A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious s***!”. A 35th anniversary celebration of the timeless classic “Back To The Future”. A passion project from Robert Zemeckis and creator Bob Gale and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. “Back To The Future” almost never got made due to the less than stellar film past of Zemeckis and Gale to being turned down by every major studio, with a script that was denied 44 times to changing the original time machine from a refrigerator into the now iconic DeLorean to having to replace the lead actor and re-shoot weeks of already filmed footage to giving Huey Lewis his first number 1 hit. “Back To The Future” used cutting state of the art special effects from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic and make-up designs that kept most of the actors under a three hour make-up process. It is one of the few perfect films that truly deserves to sit on the golden pedestal it rests on. It made such an impact with it’s irresistible combination of dazzling effects, adventure and sly comedy. Filled from top to bottom with an incredible cast, crew and a sharp script, that propelled then TV star Michael J Fox to stardom and Robert Zemeckis to the front rank of Hollywood’s most iconic, legendary and groundbreaking directors. It’s place in movie history is undeniable and will forever live on through the legions of devoted fans organizing yearly conventions, yearly showings around the world and endless props and merchandise. The support and devotion for “Back To The Future” will forever live on. This is one of a slew of perfect movies, that I love with all my movie loving passion until this day and it taught me how to love movies and showed us all over the world, the power and magic of the movies.
Part 1: The Cultural Impact
Here we are now reaching the milestone of 35 years and “Back To The Future”, is still one of the most celebrated film trilogies in movie history. “Back To The Future” has been celebrated in so many forms around the world, whether it’s a $250 figure of Marty McFly, that sells out instantly. Or with Japan having created an iPhone case based on the DeLorean from “Back to the Future II” and it sells like wildfire at nearly $100 a pop.
Above anything else, the reason “Back to the Future” stands the test of time is that it’s a great movie. In-fact it’s been declared by many as the “perfect” movie. An essential film that will forever live as a part of Hollywood and to be forever committed to celluloid. It did well with both audiences, making a worldwide gross of $381 million off a $19 million budget and was embraced by not only audiences but critics alike.
Hey, Doc, we better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to 88.
Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
The trilogy has kept it’s influential staying power through constant discussions on podcasts, referenced in other films and tv shows. Including the release of toys, props, merchandise, theme park rides, conventions (solely celebrating the trilogy), monthly screenings, cast autograph sessions, theme park rides, video games, comic books, an animated series, an entire musical production that went to broadway and even a tribute pop band, called “The Flux Capacitors” (who come dressed entirely as characters from “BTTF”) You name it and “Back To The Future” is celebrated through all forms and media with one of the biggest fan bases in the world.
Part 2: A Partnership Between Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
Robert Zemeckis attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. This is where he met fellow student and writer Bob Gale. Gale recalled his time at USC by saying: “The graduate students at USC had this veneer of intellectualism…So Bob and I gravitated toward one another because we wanted to make Hollywood movies. We weren’t interested in the French New Wave. We were interested in Clint Eastwood, James Bond and Walt Disney, because that’s how we grew up”.
Zemeckis graduated from USC in 1973, and both he and Bob Gale cowrote the unproduced screenplays called “Tank” and “Bordello of Blood”, which they pitched to John Milius, who later went on to write and direct “Conan The Barbarian” and “Red Dawn” and pen the screenplay to “Apocalypse Now”. However “Bordello Of Blood” didn’t see the light of day until it was presented by “Tales From The Crypt” which was released in 1996.
As a result of winning a Student Academy Award at USC for his film “A Field of Honor”, Zemeckis came to the attention of legendary director Steven Spielberg. “He barged right past my secretary and sat me down and showed me this student film and I thought it was spectacular, with police cars and a riot, all dubbed to Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Great Escape”. Spielberg became Zemeckis’s mentor and executive produced his first two films, both of which Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis co-wrote together.
First was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (1978), starring Nancy Allen, and then “Used Cars” (1980), starring Kurt Russell, they were well-received critically but were complete commercial failures. After the failure of his first two films, along with the Spielberg directed box office bomb “1941” in 1979 (which both Gale and Zemeckis had written the screenplay for). The pair gained a reputation for writing “scripts that everyone thought were great but somehow didn’t translate into movies that people wanted to see”.
Part 3: Zemeckis Makes A Breakthrough
As a result of his reputation within the industry, Zemeckis had trouble finding work in the early 1980s, though he and Gale kept busy. They wrote scripts for other directors, including “Car Pool” for Brian De Palma and “Growing Up” for Spielberg; which neither ended up getting made. During this time is when Zemeckis and Gale had written a script, about a teenager who accidentally travels back in time to the 1950s.
They shopped around the script but was turned down by every major studio, because of the relationship between Marty and his younger mother. It was an idea that was considered to taboo and another reason was that, no one wanted to take an investment on two screenwriters who had a box office failure with every script they took to the big screen.
Zemeckis had found himself jobless and knew that he could never make “Back To The Future” a possibility until he had a hit movie on his resume. That’s when actor and producer Michael Douglas hired him in 1984 to direct the action, adventure romantic comedy, “Romancing the Stone”. Early word of mouth wasn’t good and it was expected to be another flop for Zemeckis.
It was so bad that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, the producers of “Cocoon” had fired Zemeckis as director and hired Ron Howard instead. After extensive editing and re-shooting “Romancing The Stone” became a sleeper hit. While working on “Romancing the Stone”, Zemeckis had met composer Alan Silvestri, who has scored all his subsequent pictures, including “Back To The Future”.
Zemeckis had found his hit with “Romancing The Stone” and now had the clout to direct ”Back to the Future”. Starring Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Christopher Lloyd, the 1985 film was wildly successful upon its release, and was followed by two sequels, “Back to the Future Part II” in 1989 and “Back to the Future Part III” in 1990 (which were shot back to back).
With the success of “Back to the Future”, Zemeckis collaborated with Disney’s studio label Touchstone Pictures and solidified his name as one of the most ground breaking filmmakers to break the technology barrier. Zemeckis released “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which painstakingly combined traditional animation and live-action actors. It’s whopping $70 million budget, made it one of the most expensive films made up to that point.
Part 4: The Story
When Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale first sat down to draft their screenplay for “Back to the Future” in the fall of 1980, Gale admits, “We had always been fascinated by the idea of time travel and liked the idea of changing history. But most of all, we wanted to write a time travel story where you didn’t have to know anything about history to enjoy it. That is probably the downfall of most time-travel shows, because you have to know about Lincoln’s assassination, or the details of Pearl Harbor, or other things you might have slept through in class. But we put all the history you need to know in the first 10 or 15 minutes of this movie and boom!…you’re on your own”.
Writer and producer Bob Gale had conceived the idea for “Back to the Future” after visiting his parents in St. Louis, Missouri, after the release of “Used Cars”. As he was searching their basement, Gale found his father’s high school yearbook and discovered he was president of his graduating class. Gale had wondered whether he would have been friends with his father if they had gone to high school together. When he returned to California, Gale informed Robert Zemeckis about the idea. The two took the project to Columbia Pictures and made a development deal for a script in September 1980.
Zemeckis and Gale set the story in 1955 because an 18-year-old traveling to meet his parents at the same age arithmetically, would require the script to travel to that decade. The era also marked the rise of teenagers as an important cultural element, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and suburban expansion, which flavored the story.
While Zemeckis and Gale were writing the script, they had found it difficult to create a believable friendship between Marty and Doc Brown, it ended up taking them some time to flesh out within the script. What’s interesting is it’s never explained in the movie how they met or became friends, although it was explained in the IDW comic book that came out about two years ago.
Other ideas written into the script were of Biff Tannen being named after studio executive Ned Tanen, who behaved aggressively toward Zemeckis and Gale during a script meeting for “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. Gale would also later claim that Biff’s character was based on “Donald Trump” (this was especially evident in the alternate 1985 in “Back To The Future II”).
Part 5: Everyone Studio Said “No”
The first draft of “Back to the Future” was finished in February 1981 and presented to Columbia Pictures, who put the film in turnaround. “They thought it was a really nice, cute, warm film, but not sexual enough,” Gale said. “They suggested that we take it to Disney, but we decided to see if any other of the major studios wanted a piece of us”.
Whoa. Wait a minute, Doc. Are you trying to tell me that my mother has got the hots for me?
Every major film studio rejected the script for the next four years, while it went through two more drafts. During the early 1980s, popular teen comedies (such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Porky’s”) were risqué and adult-aimed, so the script was rejected for being too light. Gale and Zemeckis finally pitched “Back to the Future” to Disney, but they felt the story of a mother falling in love with her son was to taboo for a family film under the Disney name.
Zemeckis and Gale went back to the one guy who had believed in them all along and were tempted to ally themselves with Steven Spielberg, who had produced their first two films “Used Cars” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, which were both box office bombs. They had initially shown the screenplay to Spielberg, who had been quoted as “loved” it. Spielberg, however, was absent from the project during development because Zemeckis felt if he produced another flop under him, he would never be able to make another film.
Gale said “We were afraid that we would get the reputation that we were two guys who could only get a job because we were pals with Steven Spielberg”. That’s when Zemeckis chose to direct “Romancing the Stone” instead (as mentioned in Part 3 of this article), which was a box office success. Now finally having a hit, Zemeckis reapproached Spielberg with the concept. Agreeing to produce “Back to the Future”, Spielberg set the project up at his production company, Amblin Entertainment, with his partners Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall joining Spielberg as executive producers on the film. Spielberg’s Amblin office was located on the Universal Studios lot, which is why Universal released the film.
Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg suggested making changes to the script, such as changing Marty’s mother’s name from Meg to Lorraine (which was the name of his wife, actress Lorraine Gary), changing Doc’s name from Professor Brown to Doc Brown and replacing Doc’s pet chimpanzee with his dog Einstein. Sheinberg also wanted the title changed to “Space Man from Pluto”, because he was convinced no successful film ever had “future” in it’s title.
Sheinberg had also suggested that the scene with Marty dressed as an alien should have Marty identify himself as “a space man from the Planet Pluto”, instead of “Darth Vader from Planet Vulcan” and that the farmer’s son’s comic book be titled “Spaceman from Pluto” rather than “Space Zombies from Pluto”. Appalled at the suggestions, Zemeckis asked Spielberg for help. Spielberg dictated a memo to Sheinberg convincing him they thought his title was a joke, thus embarrassing him into dropping the idea.
In total, the script was rejected 44 times, before it was finally green-lit.
Part 6: There Was Only One Marty McFly
Michael J. Fox had already become a household name from playing Alex P. Keaton, an ambitious young money loving Republican on the hit NBC series “Family Ties”. Already in it’s fourth season, Fox became the first choice to play Marty McFly, but was committed to “Family Ties”. The show’s creator and producer Gary David Goldberg felt that Fox was essential to the show’s success and refused Fox to commit to any other projects while on “Family Ties”.
With co-star Meredith Baxter (who played mom Elyse) on maternity leave, he still refused to allow Fox time off to work on a film. “Back to the Future” was originally scheduled for a May 1985 release and it was in late 1984 when it was learned that Fox would be unable to star in the film. Robert Zemeckis’s next two choices were C. Thomas Howell (“Red Dawn”) and Eric Stoltz (“Pulp Fiction”).
Stoltz had impressed the producers enough with his earlier portrayal of Roy L. Dennis, co starring along Cher in “Mask” (which had yet to be released theatrically) that they selected him to play Marty McFly. Because of the difficult casting process before casting Eric Stoltz, the start date was pushed back twice. Actors John Cusack became considered for the role and Johnny Depp had actually auditioned for the role.
Principal photography on the film began in November 1984, but a few weeks into filming, Zemeckis was watching playbacks and determined Stoltz had been miscast. Although he and Spielberg realized that re-shooting the film would add $3 million to the already $14 million budget, they decided to recast and reshoot everything Stoltz had already filmed. Zemeckis believed Stoltz was not comedic enough and that he gave a “terrifically dramatic performance”, but his comedic timing wasn’t there.
Gale further explained they felt Stoltz was simply acting out the role, whereas Fox himself had a personality like Marty McFly. He felt Stoltz was uncomfortable riding a skateboard, whereas Fox was not. Stoltz confessed to director Peter Bogdanovich (director of “Mask” and “The Last Picture Show”) during a phone call, two weeks into the shoot, that he was unsure of Zemeckis’s and Gale’s direction, and concurred that he was wrong for the role. The footage of Eric Stoltz has yet to be seen, which Bob Gale says “It will be released…someday”.
Fox’s schedule had opened up in January 1985, when Meredith Baxter returned to the set of “Family Ties” following her pregnancy. Zemeckis and Gale met with Goldberg again, who made a deal that Fox’s main priority would be “Family Ties” and if a scheduling conflict arose, “Family Ties” would win and take precedence. Michael J Fox loved the script so much and was impressed by Zemeckis’s and Gale’s sensitivity and in handling the release of Stoltz.
Michael J Fox had volunteered himself for one of the most rigorous schedules in Hollywood history. Fox said before starting production: “I knew this would be a gruelling schedule. But I learned to enjoy it and besides, if I can’t handle it at this age, I might as well get out of the business! Fortunately, Alex, from ‘Family Ties’ and Marty McFly, are two distinct characters and it’s easy to separate them. If my energy does drop at all, Bob Zemeckis just snaps me out of it. The man is possessed; he never runs out of energy and I get psyched up just watching him work”.
From mid-January through mid-March, a typical day in the life of Michael J Fox meant reporting to Paramount Studios for “Family Ties”, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then on to Universal for “Back to the Future” from approximately 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. But it was his Friday schedule that left both crews shaking their heads in wonder.
Since “Family Ties” tapes in front of a live audience on Friday evenings, Michael would rehearse with his TV family from noon until 5:00 p.m., perform two tapings and then report to the set of his film at 10 p.m. The motion picture crew would then film until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. leaving one exhausted actor a weekend in which to rest and recuperate, only to start the routine all over again on Monday morning.
Fox admits that his favorite scene in the film takes place in 1955 when he performs Chuck Berry’s classic “Johnny B. Goode” for a high school dance before the dawn of rock and roll. “I was able to live out two fantasies with this movie. I’ve always wanted to do a big budget feature, with splashy special effects and a great. story, and I’ve always wanted to be a rock and roll star. In ‘Back to the Future’ I get to do both”.
He jokingly describes “Back to the Future” as a “comedy, action, fantasy, adventure and coming of age film”. He added, “It’s got a lot of everything, comedy, gadgetry and a story that doesn’t quit. I call it a $20 investment, because you may have to see it four times before you absorb all the terrific things that are going on in those two hours”.
It’s good to know that Michael J Fox, was always the first choice of Marty. As he is one of the most charismatic movie stars, with brilliant and precise comedic timing. Both Zemeckis and Spielberg were charmed by Fox’s “Family Ties” character and knew he possessed the wide-eyed wonder of Marty McFly. “Michael looked perfect for the part,” explained Zemeckis, “and he’s got a fabulous sense of comedy timing”.
Spielberg adds, “He has a great sense of humor. His dry approach to Alex in ‘Family Ties’ is what caused me to watch the show week after week. Michael is a young leading man waiting to break through in movies and hopefully this will give him a chance”. A chance it did, as the role changed his life, as he was soon offered role after role and became one of the most popular and busiest movie stars of the 80’s and 90’s.
Fox tried everything from dramas “Casulaties Of War” and “Light Of Day”, to action comedies “The Hard Way”, to light hearted comedies “For Love Or Money”, “Life With Mikey” and “The Secret Of My Success”, to his final big screen appearance in 1996 with “The Frighteners” (executive produced by Robert Zemeckis).
Part 7: The Cast
John Lithgow (“Harry and The Hendersons”) was the original pursued candidate to play Doc Brown. Scheduling conflicts with another project, had prevented him from getting the role. John Candy, Danny DeVito, Gene Hackman, as were Gene Wilder, Robin Williams and James Woods (see the full list of candidates below) were also considered…while Jeff Goldblum had auditioned for the role of Doc, but lost it to Christopher Lloyd.
Well, that is your name, isn’t it? Calvin Klein? It’s written all over your underwear.
Both Christopher Lloyd and John having had worked on “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” in 1984, along with producer Neil Canton (who was also a “BTTF” producer) had suggested Lloyd for the part. Lloyd originally turned down the role, but changed his mind after reading the script and at the insistence of his wife to take the part.
Lloyd improvised some of his scenes, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Lloyd also changed up one of the films most important phrases in pronouncing gigawatts as “jigawatts” (which was the way a physicist would say the word), when he met and auditioned with Zemeckis and Gale. If you notice, Doc has a notable hunch in the film that came about because at 6 feet 1 inch, Lloyd was considerably taller than Michael J Fox at 5 feet 5 inches and they needed to look closer in height.
Crispin Glover who played Michael J Fox’s father George McFly, was actually 21 years old at the time, while Fox was 24. Zemeckis said Glover improvised many of George’s nerdy mannerisms, such as his shaky hands. The director joked he was “endlessly throwing a net over Crispin because he was completely off about fifty percent of the time in his interpretation of the character”.
Over the years Glover has been very vocal about his falling out with the franchise and it’s creators Zemeckis and Gale. His falling out led to a contract disagreement and Glover being replaced by Jeffrey Weissman in “BTTF Part II” and “Part III”.
But what exactly led to the disagreement and falling out? Well the story goes that Glover wasn’t a fan of the films ending, where once Marty secured his parents falling love, he returns to the present to see that his family’s life is significantly better than it was when he left. Glover has opened up in interviews about his disagreement with this ending. He didn’t like that the McFly family was suddenly richer and thus happier, in the end. His debates with Zemeckis fractured their working relationship, which didn’t help Glover later on. When it was time for the sequels to be made, Glover believed he should be paid on equal terms with the film’s other stars and the decision was made to move on at that point.
Lea Thompson (“Howard The Duck”) was cast as Lorraine McFly because she had acted opposite Stoltz in “The Wild Life”; the producers noticed her as they had watched the film while casting Stoltz. Her prosthetic makeup for scenes at the beginning of the film in 1985, took three and a half hours to apply.
Thomas F. Wilson’s catchphrases “make like a tree and get outta here” and “butthead” were improvised by Wilson. Casted as Biff Tannen because the producers felt that the original choice, J. J. Cohen, wasn’t physically imposing enough to bully Stoltz. Cohen was recast as Skinhead, one of Biff’s cohorts. Had Fox been cast from the beginning, Cohen probably would have won the part because he was sufficiently taller than Fox.
Melora Hardin was originally cast in the role of Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer, but was let go after Stoltz was dismissed, with the explanation that the actress was now too tall to be playing against Fox. Hardin was dismissed before she had a chance to shoot a single scene and was replaced with Claudia Wells. Actress Jill Schoelen had also been considered to play Marty’s girlfriend. Although Wells didn’t return for the sequels due to commitment to take care of her sick mother. Actress Elisabeth Shue (“Adventures In Babysitting”) took her place.
Part 8: Filming
Robert Zemeckis has dubbed “Back to the Future” as “the film that would not wrap”. He recalled that because they shot night after night, he was always “half asleep” and the “fattest, most out-of-shape and sick I ever was”.
Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?
The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some *style?*
The Hill Valley town square scenes were shot at Courthouse Square, located in the Universal Studios backlot. Gale explained it would have been impossible to shoot on location “because no city is going to let a film crew remodel their town to look like it’s in the 1950s”. The filmmakers “decided to shoot all the 50s stuff first and make the town look real beautiful and wonderful. Then we would just totally trash it down and make it all bleak and ugly for the 1980s scenes”.
The interiors for Doc Brown’s house were shot at the Robert R. Blacker House, while exteriors took place at Gamble House. The exterior shots of the Twin Pines Mall and later the Lone Pine Mall (from 1985) were shot at the Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California.
The exterior shots and some interior scenes at Hill Valley High School were filmed at Whittier High School in Whittier, California. The Battle of the Bands tryout scene was filmed at the McCambridge Park Recreation Center in Burbank and the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance was filmed in the gymnasium at Hollywood United Methodist Church. The scenes outside of the Baines’ house in 1955 were shot at Bushnell Avenue, South Pasadena, California.
Production designer Larry Paull, who received an Academy Award nomination for his futuristic visions in “Bladerunner”, created all of the films sets and was his first foray into replicating the 1950s. “I began to delve into a lot of Life and Look magazines and used a lot of photographic research of the time,” recalls Paull. “I did a lot of digging, even into old high school yearbooks in order to come up with a feeling and a visual concept”.
Industrial Light & Magic created the film’s 32 effects shots, which did not satisfy Zemeckis and Gale until a week before the film’s completion date. The compositing involved for the film’s time travel sequences, as well as for the lightning effects in the climactic clock tower scene, were handled by animation supervisor Wes Takahashi, who would also work on the two Back to the Future sequels with the rest of the ILM crew.
Part 9: Make-Up Design
Perhaps no one on the entire “Back to the Future” crew faced as many daily challenges as make-up artist Ken Chase, who was busy designing latex fittings and pouring plastic facial molds during pre-production. He was responsible for aging three young performers from age 17 to 47. Lea Thompson, who plays the flirtatious and pretty Lorraine Baines at age 17, ages 30 years and gains 30 pounds when she becomes Lorraine Baines McFly, Marty’s boozy, uptight mother. Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson make a similar physical transformation with the addition of 30 years.
“It is much more difficult to make someone appear to be in their 40s, simply because of the mechanics,” explains Chase, who also designed the old age make-up for Alex Haley’s popular miniseries, ‘Roots II’. If I were asked to make Lea look 100, I would cover her whole face with latex foam prosthetics and there would be no skin visible. It would all have the same texture and would be easy to do. But since we couldn’t change her appearance dramatically, we had to use foam rubber against skin and there is a difference in textures. It’s important for the audience to recognize these actors through a 30 year span, and if we put too many appliances and wigs on, that’s easily lost”.
The three and a half hours that each actor spends in the chair while their old age make-up is applied can be frustrating after a few days, but Lea Thompson explains that it actually helped her to prepare her character each day.
“I find that most of acting is preparation,” she says. “Getting into the make-up, getting into the costume, you slowly start psyching yourself into the role. Since this is a gradual process, watching it go on piece by piece, you become more and more part of the character and the psychological change into Lorraine at 47 just happens.”
Part 10: Alan Silvestri & Huey Lewis
Alan Silvestri who had collaborated with Zemeckis on “Romancing the Stone” (a score which Spielberg disliked), was hired by Zemeckis to score “BTTF”. Zemeckis advised Silvestri to make his compositions grand and epic, despite the film’s small scale, to impress Spielberg. Silvestri began recording the score two weeks before the first preview. Silvestri also suggested that Huey Lewis and the News (which was Marty’s favorite band in the movie), create the films theme song.
If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything
Huey Lewis and The News actually recorded one song, but was rejected by Universal, before they recorded “The Power of Love”. The studio loved the song but were disappointed it did not feature the film’s title in it, which Huey Lewis (who also has a cameo) never intended to write a song after the title. He has stated many times in interviews that he didn’t know how to write a song for a movie, let alone one called “Back To The Future”.
So the studio had to send memos to radio stations to always mention its association with the “Back to the Future” movie. For the music video to “Power Of Love”, an appearance by Christopher Lloyd and the Delorean make an appearance. It gave the band their first number-one hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and their second number-one hit on the U.S. Top Rock Tracks chart; and as a double-A side, it was a top ten hit on the Official UK Singles Chart, where it appeared on UK editions of the band’s fourth studio album, “Fore!”.
Three different mixes of “The Power Of Love”, have co-existed since its release in 1985. The “Back to the Future” soundtrack version, also the version used in the music video, has a run time of 3:51. A twelve-inch version of the song was released to most countries, featuring a seven minute dance version with changes in its mix such as additional backing keyboards and an extended guitar solo lasting twice as long as the original version.
A 7″ single released in 1985 to radio in some countries as promotion of the film contains an edit of the aforementioned extended remix, with a run time of 4:21. In select countries, this shorter edit was featured on the B-side of the 12″ single. Whilst this version is occasionally played on radio, it has only ever been included on one Huey Lewis “Best Of”, and as a result is a very rare version of the song.
In the end, Huey Lewis recorded a second track called, “Back in Time”. Playing during the scene when Marty wakes up after his return to 1985 and during the end credits. Although it appears that Fox is actually playing a guitar, music supervisor Bones Howe hired Hollywood guitar coach and musician Paul Hanson to teach Fox to simulate playing all the parts so it would look realistic, including playing behind his head. Fox lip-synched “Johnny B. Goode” to vocals by Mark Campbell, of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack fame.
The original 1985 soundtrack album only included two tracks culled from Silvestri’s compositions for the film, both Huey Lewis tracks, the songs played in the film by the fictional band Marvin Berry and The Starlighters (and Marty McFly), one of the vintage 1950s songs in the movie and two pop songs that are only very briefly heard in the background of the film, one by Eric Clapton and one by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
Part 11: Back To The Past Or Back To The Future?
“Back To The Future” faces a lot of fan theories and debates about the films timeline and events. While their are many fan theories and debates, one of the first debates the movie found itself in, was over the films title.
As we all know the main plot of “Back To The Future” finds Marty traveling back in time to 1955, as Doc Brown is trying to get Marty back home to 1985. Just as Doc Brown says, “Next Saturday night, we’re sending you back to the future!”. But the debate (which I never understood why it was even a debate) circulated over why, it was called “Back To The Future” if he is going back to the past?
Well it’s pretty simple if you look at it, Marty is trying to get back to 1985, which is the future to the past he is stuck in. “Back” can refer to the past, which juxtoposes nicely with “future”. At the same time, “back” can also refer to returning to somewhere you used to be and as much of the plot of the movie was McFly’s attempts to return to his home in the future, “Back to the Future” became a very accurate description of the story.
Part 12: Top 10 Fan Theories
While there are endless amounts of fan theories around “Back To The Future”, these are the 10 most popular theories circling the internet…
Number Ten – Ever wondered what happened to Jennifer? In reality, Claudia Wells, the first Jennifer, was unable to reprise the role due to her mother becoming ill. The studio recast Elisabeth Shue for Back to the Future II and III and reshot the final footage of BTTF with Shue instead of Wells for BTTF 2’s opening. Fans, however, have a content-driven theory.
According to fans, when Marty went back to 1955, something he did messed with the timeline(s) of Jennifer’s parents. As a result, the circumstances of her birth weren’t the same and her looks ended up slightly different. Pretty cool way to explain a cast change!
Number Nine – Many fans have wondered why, after stating that his inventions never work, Doc Brown would put himself and Marty in the path of the DeLorean going 88 mph. Well, some fans have explained this conundrum away with a rather dark theory. For them, Doc Brown, depressed from his failure as an inventor, has chosen to take his life through one of his inventions. The theory just becomes darker when you consider he forced Marty to participate, leading some to consider it a murder-suicide attempt. Luckily, the DeLorean was the one invention Doc could get to work!
Number Eight – Fans have always wondered why Marty’s parents never recognized him when he grew up, but, in this fan theory, they did! Or, at least George did. The theory states that George figured it out slowly with building evidence; finding out his visit from an alien involved two of the largest space franchises of all time, coming home to a burned carpet, and the words of Calvin echoing in his head to “go easy on him”, along with all the other little details. But, fans state, George never told Marty because he knew his son needed to go back in time the exact same way. Good old George, being responsible with time travel! Or the most simplest explanation is a question you also need to ask yourself. Would you remember what the person looks like, a whole 30 years later, that you had spent only a few times with, within a week?
Number Seven – Some of the favorite fan theories are the darkest. In this theory, fans say Marty actually died in that tunnel, trying to get the almanac back from Biff. Distraught by Marty’s death, Doc goes back in time to save Marty. How else do you explain Doc dropping the rope at the exact moment needed to save his favorite McFly?
Number Six – Fans of BTTF know that paradoxes must be avoided at all costs. Some fans actually take it further, believing the DeLorean broke down to avoid paradoxes. In this theory, somehow the DeLorean is sentient enough to break down at the perfect time to avoid a paradox, including breaking down where no one in 1955 will find a car from the 80’s and stalling so that the car will hit the wire at the precise moment of the lightening strike! This time traveling car from the 80s can even fix Doc Brown’s calculations!
Number Five – Here’s another “Dark Doc” theory from the fans. Fans think, in an effort to stop the potential paradox of Marty meeting himself, Doc does something very dark. Instead of Marty watching Doc send himself off to the past, fans think Doc sends the second Marty, Marty B, to his death. In some theories, Doc convinces Marty B to die and in others, he never tells him. Gruesome and bad luck Marty B, the Marty Martyr.
Number Four – Some “Doctor Who” fans or known as Whovians argue that Doc Brown is really a Timelord! At the end of the third movie Doc says he’s already been to the future, indicating he is much older than he appears, just like a certain doctor we all know. Adding fuel to this theory is Doc’s love of bowties, his pet dogs (never forget K-9), his penchant for inventing things to get out of sticky situations, and his current travel companion, Clara. Fantastic!
Number Three – Director Richard Kelly is a huge fan of Back to the Future, so much so that there’s a DeLorean reference in Donnie Darko, a film he directed. Fans also believe that Donnie Darko is Kelly’s fanfiction ode to the Marty Martyr theory. Just replace Donnie with Marty B, the rabbit with Doc, and Gretchen with Jennifer. Spooky!
Number Two – Fans explain away our lack of hoverboards in 2015 by stating we’re actually in the alternate timeline created by Marty and Doc. There are two explanations usually given here. In one, the man Marty hit while racing was actually going to a meeting about hoverboards. If Marty had hit him, he wouldn’t have made the meeting and wouldn’t have been able to turn down hover technology , causing the boards to be made (although, who would deny the world hoverboards?). Since Marty changed history by not racing, the man was never hit and went to the meeting, and ended up turning down the hoverboard idea. In another theory, Doc actually created the hoverboards but, since he’s living in the past with Clara now, he never made our favorite technology.
Number One – This is just a nutshell explanation of the films, biggest theory. It states that the “BTTF” franchise is one big chiasmus, aka the film has perfect symmetry. It argues that the first and third movies are symmetrical, while the 2nd movie mirrors itself. For example, the first movie starts with Marty being blown back by Doc’s amp and talking to him on the phone and the final movie ends with Marty and Jennifer being blown back by Doc and talking to him once more. This theory is explained in full here.
Part 13: To Be. Or Not To Be…Continued
When “Back To The Future” ended, we found Marty McFly returning to 1985 after a week-long stay in 1955. He is marveling at all the improvements in his and his family’s life based on his influence upon his parents when he interacted with them thirty years earlier. While celebrating these new changes in his life, eccentric scientist Doc Brown shows up in the time traveling DeLorean car and tells Marty that he needs him to go with him to the future (2015), because something needs to be done about Marty’s children.
Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.
When Marty and Jennifer get into the car, Marty is worried that the car won’t have enough road to get up to 88 miles per hour, but Doc informs him, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”. The car then begins to fly and takes off into the future and then “To Be Continued…” flashes onto the screen. Or did it?
Whether the famed “To Be Continued…” at the end of the movie actually appeared in the original theatrical release or if it was added later. This was another debate that went on for years as people were convinced that they saw it in the theatrical film, while some say it wasn’t included. The correct answer to that is that, it was added later.
The massive success of the film simply put a ton of pressure on the crew to make a sequel, which they ultimately obliged. 1989’s Back to the Future Part II” and 1990’s “Back to the Future Part III”, which were filmed back-to-back so that they were able to release them one after another. Zemeckis has noted that if he actually intended for the original movie to lead in to another film, he never would have put Jennifer into the car at the end of the movie, because having Jennifer in the future with Marty would limit their ability to have Marty go on adventures in the future. If you notice that in “Back to the Future Part II”, one of the first things they do is take Jennifer out of the equation and leave Marty on his own. Zemeckis and Gale said “We had no idea what to do with her?”.
As a result, there was no “To Be Continued…” at the end of the film because it was never meant to continue. “Back to the Future” was distributed by Universal Pictures, who also had the distribution rights for the “Back to the Future” home video release through their parent company, MCA. By the time the home video release for “Back to the Future” came out in 1986, Zemeckis and Gale were on board with doing sequels.
Therefore, to promote their future product, MCA and Universal insisted on adding “To Be Continued…” to the end of the VHS copies of “Back to the Future”. Naturally, the home video release was seen by even more people than the original theater release, so in the 29 years since the movie came out on video, fans’ memories have blurred and now recall the “To Be Continued…” as being a part of the original 1985 film. Which it was not.
In 2002, when the “Back to the Future” trilogy was released as a DVD box set, the “To Be Continued…” ending was removed and it has been left off on all subsequent Blu-Ray and DVD releases.
Part 14: A Refrigerator And A Delorean
Zemeckis admitted that the story underwent many revisions and variations before the writing team created the appropriate time machine. “We actually had thought of putting a time machine in a refrigerator at one point,” laughs Zemeckis. “But you had to get in and close it before it would start and then we worried that kids would start locking themselves in refrigerators.”
When they concurred that the time machine in their story should be mobile, their next idea was to mount it into a sports car and once they discovered the potential for humor in the gull-winged DeLorean, the story was off and running.
The special effects people worked hard on the construction of the infamous DeLorean time machine. Since neither Zemeckis, Gale or Canton knew much about the hardware or design concept, they turned their idea for a nuclear-powered DeLorean to several talented illustrators and conceptual artists. Their two instructions were that the car to be look homemade, since it was to be built in the garage of an eccentric inventor and it must house a nuclear reactor.
Soon, the drawings began to take shape and after much collaboration between artist Ron Cobb, illustrator Andy Probert, the filmmakers and production designer Larry Paull, the car was ready to be adapted. Mike Scheffe, the vehicle construction coordinator began to shop for odd parts which would be used in the construction of the “flux capacitor,” as well as the dashboard, vents and side coils.
Once his assignment was complete, special effects supervisor Kevin Pike and his team went to work to modify the three DeLoreans, which had been purchased for the film. On one of the cars, they added four firejets, which shoot flames from the vehicle as it accelerates and prepares for travel.
Writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis actually received a fan letter from John DeLorean after the film’s release, thanking them for immortalizing his car.
Part 15: Box Office, Success And Awards
Filming wrapped after 100 days on April 20th 1985 and the film was delayed from May to August. But after a highly positive test screening, that producer Frank Marshall had stated, “I’d never seen a preview like that. The audience went up to the ceiling”. Sheinberg chose to move the release date to July 3rd, 1985. In order to make sure the film met this new release date, two editors: Arthur Schmidt and Harry Keramidas, were assigned to the picture, while many sound editors worked 24-hour shifts.
Eight minutes of the film were cut, including Marty watching his mom cheat during an exam, George getting stuck in a telephone booth before rescuing Lorraine, as well as much of Marty pretending to be Darth Vader. Zemeckis even almost cut out the “Johnny B. Goode” sequence as he felt it did not advance the story, but the preview audience loved it, so it was kept in.
“Back to the Future” spent 11 weeks at the number one spot in theaters. Gale recalled “Our second weekend was higher than our first weekend, which is indicative of great word of mouth. “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” came out in August and it kicked us out of number one spot for one week and then we were back to number one”. The film went on to gross $210.61 million in North America and $178.5 million in foreign countries, accumulating a worldwide total of $389 million.
“Back to the Future” had the fourth highest opening weekend of 1985 and was the top-grossing film of the year. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 59 million tickets in the United States. In 2007, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in June 2008 the American Film Institute’s special AFI’s list, designated it as the 10th-best science fiction film.
At the 58th Academy Awards, “Back to the Future” won the Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing, while Zemeckis and Gale were nominated for Best Original Screenplay, “The Power of Love” was nominated for Best Original Song and Bill Varney, B. Tennyson Sebastian II, Robert Thirlwell and William B. Kaplan were nominated for Best Sound Mixing.
The film won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Michael J. Fox and the visual effects designers won categories at the Saturn Awards. Zemeckis, composer Alan Silvestri, the costume design and supporting actors Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson were also nominated. The film was nominated for numerous BAFTAs at the 39th British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film, original screenplay, visual effects, production design and editing.
At the 43rd Golden Globe Awards, Back to the Future was nominated for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), original song (for “The Power of Love”), Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Fox) and Best Screenplay for Zemeckis and Gale.
Part 16: An Ending Given To “Indiana Jones”
The original climax of the film, in which Marty went back to 1985 by driving through a nuclear explosion during a weapons test in Nevada was deemed too expensive by Universal executives and was simplified by keeping the plot within Hill Valley and incorporating the clocktower sequence. Spielberg used the omitted refrigerator and the Nevada nuclear site elements as the opening to his 2008 film “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” with Harrison Ford and Shia Labeouf.
Part 17: A Timeless Classic
It’s hard to deny that “Back To The Future” doesn’t have that Frank Capra magic. As part of it’s staying power and it’s themes comes from the fact that, it’s impossible to watch any one “Back to the Future” film alone; they demand to be watched consecutively, as one complete story.
Marty, I’m sorry, but the only power source capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning.
“Back to the Future” is one of the few perfect films that truly deserves to sit on the golden pedestal it rests on. It represents the pinnacle of American cinema. From the powerful, emotionally resonant themes that stretch from 1955 to 2015 to the visual gags that now stand alone in contemporary pop culture, it’s hard to think of a film that better captures the most enduring themes of American culture.
It would never have made such an impact without the incredible cast, crew, a sharp script and the guiding hand of director Robert Zemeckis. There’s a reason Zemeckis, is an engineer of some of American cinema’s biggest blockbusters and has been dubbed as one of the greatest “visual storytellers” in filmmaking. Everyone of those reasons are on display in the “Back to the Future”.
Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, “Back to the Future” is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit, with not one wasted scene. It was, is and always will be a true Hollywood classic. A perfect film. An irresistible combination of dazzling effects and sly comedy that propelled Michael J Fox to stardom and Robert Zemeckis to the front rank of Hollywood’s most iconic, legendary and groundbreaking directors. If you don’t like “Back To The Future”, it’s difficult to believe that you even like films at all. This is one of a slew of perfect movies, that I love with all my movie loving passion until this day and it taught me how to love movies and showed us all over the world, the power and magic of the movies. To paraphrase Doc: “If you’re going to build one of the greatest films in American culture, why not do it with some style”.