Back to the Future is a classic, beloved movie. With its great special effects, a memorable soundtrack, and themes of love, friendship and family, it’s no wonder that it appealed to so many people and became, arguably, the definitive time-traveling adventure. And like any other highly-revered film, the facts concerning its conception and the production are remarkably fascinating. With the film marking its 30th anniversary this year, let’s check out some facts about the film you may not know.
10. Huey Lewis Makes his Acting Debut
Take it from us, in the mid-1980s there was no hotter rock and roll act than Huey Lewis and the News. In fact, their third studio album Sports, which was released two years prior to Back to the Future, was instrumental in expediting the band’s success and immense popularity. However, that popularity would soar to even greater heights with the theatrical release of Back to the Future in 1985, due in large part to the band’s contribution of two wildly popular tracks for the film’s soundtrack, “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time”.
As if that wasn’t enough, Huey Lewis also landed a very small, but entertaining, cameo in the film as well. In the scene where Marty’s band, The Pinheads, are auditioning for his school’s upcoming battle of the bands, Huey Lewis can be seen as the megaphone-wielding judge who destroys Marty’s hopes and dreams simply because the band is “just too darn loud.”
9. Ronald Reagan Doesn’t Need Roads
Of course, one of the many enjoyable scenes from Back to the Future is when Marty first arrives in 1955 and is trying to convince Doctor Emmett Brown that he’s actually from the year 1985. As can be expected, Doc Brown rejects the notion that Marty could be a time traveler, but humors him by asking him a series of questions pertaining to the future.
When he inquires about who the president is in 1985, and Marty, quite matter-of-factly, responds by telling him that it’s Ronald Reagan (a prominent actor throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s) he declares the notion to be preposterous and assumes that Marty is just there to play a prank. This scene, and the movie as a whole, must have had a huge impact on Ronald Reagan because in 1986, Reagan used the now famous line, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” as he addressed Congress on the State of the Union and the future of America.
8. Einstein Wasn’t Always a Dog
Albert Einstein had one of the most prolific and brilliant minds of the 20th century. His genius and ingenuity, especially in the field of theoretical physics, was astoundingly beneficial to all of mankind. So it’s no real shocker that Doc Brown, a struggling inventor and a scientist in his own right, would be heavily influenced by his legacy and his work. In the movie, Doc honors the great Albert Einstein by naming his pet dog after him.
Yet, in the original screenplay (penned by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis) Einstein or Einy, as he is often referred to as, was not intended to be a dog at all. As it turns out, he was originally written to be a chimpanzee. However, due to the fact that movie executives didn’t believe that the general public seemed to enjoy movies with chimpanzees in them, the idea was scrapped and Einstein became the time-traveling dog that we have all come to know and love.
7. Movie Studios Weren’t Very Interested
It’s hard to imagine that a movie as groundbreaking and successful as Back to the Future would be a hard sell. This is especially true if you take into account the kind of high-concept movies that were being put into production and dominating the box office during the entirety of the 1980’s. But, for whatever reason, every studio that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale approached and pitched their adventurous time- travel movie to was thoroughly unimpressed. Disney even turned it down because of the controversial and incestuous scenes (which by today’s standards are pretty laughable) that take place when Marty travels back to the past, and unintentionally becomes the target of his younger mother’s affections.
After being rejected by as many as 40 different studios, and in some cases more than once, Zemeckis and Gale were finally able to catch a break; Amblin Entertainment (Stephen Spielberg’s production Company) and Universal Studios took a chance on the screenplay. It’s a good thing too, after all, who wants to live in a world where Back to the Future doesn’t exist?
6. Popular Filming Location
The high school in Back to the Future, Hill Valley High, is a vital component to the story. For starters, it’s the place where Marty must reunite his parents so that they fall in love; it’s where Marty’s dad stands up to Biff for the very first time, forever altering the entire basis of their relationship. Also, we can’t forget Marty’s electrifying rendition of “Jonny Be Good” that took place at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance either.
The actual school itself is located in the town of Whittier, California. Over the years Whittier has become a go to for movie producers looking for unique (or possibly inexpensive) locations to film their movies in. In addition to Back to the Future parts 1 and 2, some other notable films that shot scenes in Whittier include Masters of the Universe, Matilda, Father of the Bride 2, Terminator Salvation, and the Halloween themed family film Hocus Pocus.
5. The Near Name Change
Can you imagine if some of your favorite movies of all time had different titles? It seems pretty absurd, right? Well, Back to the Future almost had a very different one. The head of Universal Studios at the time, Sid Sheinberg, was not very pleased with the title at all. In fact, he went so far as to issue a memo to the entire production team that expressed his immediate concerns. Fearing that the movie would not perform as well when it was released, with a title like Back to the Future, Sheinberg proposed that the movie’s name be changed to Spaceman from Pluto.
Spielberg, trying to subtly let Sheinberg know his idea was patently ridiculous without outright insulting him, disregarded his suggestion and issued a memo of his own which thanked him for his humorous recommendation. Ultimately, the title remained unchanged and as history dictated, Sheinberg’s skepticism was clearly unfounded.
4. Friction on the Set
The cast of Back to the Future is certainly an eclectic one. And when such a diverse group of people are assembled to work together, especially on a big-budget movie, some issues are inevitably bound to arise. Such was the case behind the scenes of the first Back to the Future. Crispin Glover, who played both the old and young versions of George McFly in the film, and Zemeckis, the film’s director, did not see eye to eye on a few of the screenplay’s finer details.
Glover claimed that the underlying message of monetary gain depicted in the film’s conclusion, whether obvious to the audience or not, sent the wrong kind of message, and one that he was particularly uncomfortable with conveying on the screen. When Crispin approached Zemeckis with a request to make some changes to the scene, let’s just say his ideas were not very well received. According to Glover, Zemeckis’s temper got the better of him. As the film was released and became a huge success, disputes over money would exclude Crispin from reprising his role in the subsequent sequels.
3. Preserved For All of Time
Back to the Future is a very special film and one that has stood the test of time (no pun intended). Just how special is it, though? Well, you might be surprised to learn just how significant it truly is. The Library of Congress (our nation`s biggest Library) has seen to it that its availability will never come into question ever again. Each year the Library of Congress receives hundreds of nominations from the public, as well as the National Film Preservation Board, for films to be included in the National Registry of Films.
From those 100s of nominations, 25 films from various time periods are selected which are believed to accurately represent the scope of our nation`s celebrated movie-making culture. In 2007, Back to the Future was added to the prestigious program to ensure its preservation is maintained, so that future generations will have the opportunity to view the classic time-traveling tale.
2. Marty McFly Was Replaced
Casting, or rather, casting parts correctly, is vital to any film’s success. This is as true now as it ever was, and unfortunately, it took a couple of tries before Back to the Future found its perfect leading man. Originally, Spielberg and Zemeckis were extremely interested in hiring Michael J. Fox to portray the iconic character. But, due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that Michael J. Fox was contractually obligated to fulfill his commitment to the hit television series Family Ties, he was unable to accept the role.
With Fox out of the picture, eventually the role went to actor Eric Stoltz. Over time, however, it became quite apparent that Stoltz, though a serviceable actor, did not possess the comedic chops necessary to really bring the role to life. So, after six weeks of shooting an agreement was made that would allow Michael J. Fox to shoot both Family Ties and Back to the Future simultaneously, with Stoltz being replaced by Fox and allowing the tone to become funnier and a little more family friendly.
1. No Delorean? Nuke the Fridge!
The car used for the time machine in Back to the Future has to be one of the most recognizable cars in the history of cinema. But, the time machine itself was never intended to be a car at all, at least initially. Prior to the production of Back to the Future the time machine was supposed to have been a refrigerator. We know, it sounds ridiculous and quite frankly, the thought of Marty climbing into a refrigerator to travel through time is border-line insane. Certainly it’s not something that, say, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas would ever use in any other classic film franchise. Ahem.
Not only was it insane, but the whole climactic clock tower scene at the end, which was necessary to harness the power of lightning in order to fuel the flux capacitor, was originally written to have happened at a nuclear test site. Luckily, the necessary changes were made and the decision to use a car (thereby making the time machine mobile) was the perfect choice. Interestingly enough, it came down to the DeLorean and a Mercedes Benz. For its unique design, the DeLorean was a no-brainer.
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