Back To The Future: Behind-the-Scenes Facts and Details

Everybody loves Back To the Future, but not everybody knows its behind-the-scene secrets. Did you know that the Back to the Future trilogy exists because of Superman? And that Elijah Wood’s first feature movie appearance was in Back To The Future 2? Which famous Hollywood actor almost played Doc Brown? All the answers are in our article.

#1 It was inspired by a high-school yearbook 

The creators of the Back to the Future franchise Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale always wanted to make a time travel movie. But they couldn’t find the right idea to go with it. As it always happens, inspiration came when the filmmakers least expected it. 

Robert Zemeckis ”The Walk” at Opening Ce / CC BY 2.0 / Dick Thomas Johnson / flickr

Robert Zemeckis ”The Walk” at Opening Ce / CC BY 2.0 / Dick Thomas Johnson / flickr

Bob Gale saw his father’s high-school yearbook and it hit him: what if he was in high school with his dad? He couldn’t stop thinking about the concept.

“How can there not be a ton of humor in the idea of going to high school with your parents?!” laughed Gale in his interview with Amblin Road.

Despite the fact that both creators LOVED the concept, dozens of studios didn’t. At all. Can you believe that one of the best movie franchises of all time was rejected over 40 times?! Yes. Most of the studios called the script “too family-friendly”. They even suggested that the writers show it to Disney. 

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But Disney referred to the Back to the Future concept as “incest”! They didn’t appreciate the idea of Marty fighting off his younger mother... No one but Steven Spielberg loved the script. He believed in it and did his absolute best to make it happen. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg!

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Getty Images

#2 Nuclear blast instead of lightning

As it often happens, the final story we see in the film is usually somewhat different from the script. We aren't going to talk too much about all the changes, but it's worth mentioning a really explosive one. Fans might remember that the DeLorean time machine uses nuclear power as fuel.

And in the first movie, this becomes a real problem for Doc and Marty, cause they couldn't find that in 1985. Doc proposed using the power of lightning instead. But! Originally Marty was in a radiation suit, driving the machine through a nuclear blast conducted by the US army!

The storyboards you see were the original plans for the film crew to shoot. They were sold at auction for 4 720 pounds. The production crew determined that this idea was too expensive, though, so it was simplified. See? Even Steven Spielberg’s productions sometimes need to make cuts...

#3 Who played Marty Before Michael J. Fox? 

Yes-yes-yes. Before Michael J. Fox came in there was another actor who was approved to play Marty McFly. This actor even filmed several scenes over two weeks! Can you imagine his despair when Robert Zemeckis decided to replace him with another actor? The name of the poor replaced fellow is Eric Stoltz.

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And according to Zemeckis, he wasn’t natural enough playing Marty. And most importantly, he had several issues with the comedy scenes. So as hard as it was, Zemeckis changed the leading actor. Which was also pretty challenging. Because at that time Michael J. Fox was busy working on the TV series Family Ties, and the series producer didn’t want him to be involved in any other projects.

As a result, Fox had a crazy schedule for 2 months straight: From 10 am to 6 pm he worked on Family Ties and then worked on Back to the Future till 2.30 am! Before we talk about the famous actor who almost played Doc Brown, let’s mention another surprising fact regarding the comedy element in Back to the Future...

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#4 That is not a comedy! 

... said the test audience as they finished watching the movie. Which kind of confused Zemeckis and Gale. Cause, you know, the movie is full of jokes! But the audience didn’t get a lot of them. The movie creators intentionally didn’t tell the audience the movie genre, so it was a big surprise when they found out it was a comedy.

Like for example, the scene where Doc’s dog Einstein is put inside the DeLorean in order to test the time-traveling process frightened the audience! They were really worried about the dog. Think about it, if you didn’t know the genre of the movie, you wouldn't know that everything would work out okay for poor Einstein.

But anyways, the audience truly enjoyed Back to the Future. And the experiment of not knowing its genre only sharpened the audience's emotions. We wish we had been in that test group - it must have been tense...

#5 Jeff Goldblum as Doc

Of course, there was a huge casting for Doc Brown’s role. John Lithgow and Dudley Moore both wanted the part. Buuut! Neither got as close to being Doc as Goldblum did.

“The only other guy we really seriously considered for Doc Brown was Jeff Goldblum,” said Bob Gale in his interview with Premium Hollywood.

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Gale remembered how hard it was to make the decision to pick the perfect Doc. Cause admit it, Goldblum has that scientific and crazed look in his eyes too! And his roles in Jurassic Park and Cronenberg’s The Fly are perfect examples of that! 

We’re not saying that we’re not happy with Christopher Lloyd... Of course, we are! Though sometimes it’s really fun to imagine other big actors playing famous roles in classic cinema. We guess we need a deep fake here, guys...

Christopher Lloyd / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Gage Skidmore / flickr

Christopher Lloyd / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Gage Skidmore / flickr

#6 Elijah Wood's cameo 

Did you see the actor in the trilogy? In the second movie, there’s a scene where Marty sees two kids trying to play the Wild Gunman arcade game in a cafe. He approaches them and shows them a western shooting style. But the kids from the future are not impressed at all. They are annoyed by the fact that they have to use a hand to play the game. 

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And that the arcade gun looks like a baby toy. Totally disappointed, the two kids leave the cafe and if you were not attentive enough, then you would have missed Elijah Wood in that scene! Despite the fact that he appeared for less than 15 seconds, that was his first feature movie ever! Pretty great career start, isn’t it?

And by the way, what about Billy Zane’s cameo? Did you notice him in the franchise? Cause he starred in the first two movies! The star of Titanic played one of Biff’s followers who bullied Marty’s father. He didn’t talk much in the films (or even at all), but he giggled stupidly a lot. Not a very impressive role but still a nice one to have in your filmography, huh?

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#7 The truth behind Doc's hunch

Admit it, it became a part of his character. Just like his hairstyle and slim figure, Doc’s hunch made his appearance memorable. But do you know the real reason why Doc Brown is hunched over in most of his scenes? Aaaand the correct answer is that... Christopher Lloyd was way taller than Michael J. Fox.

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6’1” compared to 5’4½” makes a huge difference on camera. And it was a serious issue for all the filming crew to try to make these two characters look balanced. And that’s how Doc’s famous hunch was invented! Now! If you’d like to rewatch the movies try to pay extra attention to the scenes with Doc.

In those where he’s in the same frame with Marty, he’s hunched. But in those where he’s all alone, he isn’t. And that’s what we call “the magic of cinema”... Here is another crazy fact about Doc?

#8 The hidden meaning behind Doc's shirt 

You probably remember his bright and colorful Hawaiian shirt. What you might not remember is the print on it. If you take a closer look, then you’ll notice multiple images of a train and two men on horses chasing this train. All the elements of the shirt head to the left as you look at it.

“So what?” you may ask. Nothing. Nothing at all. Just some hints about the key elements of Back to the Future part 3 that were hidden on Doc’s shirt in part 2! Cause this is exactly what happened in the movie finale: Doc and Marty chased a train on horses! And the third film is basically a western! 

The images on the shirt point left, or west on a basic map. That couldn't be just a coincidence! Plus, in the third movie, Doc wears a bandana that is made from exactly the same material that his shirt was made from! 

Don’t know about you guys, but we here consider this to be one of the best ever Easter eggs in movie history! Cause it was hidden in the previous part of the franchise. And the whole franchise is about time traveling! Simply genius.

#9 The Superman connection

In Back to the Future 2, Doc tells Marty that he has updated the time machine. And that now it works on garbage fuel instead of nuclear. Doc also says that he bought a couple of useful gadgets from the future, and he had also de-aged himself by a few decades. Now! Have you ever wondered where Doc got all his money from?

Cause obviously all of that stuff must have cost him a fortune! And we know that he already spent all his family money on the time machine. Any ideas on how this ties in with Superman? Easy-peasy! Buying ten copies of Action Comics #1 in 1938 and selling them in the future.

Don’t worry if you don’t remember that happening in the movie trilogy, it was only described in IDW's Back to the Future comic book series. The series was written by Bob Gale and it detailed what Doc was up to between the first two movies. As he went to the future for the first time he realized that there were not a lot of things he could sell there from the past.

So the best deal he could come up with was selling the original copies of the first Superman comic book. Doc bought 3 copies for only 10 cents in 1938 and sold them for $2.5 million each in 2015! From then on, money was never an issue for Doc Brown.

#10 Will we ever see Back To the Future 4?

Robert Zemeckis was asked that question many, many times.

“If I had an idea that I could have pitched to Bob [Gale] with a straight face, we would have made it. I have no answer to that!” Zemeckis said to Josh Gad on his Reunited Apart channel.

And he unfortunately just hasn't managed to come up with a good enough idea. Despite that, fans are still full of faith and enthusiasm. Tom Holland, for example, is dreaming about remaking that particular scene: the one that was deep faked with him as Marty, and Robert Downey Jr. 

The fans even made a fake trailer of Back to the Future 4, where you can see aged Doc and Marty. And even Christopher Lloyd believes a fourth part needs to be made:

“I think somehow it needs to kind of convey a message about something that’s important to everyone, universally, like climate change.” said Lloyd.

Which is a perfect answer for an actor who portrayed a genius scientist.

Christopher Lloyd /CC BY-SA 2.0/ Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer / flickr

Christopher Lloyd /CC BY-SA 2.0/ Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer / flickr

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