Friday, August 23, 2013
Back to the Future (1985)
Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
The year is 1985. Marty McFly is a typical teenager from a typical normal-yet-twisted sort of family. Marty plays the electric guitar, has a girlfriend, and is good friends with a scientist/inventor. That's a good thing. That is until a scientific experiment sends Marty back to the year 1955 in none other than a DeLorean-turned-time machine. In 1955 -- in the very town he was born -- he meets his parents before they were actually a couple. Awkward! Marty is there for one reason: He must do whatever he can to make his parents become a couple and stay that way. If he fails, it could very well mean his non-existence!
The first of a trilogy, "Back to the Future" made its broad US premiere on July 3, 1985 to 1,420, raking in over $11 million on its opening weekend. That may not seem like such a high number considering previously released "Rambo: First Blood Part II" did much better, but, ultimately, "Back to the Future" would surpass "Rambo: First Blood Part II" by over $60 million to become the number one Box Office hit of 1985, bringing in over $210.6 million globally.
Having previously directed "Romancing the Stone" in 1984, this was the fourth feature film directed by Robert Zemeckis. He and Bob Gale wrote the screenplay which eventually brought about nominations for an Academy Award, a BAFTA award, and a Golden Globe. This was quite the accomplishment considering several studios originally rejected the script (rejected 40 times before it was finally given the "green light). It has been reported that Robert has in his archives a letter of rejection from every studio rejecting "Back to the Future". It was thought to be too soft for the type of teen movie at the time. Disney, however, thought it was too racy.
It's quite possible that the storyline as well as the incredible visual effects drew audiences from all over. "Back to the Future" did win an Oscar and a BAFTA award for its for its Effects and other awards as well..
Having already been a huge star in various TV shows including "Family Ties", this was the third feature film for Michael J. Fox (Marty). "Back to the Future" also starred Christopher Lloyed (Dr. "Doc" Emmett Brown), Lea Thompson (Lorraine), and Crispin Glover (George McFly). The film also co-starred Thomas F. Wilson (Biff), Claudia Wells (Jennifer), Marc McClure (Dave McFly), and Wendy Jo Sperber (Linda McFly). Lastly, look for Casey Siemaszko (3-D) and Billy Zane (Match) as Biff's sidekicks. At age 19, this was Billy Zane's film debut.
Filmed entirely on location in California at such places as Santa Clarita, South Pasadena (for the houses of George McFly, Lorraine, and Biff), and Hollywood including the First United Methodist Church for the scene of the Enchantment Under the Sea School Dance, here's some more behind-the-scenes information that might take you "back in time"...
1. 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.
2. Biff Tannen is named in homage to Ned Tanen, one-time head of Universal, who threw Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis's script for "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" on the floor in a heated meeting, accusing it of being anti-Semitic. Despite the fact that Bob Gale is Jewish.
3. Leonard Nimoy was considered for the job as director before Robert Zemeckis took the job. Nimoy was unable to direct "Back to the Future" because he was starting work on the story for "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home".
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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" (1985). 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 and averaged about five hours of sleep per day. 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.
7. Canadian pop singer Corey Hart was asked to screen test for the part of Marty. C. Thomas Howell was considered. Ralph Macchio turned down the role of Marty McFly, thinking the movie was about "A kid, a car, and plutonium pills."
8. The Screen Actors Guild can't have two people with the same name on their books. So Michael J. Fox inserted the letter J in his name to differentiate himself from an actor called Michael Fox.
9. Lea Thompson was cast as Lorraine McFly because she had acted opposite Eric Stoltz, the original actor cast as Marty, in "The Wild Life".
10. John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum were all considered for the role of Doc Brown.
11. Producer Neil Canton offered the role of Doc Brown to Christopher Lloyd after having worked together on "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension". Lloyd originally turned it down, but changed his mind after his wife convinced him to take the role. He improvised some of his lines.
12. Tim Robbins was considered for the role of Biff Tannen.
13. Executive producer Steven Spielberg initially had some reservations about hiring composer Alan Silvestri, having been unimpressed by Silvestri's score for "Romancing the Stone" (also directed by Robert Zemeckis). During a preview screening in which the film was accompanied by a temp track that only used part of Silvestri's score, Spielberg commented to Robert Zemeckis that a particularly grand cue was 'the sort of music the film needed', unaware that it was indeed one of Silvestri's cues.
14. Alan Silvestri's orchestra for the score of the film was the largest ever assembled at that time (85 musicians).
15. 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.
16. Steven Spielberg gives a bit of a nod (of sorts) to Stanley Kubrick in the first few minutes of the film. When Marty is first over at Doc's house looking for him and doesn't find him, he hooks up his guitar to Doc's electrical equipment. The first dial he turns up is labeled CRM 114, which Kubrick used as a reference throughout many of his films.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. The man driving the jeep that Marty hangs on to at the beginning of the movie is stunt coordinator Walter Scott.
22. In early drafts of the script, Marty's girlfriend's name is Suzy Parker.
23. The school that served as Hill Valley High was Whittier High School in Whittier, California just outside of Los Angeles. Richard Nixon 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.
24. Huey Lewis was asked by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale to write a song for the film. However, the two Bobs were not thrilled with the first song Huey brought back to them. After explaining what they were hoping for, Huey came back with "Power of Love". He was then told they needed one more song. And so, upon viewing a cut of the film, Huey got the inspiration for "Back in Time".
25. 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 (of 80s pop music group Huey Lewis and the News), 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.")
26. It took three hours in make-up to turn the 23-year-old Lea Thompson into the 47-year-old Lorraine.
27. According to Bob Gale, in one of the early drafts of the script, Marty's original last name was McDermott, but it was thought to have too many syllables. It was Robert Zemeckis who then came up with naming him McFly.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. Crispin Glover based his performance as 47 year old George in the early part of the film on Jack Nance's portrayal of Henry Spencer in "Eraserhead". While filming George's writing scene in 1955, Crispin attempted to have the scene shot with his hair standing straight up, like that of Henry Spencer. When Robert Zemeckis rejected the idea, saying it wouldn't match what was shot the previous day, Crispin replied, "Brando never matched".
31. According to an interview he did on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", Crispin Glover lost his voice due to nervousness while filming Back to the Future. For some scenes, he had to silently mouth his lines, with his voice being dubbed in later at a recording studio.
32. In the original script, Doc Brown and Marty sell bootleg videos in order to fund the time machine.
33. The Twin Pines Mall is, in fact, the Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California. Today, JCPenney is no longer an anchor there.
34. The production ultimately used three real DeLoreans.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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. It was stated that the DeLorean had a 4-cylinder engine, but that statement was false.
38. 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.
39. According to Michael J. Fox on the 2010 DVD/Blu-Ray interviews, the interior of the DeLorean was so tight due to the added props, that every time he had to shift gears, he would repeatedly hit his forearm on the handle that turns on the time circuits and he would also rap his knuckles hard against the time display board. If you pay attention during the car chase with the terrorists, you can hear these hits every time Marty uses the shifter.
40. Writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis actually received a fan letter from John DeLorean after the film's release, thanking them for using his car in the movie.
41. The picture of Mayor Red Thomas on the election car in 1955 is set decorator Hal Gausman.
42. Biff's catchphrases "make like a tree and get outta here" and "butthead" were improvised by Thomas F. Wilson.
43. Thomas F. Wilson almost had his collarbone broken in the scene where Marty and Biff are about to fight in the cafeteria, as Eric Stoltz (then cast as Marty) roughed up Tom for real, take after take, despite repeated requests from Tom to tone down the aggression. Tom later said he was about to return the favor during filming of the car park scene outside the dance, but Eric was fired before that confrontation could take place.
44. When Thomas F. Wilson is asked about "Back to the Future" by enthusiastic fans, he will often hand them a postcard of frequently asked questions as a timesaver.
45. A Texaco gas station is shown in both 1955 and 1985. Interestingly, Christopher Lloyd's maternal grandfather was one of the founders of the Texaco oil company.
46. Doc Brown's car in 1955 is a 1950 Packard Super Eight convertible.
47. When Marty tells Doc that Ronald Reagan is President in 1985, Doc scoffs by asking if Jane Wyman is the First Lady. Wyman had actually been married to Ronald Reagan from 1940 to 1948, though Reagan was already married to Nancy Reagan in 1955. Doc Brown also says "I suppose Jack Benny is the Secretary of the Treasury!" This is a reference to Benny's stage/screen persona as a "tightwad" with money.
48. While filming the "parking" scene with Marty and young Lorraine in the car, the production crew decided to play a practical joke at Michael J. Fox's expense. The scene called for Fox to drink from a prop liquor bottle filled with water and do a spit take when he sees Lorraine with a cigarette. For a specific take however, the prop liquor bottle was switched for one which contained real alcohol inside. Fox, unaware of this, performed the scene and drank from the bottle, only to discover the switch after-the-fact. The full gag is featured on the "Outtakes" section of the DVD.
49. 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.
50. 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)
51. Musician Mark Campbell did all of Michael J. Fox's singing. He's credited as "Marty McFly".
52. 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).
53. 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.
54. From the day the film wrapped to the day it was released was a mere 9 and a half weeks, an unprecedentedly short lead time for a major movie release.
55. The test audience to whom the movie was initially screened was not told that the movie was intended to be a comedy. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale recalled that the atmosphere in the cinema started to get really tense during the scene where Einstein the dog is sent through time, because the audience was expecting that something gruesome had happened to the dog. Also, when this movie was previewed for the 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.
56. Crispin Glover has claimed to have only seen the film once, shortly after its release. In contrast, Christopher Lloyd has stated that when he occasionally stumbles across a "Back to the Future" film while channel surfing, he will often sit and watch it.
57. As of 2011, the Hill Valley clock tower set has been through four different fires. The first one happened shortly after the finishing of "Back to the Future Part II" where all the original surrounding buildings burned to the ground by lightning. The second fire in 1994 almost destroyed the structure. In 2008, the fire that destroyed the nearby "King Kong" ride/set, along with two archive vaults and the New York street, slightly scorched the tower. Also in 2008 a massive fire broke out in the back-lot destroying two archive video vaults and the New York set used for "Spider-Man 3", which is right across from the Hill Valley clock tower, which was minorly scorched by the time the fire was out.
58. On 10 November 2010 Bob Gale received a plaque from the principal of Whitter High School, aka Hill Valley High School in dedication of the film. This plaque can be seen by the students of the school near the front end of the building stating that "Back to the Future" had been shot there.
And now you know.
The parts of the script with references to President Ronald Reagan needed to be reviewed by the White House for approval so as not to offend the President. Producers had some concerns over Reagan's reaction to Doc Brown's famous line mocking the improbability of his being President in 1985, but Reagan was said to get a real kick out of it.
Apparently former president 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.'"
Please enjoy these numerous picture stills from the film, including a couple taken behind-the-scenes...
Marty McFly: Hey, Doc, we better back up. We don't have enough road to get up to 88.Dr. Emmett Brown: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.