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What’s wilder than thinking about how Pretty In Pink legend Jon Cryer auditioned for the role of Marty McFly? Try talking about the draft of the script that Cryer was given to read for the part! With the new 4K reissue of the Back to the Future trilogy headed to home video shelves this fall, some pretty awesome special features are about to hit audiences for the first time. Included in those extras are screen tests from folks like Ben Stiller, Kyra Sedgwick, and Jon Cryer, among others, as they tried to win their way into time travel history. And apparently, some, if not all of those auditions took place with a vastly different serious of events.
This new announcement prompted Mr. Cryer to take to Twitter with some awesome memories of the original draft of Back to the Future, and he laid out a huge swath of differences that eventually morphed into the comedy that everyone knows and loves. How different was Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s story that first go around? According to Jon Cryer, here’s where the differences start:
But the #BackToTheFuture script that I read before my audition was VERY DIFFERENT than what ended up on screen. It opened with Marty McFly playing the Close Encounters theme on his electric guitar while he pirated a VHS cassette of the movie. And the time machine wasn’t a Delorean that had to travel at 88 miles per hour and have 1.21 gigawatts of power but just... well... a time machine that needed nuclear fission and a secret ingredient that turned out to be Coca-Cola (swear to God).
A story that’s swam in the circles of Back to the Future lore for pretty much all of its existence, the landmark 1985 movie initially saw Christopher Lloyd’s Dr. Emmett L. Brown as a video pirate, with Marty assisting him in his efforts. Of course, this was a bit of a side hustle for those time travel experiments that would eventually send Marty McFly into his family’s past, nearly wiping him and his siblings out of existence.
But the really big differences come from the climax to the original draft of Back to the Future. We’re all used to Marty gunning the DeLorean down the town square, while Doc Brown struggles to reconnect the cable that’ll deliver the necessary 1.21 Gigawatts of lighting directly to the time machine. But as Jon Cryer continues to point out, from his own memory of the original script, there was a very different final act in the draft dated from February 1981:
The final sequence didn’t involve a clock tower or a lightning bolt, but instead finds Marty sneaking onto a atom bomb test site with his time machine to be near the nuclear fission that he needs for it to work. The test site is complete with exquisitely detailed suburban houses and mannequins to simulate the effects of an atomic explosion on an American town. He gets the time machine in place, the atom bomb is about to go off, he’s reaching for the Coca-Cola, the countdown is at 10, 9, 8... when he slips and drops the bottle!! It shatters on the ground. He’s all out of Coke!
Wow, we almost saw a world where Marty McFly took a very different side of the Cola Wars. But wait… it gets better, as Marty does find one last bottle of Coke in, of all places, a refrigerator! And as Jon Cryer rounds out his recollection of the end to Back to the Future’s alternate history, our hero pulls an Indiana Jones, and hides in said refrigerator to ride out the nuclear blast that sends him and his time machine home. Huh, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Cryer picked up on those similarities, and showed himself a true student of history by invoking the very scientifically accurate scene you’re thinking of right now:
I can hear you all collectively screaming ‘Yes, yes, Jon!! It does! Clearly Spielberg loved the scene and repurposed it decades later for a much-maligned scene in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL!!’
Between honoring his Superman franchise history with his role as Lex Luthor on The CW’s Supergirl, and his big rundown of how the version of Back to the Future he auditioned for was wildly different, Jon Cryer has provided yet another example of how missed opportunities can still shape the future. Also, the greater lesson here is while we weren’t ready to see Marty McFly nuke the fridge, it turns out that even the children of the future weren’t destined to love it either. You can see Jon Cryer’s screen tests as Marty McFly on the Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy box set! This collection will be available in 4K for the first time, and on Blu-ray once again, on October 20th; with some pretty sweet retailer exclusive editions available for pre-order as well.