The very essence of the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise is about not altering past events in fear that it “could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe” – Dr Emmet Brown.
But director Robert Zemeckis made some huge changes to his original scripts that may have done exactly that!
Eric Stoltz was originally cast to play Marty McFly
Zemeckis always wanted Michael J. Fox to star as Marty McFly, but Fox’s jam-packed Family Ties schedule wouldn’t allow it, so they hired Eric Stoltz.
Stoltz had just finished filming Mask where he played a disinformed teen with a biker mum trying to live a normal life. He was praised for his work and considered an up and coming method actor.
Although Stoltz was a talented dramatic actor, it became clear to Zemeckis that he didn’t have the comedic chops to pull off Marty McFly.
Zemeckis needed Fox so he worked out a schedule allowing Fox to shoot Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future at night.
After six weeks of filming, Stoltz got the boot and was replaced with Fox, creating the classic teen icon.
There was almost a nuclear bomb
Zemeckis’ original script had an explosive climax in Nevada.
Stuck in 1955 without any plutonium to power the DeLorean, Doc and Marty were going to use the power from a nuclear explosion to blast their way back into 1985.
However, the scene was deemed too expensive to shoot so Zemeckis had to cut it. Subsequently, he re-wrote the ending, resulting in the finale where lighting strikes the clocktower.
Can you imagine it any other way?
The time machine was going to be a fridge
In early drafts, Marty and Doc would climb into a fridge and be zapped back in time.
Zemeckis feared kids might try recreating the scene and get stuck inside so he scrapped the idea.
He decided he wanted the time machine to be portable, so he chose a motor vehicle. The director settled on the DeLorean because it’s gullwing doors made it resemble an alien spaceship.
Einstein the dog was almost a chimp named Shemp.
The story goes that Universal executive, Sid Sheinberg hated the idea, claiming movies with chimps made no money.
BTTF’s co-writer, Bob Gale defended their choice by referencing the movie, Every Which Way But Loose starring Clint Eastwood opposite an ape called Clyde. Sheinberg quickly pointed out that Clyde was, in fact, an orangutan, not a chimp.
After much confusion, the filmmakers eventually agreed to replace the chimp with Einstein the dog.
What kind of name is Shemp anyway?
Disney rejected it
To be fair this one’s not Robert’s fault but I needed to round my list to 5 so here we are.
Zemeckis pitched the script over 40 times with many rejecting the movie because it wasn’t risqué enough. Disney, on the other hand, said it was too risqué- fair enough considering it’s a story about a mother trying to seduce her son.
Ultimately Universal Studios took a gamble on incest and it paid off, becoming one of the most beloved trilogies of all time.
BUT, who’s to say that any one of these changes didn’t set off a chain reaction, altering our destiny and creating the housebound reality we’re living today? Maybe, just maybe we’re Marty, Trump’s Biff and this is Back to the Future IV?
You’re right, it’s probably definitely not but one thing I can guarantee is that HOYTS Cinemas is hosting a Back to the Future movie marathon from August 1 and tickets are only $10*!
Please excuse me while I dust off my vest, Nikes and hoverboard.