Where we’re going,
we don’t need roads.”
Dr. Emmett Brown
On July 3, 1985, the movie Back to the Future opened nationwide. Little did any of us know this movie would become one of the most iconic movies of our generation. It’s one of those movies that you can just sit back, eat your popcorn and forget about everything and literally go for the ride of your life.
As a diehard Back to the Future fan, it’s safe to say I have watched this movie half a dozen times each year for the past 35 years. In my opinion, the story, the characters, the concept of time travel is done with pure perfection. However, this perfect picture almost didn’t get made.
Writer, Bob Gale conceived the idea for the movie in the early 1980s after visiting his elderly parents. While rummaging in his parents basement, he found his father’s high school yearbook. He was surprised to learn his dad was class president of his 1940 senior class. He contemplated if he would have befriended his father if they had attended school together. Deciding it would be a great storyline, Gale shared the idea with his good friend from USC cinematography classes, Robert Zemeckis.
The Two Bobs, as they are now known, collaborated on the idea and presented a script to different studios. After getting rejected more than 40 times by numerous Hollywood studios, the movie was finally green-lit by Universal Studios thanks to the help from their mutual friend, Steven Spielberg.
In the original script, the DeLorean time machine was a Philco refrigerator, Einstein the dog was Shemp the chimpanzee and the title Back to the Future was originally Space Man from Pluto.
One of the real stars of the Back to the Future franchise is none other than the DeLorean time machine. I for one will never forget the magic moment where the DeLorean rolls off the back of Doc Brown’s sealed truck and is revealed for the first time.
Zemeckis is the genius behind using a DeLorean as the time machine. The car was just introduced to the world in 1981 and sold for around $25,000. The movie played a major role in the continuing popularity of the DeLorean.
Five weeks into filming, actor Eric Stoltz who was portraying Marty McFly, was fired. Zemeckis determined Stoltz had been miscast and realized his original choice of Michael J. Fox was the only actor that could portray Marty. Luckily for Zemeckis, he was able to replace Stultz with Fox. The best career choice of both director and actor in their entire life.
Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown was brilliantly cast, but was not the first choice by the studio. Initially, John Lithgow as well as Jeff Goldblum were tested and thankfully not selected. In my opinion, no one could portray Doc Brown but Lloyd.
The Bully Biff played by actor, Tom Wilson with many of his signature lines, “what are you looking at butthead? “ were adlibs by Wilson. In a recent interview with Bob Gale, he was asked who if anyone was Biff based on and Bob’s response was, “the character Biff was based on Donald Trump.”
I enjoyed the 1950s music and was a big fan of Huey Lewis and the News music that summer of 1985. So, the fact that the movie had a guest appearance by Lewis and his song, The Power of Love was the opening track song, was an added bonus for me.
When the movie opened in 1985, it became an immediate number one hit in theaters across the country all the way into early 1986.
Immediately after the success of the movie, the two Bobs were reluctant to do a sequel since sequels were rare in the late 1980s. Zemeckis had said that if he had wanted to do a sequel, he would have never ended the first movie with Jennifer, Marty and Doc in the DeLorean driving off into the sunset. But, through encouragement from the studio, Bob Gale alone wrote a 210-page long script, which the studio ended up splitting into two separate movies.
The 1989 Back to The Future II became as successful as the original, but not my favorite. By the time the sequel opens that November, the studio is filming and finishing up the third sequel.
On May 1990, the third and final movie is released. Commercially, Part III was the least successful in the trilogy. Still, this western set sequel is one of my favorite of the franchise. Not only because of the western theme but because of the Doc Brown romantic story line. Mary Steenburgen as Clara Clayton is absolutely enchanting as Doc’s sweetheart. It’s also the first on-screen kiss in Lloyd’s movie career.
Sadly, the third movie sees the end to the DeLorean time travel device and the end to the Back to the Future franchise. Thankfully, owning the DVD Trilogy Box Collection I’m ready and able to travel any time my heart desires, back to the future.