Back To The Future will forever go down as one of the most exciting, enjoyable, and downright successful movies to hit theaters, but considering everything that happened during the writing, pre-production, and actual filming of Robert Zemeckis' 1985 classic, it's amazing that the DeLorean was able to reach 88 miles per hour in the first place. And some of these behind-the-scenes facts are just as mind-blowing as the thought of time travel in the first place.
There are things like multiple studios passing on the film, the lead role being recast weeks into production, and an explosive ending that was scrapped in pre-production. And while some of the more obsessive Back To The Future fans might know these already, there are some of you out there who are hearing of some of these incidents for the first time.
Sit back, buckle in, because you're gonna see some serious shit…
Bob Gale Came Up With The Movie's Basic Premise After Finding His Dad's High School Yearbook
Prior to settling on the idea that would later become Back To The Future, co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis had wanted to make a time travel movie for a long time, but the pair struggled on finding a unique way to turn the premise of traveling through time into a fulfilling and well thought out story. Then Gale found a copy of his dad's high school year book and asked himself one simple question — what if he went to high school with his father?
This concept opened the doors for Back To The Future to go from a far-off idea to the most successful movie of 1985 and also helped the writing team easily turn the project into a family friendly story. During an interview with Amblin Road, Bob Gale stated:
The Script Was Rejected 40 Times Before The Production Received The Green Light
But even with a stellar idea and a well-written script Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale still had a hard time finding a studio willing to produce Back To The Future. Several of the studios they pitched the idea to said it was too family friendly and that they would be better off taking it to Disney. Executives at Disney, however, weren't too fond of the idea of Marty McFly constantly having to fight off the advances of his mother, calling it "incest" before rejecting the pitch.
Bob Gale touched on this during a 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times where he went into great detail about the dozens of unfruitful meetings before he and Zemeckis eventually pitched the idea to their old friend Steven Spielberg, stating:
Michael J. Fox Was The Original Choice For Marty McFly, But Family Ties Initially Got In The Way
If it weren't for Gary David Goldberg, producer of the hit sitcom Family Ties, the whole Eric Stoltz chapter of Back To The Future wouldn't have ever happened. The producers of the 1985 summer blockbuster originally approached Goldberg to see if Michael J. Fox — one of the main stars on the popular show — would be available for the role. Goldberg said it wasn't a possibility, so they moved on.
With Michael J. Fox out of the picture, Eric Stoltz was cast in his place. That experiment would be short-lived as Stoltz was canned a few weeks into shooting for a number of different reasons. With the writing on the wall, Gary David Goldberg was approached once more, this time agreeing to allowing Fox to pull double-duty. Fox touched on this at the 2016 Silicon Valley Comic-Con, where the actor stated (via Business Insider):
With The Dismissal Of Eric Stoltz Inevitable, The Crew Began Shooting Around The Actor
While Steven Spielberg, Bob Gale, and Robert Zemeckis were fighting tooth and nail to hire Michael J. Fox to take over the role of Marty McFly, the film crew went to some great lengths to continue shooting the movie while also finding ways to shoot around Eric Stoltz to limit the number of reshoots that would be required once a new actor was brought on.
This was detailed in Caseen Gaines behind-the-scenes book We Don't Need Roads: The Making Of The Back To The Future Trilogy (via Digital Spy), where members of the cast and crew revealed the lengths they would go to limit the soon-to-be-canned actor's appearance, including the Twin Pines Mall scene, with director of photography Dean Cundey stating:
Footage Of Stoltz As Marty McFly Appears In The Final Cut
Though it has long been thought that none of the footage from Eric Stoltz's four weeks on the set would ever see the light of day (besides grainy behind-the-scenes footage that has appeared online over the years), there appears to be at least one shot in the final release of Back To The Future that features the original Marty McFly.
In 2015, the Too Old To Grow Up YouTube account posted a video that catches a brief glimpse of Eric Stoltz's face when Marty McFly goes to punch Biff Tannen in the diner scene. In addition to seeing a blurry image of Stoltz, the video also features a snippet of an interview with Thomas F. Wilson, where the actor behind Biff stated:
Unlike His Character, Biff, Thomas Wilson Was The One Getting Roughed Up On Set
The producers of Back To The Future weren't the only ones upset with Eric Stoltz during his four weeks on set as at least one of the actors — Thomas F. Wilson — got tired of the former Marty McFly's method approaching to acting.
In another excerpt from Caseen Gaines' book We Don't Need Roads (via Vulture), it is revealed the relationship between Stoltz and Wilson became especially strained while filming the school cafeteria scene in which Marty pushes Biff. During the filming, Wilson became upset after Stolz continued to push into Wilson's collarbone with a great deal of strength several times after he asked Stoltz to cool it.
In the book, Wilson said that he planned on getting even with Stoltz later in filming, but the actor was canned before Wilson could get his revenge.
The Production Crew Had To Find A Workaround When Crispin Glover Lost His Voice
Crispin Glover is eccentric to say the very least. Over the course of his career, Glover has made a name for himself based on strange things he has done in both his professional and personal life, like the time he made himself so nervous on the set of Back To The Future that he actually lost his voice.
During a 1987 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Crispin Glover went into detail about the incident, stating that he became so nervous that he couldn't speak and had to say the lines without his voice and then go back and add his voice in during post-production.
Huey Lewis Wrote Two Songs For The Movie
You can't have the biggest movie of the summer without having a song just as popular on the soundtrack, and that's exactly what happened with the release of Back To The Future and the soundtrack featuring not one, but two songs from Huey Lewis And The News. But the coupling almost didn't happen, as Lewis explained in an interview with CBS News, stating:
After some convincing, Lewis told Zemeckis that he would send over the next song that he wrote, which just so happened to be "Power Of Love," the main song from the movie and the track that anchored the soundtrack. But that wasn't all, as Lewis would write "Back In Time" for the soundtrack as well.
And fans of Huey Lewis And The News will notice the legendary frontman's brief cameo as the school administrator who tells Marty McFly and The Pineheads that they're "just too darn loud" when performing "Power Of Love."
Jeff Goldblum Was Considered For The Role Of Doc Brown
Filling the role of Marty McFly wasn't the only tough casting decision the producers had to make when preparing to shoot Back To The Future as they had to find the perfect fit for Doc Brown, which ultimately went to the Christopher Lloyd.
Before Lloyd was hired there were rumors that everyone from John Lithgow to Jeff Goldblum were eyed for the role, but as Bob Gale revealed in an interview with Premium Hollywood, there was only one other guy besides Lloyd that was up for the role:
Now I'm just trying to imagine Dr. Ian Malcolm as Doc Brown.
Marty Was Originally Going To Use A Nuclear Blast To Get Back To 1985
This last little tidbit of Back To The Future behind-the-scenes goodness comes from a 2016 article in The Sun newspaper that showcased a few of the storyboards from the original ending that was eventually scrapped.
The original ending called for Marty to get back to the future not by a lightening strike but by driving through a nuclear test at 88 miles per hour. According to the article, the producers believed that the idea would be far too expensive to shoot and decided on the ending we eventually saw in the final release.
Those are just 10 fascinating facts from the making of Back To The Future. Did you learn anything today or is this all old news to you by now? Let us know in the comments below. And make sure to check back to see where you can watch Back To The Future for yourself here at CinemaBlend.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.