in the film, but interestingly that adds a new layer to the whole thing. It's established in the movie that Mark Hogancamp is a man who lost all of his memories following a savage beating at the hands of a group of Neo-Nazis, which possibly included memory of ever seeing Back To The Future. The artistic creations he makes with dolls, however, are in many ways representative of his surroundings and subconscious, so it made me wonder if perhaps the creation of the time machine was Mark thinking about the Zemeckis film without realizing it.

It pitched this to Robert Zemeckis and he was definitely on board, recognizing just how iconic the Back To The Future time machine has become:

Absolutely. I think if you went out into the street and gathered a group of people and asked them what a time machine looks like, I'd say probably 90 percent of them would say like a flying car.

You can watch Robert Zemeckis talk about his inclusion of the special Back To The Future reference in Welcome To Marwen by clicking play on the video below!

Starring Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Leslie Zemeckis, Gwendoline Christie, Diane Kruger, Eiza González, and Janelle Monáe, Welcome To Marwen is based on a true story that chronicles an artist's attempt to put his life back together following a vicious attack, expressing himself through photography and the doll inhabitants of an imaginary World War II-era Belgian village built in his backyard. The film is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.