Back To The Future Writer Addresses Long-Standing Fan Theory

Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future

Given that Back To The Future is one of the most beloved films of the 20th century, there always seems to exist fun opportunity to discuss and dissect it – but one story definitely gets more analysis than others. I am, of course, referring to the behind-the-scenes shuffle that saw Eric Stoltz replaced by Michael J. Fox in the midst of production, and the legend that the final cut of the film does still contain at least one shot of the Mask star.

We've written in the past about this particular mystery, and this latest update to its development comes to us courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter and some detective work done by Bob Gale – the screenwriter and producer of Back To The Future. It was previously said by Thomas F. Wilson (who plays Biff Tannen in the trilogy) that Eric Stoltz's single moment in the movie is when Marty punches Biff when the characters are together at the cafe early in the film – with Wilson's confidence coming from the fact that he didn't remember reshooting the same material with Michael J. Fox.

Bob Gale was tasked by the trade magazine to investigate the veracity of Wilson's claim, and his findings are interesting to say the least. Per the screenwriter, the scene of Marty punching Biff was actually reshot, but it's still very much possible that the Stoltz version was included in the final edit. Said Gale,

Editor Harry Keramidas, who cut the scene, pulled his notes, which show that the punch was reshot, but the printed takes were labeled 'OK' as opposed to 'Good.’ So that could still be Eric's fist. I think the only way we would know for sure is to check the actual edge numbers on the negative, but no one will risk damaging the negative by doing that.The workprint edge numbers might reveal the truth, but no idea if that even exists.

So what we have here doesn't totally conclude the mystery, but instead simply adds a new layer to it. What Bob Gale is saying here is that because the reshot material wasn't given a particularly high grade, it's possible that Harry Keramidas and Robert Zemeckis opted to use the footage with Eric Stoltz, as it may have been of better quality. The only way to know for sure would be to physically check the numbers on the negatives that were used, but that would mean potentially damaging it, and it's hard to imagine that any Back To The Future fan would believe the value of this piece of trivia is greater than ensuring the quality of the film.

But are you ready for the second wrinkle in this development? According to Bob Gale, the shot of Marty punching Biff, if it does indeed feature Eric Stoltz, may not actually be the only representation of Stolz's contribution to the theatrical cut of Back To The Future. What makes the circumstances different, though, is the possibility that the individual in the shot could be Stoltz, Michael J. Fox, or possibly a third or fourth party involved with the production. Said Gale,

After Marty jumps over the hedge, there's a shot of him from behind approaching the pedestrians coming down the courthouse steps. It could be Eric, or it could be Per Welinder who did Fox's skateboarding, or it could be Bob Schmelzer who was Eric's skateboard double.

As noted, it doesn't ultimately matter if Eric Stoltz is actually featured in Back To The Future for even the briefest of moments, as it doesn't really have any actual influence on quality or perception of the classic movie – but it is still a fun subject to analyze and discuss.

This may prove to be the end of the line for this particular Hollywood investigation, but should any more major details come to light, you can be sure that you'll be able to find them here on CinemaBlend.

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.