Overview

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction adventure comedy film. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, produced by Steven Spielberg.

Storyline

Marty McFly, a typical American teenager of the Eighties, is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean “time machine” invented by slightly mad scientist. During his often hysterical, always amazing trip back in time, Marty must make certain his teenage parents-to-be meet and fall in love – so he can get back to the future.Written by Robert Lynch

Interesting facts

  • Michael J. Fox had always been the first choice for Marty, but he was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts with his work on Family Ties. As “Family Ties” co-star Meredith Baxter was pregnant at the time, Fox was carrying a lot more of the show than usual. The show’s producer Gary David Goldberg simply couldn’t afford to let Fox go. Zemeckis and Gale then cast Eric Stoltz as Marty based on his performance in Mask. After four weeks of filming Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale felt that Stoltz wasn’t right for the part and Stoltz agreed. By this stage, Baxter was back fully on the show and Goldberg agreed to let Fox go off to make the film. Fox worked out a schedule to fulfill his commitment to both projects. Every day during production, he drove straight to the movie set after taping of the show was finished every day and averaged about five hours of sleep. The bulk of the production was filmed from 6pm to 6am, with the daylight scenes filmed on weekends. Reshooting Stoltz’s scenes added $3 million dollars to the budget.
  • Musician Mark Campbell did all of Michael J. Fox’s singing. He’s credited as “Marty McFly”.
  • Michael J. Fox was allowed by the producer of Family Ties to film this movie on the condition that he kept his full schedule on the TV show – meaning no write-outs or missing episodes – and filmed most of the movie at night. He was not allowed to go on Back to the Future promotional tours.
  • A persistent myth is that Michael J. Fox had to learn to skateboard for the film. In fact, he was a reasonably skilled skateboarder, having ridden throughout high school. However, Per Welinder acted as a skateboarding double for the complex scenes, Per Welinder also choreographed and coordinated the skateboarding action together with Robert Schmelzer.
  • The “Back to the Future” series (including Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, and Back to the Future Part III) ranked at #9 on IGN’s Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time (2006).
  • Was the top grossing release of 1985.
  • The picture of Mayor Red Thomas on the election car in 1955 is set decorator Hal Gausman.
  • Michael J. Fox is only ten days younger than Lea Thompson who plays his mother, and is almost three years older than his on-screen dad, Crispin Glover. This is not very surprising, since most of their scenes take place in 1955. They were cast to match their younger self’s ages.
  • The time machine has been through several variations. In the first draft of the screenplay the time machine was a laser device that was housed in a room. At the end of the first draft the device was attached to a refrigerator and taken to an atomic bomb test. Robert Zemeckis said in an interview that the idea was scrapped because he and Steven Spielberg did not want children to start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside. (See also Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.) The Nevada desert bomb test was left out in order to reduce the budget. In the third draft of the film the time machine was a DeLorean, but in order to send Marty back to the future the vehicle had to drive the DeLorean into an atomic bomb test.
  • The DeLorean was deliberately selected for its general appearance and gull wing doors, in order to make it plausible that people in 1955 would presume it to be an alien spacecraft.
  • The script never called for Marty to repeatedly bang his head on the gull-wing door of the DeLorean; this was improvised during filming as the door mechanism became faulty.
  • The school that served as Hill Valley High was Whittier High School in Whittier, California just outside of Los Angeles. Richard Nixon’s is an alumnus (class of 1930) and Pat Nixon taught there from 1937 to 1941. Also just beyond the school is where Strickland’s home is, as seen later in Back to the Future Part II. The back side of the school can be seen as Marty jogs up to the porch.
  • The Twin Pines Mall is, in fact, the Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California. Today, JCPenney is no longer an anchor there.
  • A marketer hoped to get a prominent placement for California Raisins somewhere in the film. He suggested putting a bowl of raisins on a table at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. He had also told the California Raisins board that this would do for raisins what E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial did for Reese’s Pieces. Bob Gale informed him that a bowl of raisins would photograph like a bowl of dirt. The only thing that appears in the film is Marty jumping over Red, sleeping on a bench that is advertising California Raisins. Unhappy with their product placement, the California Raisins representatives complained to the producers, and had their $5000 refunded.
  • Wendie Jo Sperber, who played Linda McFly, was in fact three years older than Lea Thompson who played her mother, and six years older than Crispin Glover who played her father.
  • The license plate on a car outside the band audition (which says “FOR MARY”) is a tribute to Mary T. Radford, personal assistant to second unit director Frank Marshall.
  • Another deleted scene shows Marty peeking in on a class in 1955 and seeing his mother cheating on a test.
  • When Doc Brown first sends Einstein “one minute” into the future, the time elapsed between when the DeLorean disappears and reappears is actually 1 minute 21 seconds, just as the reappearance occurred at 1:21am, and the flux capacitor required 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.
  • The DeLorean time machine is a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME”, the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.
  • The space alien gag first appeared in the screenplay’s third draft, with the primary difference being that it was to be done to Biff.
  • When Robert Zemeckis was trying to sell the idea of this film, one of the companies he approached was Disney, who turned it down because they thought that the story of a mother falling in love with her son (albeit by a twist of time travel) was too risqué for a film under their banner. In fact, Disney was the only company to think the first was risqué. All other companies said that the film was not risqué enough, compared to other teen comedies at the time (e.g. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds, etc).
  • A very brief scene was cut in-between the scenes of the McFly family dinner and Marty being woken up by Doc’s phone call. It involved Marty preparing to send his demo tape to a record company. Marty decides not to do it, and leaves the empty manila envelope on his desk. In a scene that remains in the film, he goes to breakfast with the manila envelope sealed, suggesting he decided to send it in.
  • The house used for Doc Brown’s home is the Gamble House at 3 Westmoreland Ave., Pasadena, California. It was the home of the Gamble family until 1966, when it was turned over to the University of Southern California. It is now a historical museum.
  • Canadian pop singer Corey Hart was asked to screen test for the part of Marty.
  • The DeLorean used in the trilogy was a 1981 DMC-12 model, with a 6-cylinder PRV (Peugeot/Renault/Volvo) engine. The base for the nuclear-reactor was made from the hubcap from a Dodge Polaris. In the 2002 Special-Edition DVD of the BTTF Trilogy, it is incorrectly stated that the DeLorean had a standard 4-cylinder engine.
  • C. Thomas Howell was considered to play the role of Marty McFly.
  • Apparently Ronald Reagan was amused by Doc Brown’s disbelief that an actor like him could become president, so much so that he had the projectionist stop and replay the scene. He also seemed to enjoy it so much that he even made a direct reference of the film in his 1986 State of the Union address: “As they said in the film Back to the Future, ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’”
  • In the opening sequence, all of Doc’s clocks read 7:53 (25 minutes slow) except for one clock. It is on the floor next to the case of plutonium and it reads 8:20. There’s also a black and white picture of a man hanging on the town hall clock of Hills Valley, the way it happened right before the lightning strikes it in 1955.
  • Alan Silvestri’s orchestra for the score of the film was the largest ever assembled at that time (85 musicians).
  • When Lorraine follows Marty back to Doc’s house, she and Doc exchange an awkward greeting. This marks the only on-screen dialogue that Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson ever have, though they have appeared together in five movies and one TV movie.
  • Billy Zane makes his first on-screen appearance in this film as “Match”, one of Biff’s cronies.
  • When Claudia Wells temporarily dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, Melora Hardin was briefly cast as Jennifer, but had to be replaced when it was discovered she was taller than Michael J. Fox.
  • When this movie was previewed for a test audience, Industrial Light and Magic had not completed the final DeLorean-in-flight shot, and the last several minutes of the movie were previewed in black and white. It didn’t matter, as the audience roared in approval of the final scene anyway.
  • Universal Pictures head Sid Sheinberg did not like the title “Back to the Future”, insisting that nobody would see a movie with “future” in the title. In a memo to Robert Zemeckis, he said that the title should be changed to “Spaceman From Pluto”, tying in with the Marty-as-alien jokes in the film, and also suggested further changes like replacing the “I’m Darth Vader from planet Vulcan” line with “I am a spaceman from Pluto!” Sheinberg was persuaded to change his mind by a response memo from Steven Spielberg, which thanked him for sending a wonderful “joke memo”, and that everyone got a kick out of it. Sheinberg, too proud to admit he was serious, gave in to letting the film retain its title.
  • John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum were all considered for the role of Doc Brown.
  • The two red labels on the flux capacitor say “Disconnect Capacitor Drive Before Opening” (at the top) and “Shield Eyes From Light”.
  • When Marty pretends to be Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan, he plays a tape labeled “Van Halen” to scare George out of his sleep. It is an untitled Edward Van Halen original written for a movie called The Wild Life which featured Lea Thompson.
  • Voted number 7 in channel 4′s (UK) “Greatest Family Films”.
  • The inspiration for the film largely stems from Bob Gale discovering his father’s high school yearbook and wondering whether he would have been friends with his father as a teenager. Gale also said that if he had the chance to go back in time he would really go back and see if they would have been friends.
  • There are only about 32 special effects shots in the entire film.
  • The production ultimately used three real DeLoreans.
  • It took three hours in make-up to turn the 23-year-old Lea Thompson into the 47-year-old Lorraine.
  • The “Tales From Space” comic book reappeared in at least two episodes of the television series Oliver Beene and in a commercial for McDonald’s Mighty Kids Meals.
  • Though the film Marty won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1955, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale say in the DVD QandA session that they were not aware of this fact when they named their main character Marty. Both films also have a diner owner named Lou.
  • The lion statues in front of the Lyon Estates subdivisions were inspired by two like statues in the University City Loop in St. Louis, where writer Bob Gale grew up.
  • Sid Sheinberg, the head of Universal Pictures, requested many changes to be made throughout the movie. Most of these he got, such as having “Professor Brown” changed to “Doc Brown” and his chimp Shemp changed to a dog named Einstein. Marty’s mother’s name had previously been Meg and then Eileen, but Sheinberg insisted that she be named Lorraine after his wife Lorraine Gary.
  • Marty’s guitars used throughout the movie: – Erlewine Chiquita (“big amp” sequence) – Ibanez black Strat copy (scenes of Marty’s band performing in the 80s) – Gibson 1963 ES-345TD (Marty performing at the dance)
  • Doc’s phone number in 1955 is Klondike 54385. The letters “K” and “L” are both on the digit 5; thus, the number still begins with the 555- prefix, indicating a fictional number.
  • When the McFly family is sitting down for dinner before Marty travels back in time (early in the movie), Michael J. Fox is seen drinking a can of Pepsi. Fox was a major endorser of Pepsi in 1985, and some viewers criticized this scene as being a thinly-disguised commercial.
  • Christopher Lloyd based his performance as Doc Brown on a combination of physicist Albert Einstein and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Brown’s pronunciation of gigawatts as “jigowatts”, is based on the way a physicist whom Zemeckis and Gale met with for research said the word.
  • The main setting, 1955, is the year that Albert Einstein, the dog’s namesake, died.
  • When Marty is being judged at the band auditions at the beginning, the judge who stands up to say he is “just too darn loud” is Huey Lewis, whose songs, “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” are featured on the movie’s soundtrack, and also wrote Marty’s audition song (which is a re-orchestrated version of “The Power of Love.”)
  • Ron Cobb was originally hired to design the DeLorean time machine but left for another project and was replaced by Andrew Probert.
  • Marty McFly mimics famous rock stars during the later part of his performance at the school dance, when he starts playing heavy metal. His kicking of speakers (The Who), playing the guitar while lying down (Angus Young of AC/DC), hopping across the stage with one leg kicked up (Chuck Berry) and his solo (Jimi Hendrix/Edward Van Halen).
  • Doc’s distinctive hunched-over look developed when the filmmakers realized the extreme difference in height between Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox; Fox is 5′ 4½” while Lloyd is 6′ 1″. To compensate for the height difference, director Robert Zemeckis used specific blocking where the two often stood far apart at different camera depths. For close ups, Lloyd would have to hunch over to appear in frame with Fox. The same approach was used in the two sequels.
  • When Marty McFly leaves Doc Brown’s garage because he is late for school, co-writer Bob Gale mentioned in a commentary that the garage was actually a flat put next to a Burger King restaurant in Burbank. As part of their agreement with Burger King, the studio wasn’t given any money from the restaurant for their cameo, but Burger King did allow the crew to film their scenes for free and allowed them to park there.
  • Ranked #10 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Sci-Fi” in June 2008.

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