There are a lot of important fictional dates in history. April 5, 2063 is when Zefram Cochrane will make first contact with the Vulcans from Star Trek. In 1997, the supercomputer HAL 9000 first comes online from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Autobots and Decepticons battle it out in space in Transformers: The Movie, which took place in 2005. Could the most iconic moment in fictitious history be November 5, 1955, when Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown hit his head and came up with the design for the Flux Capacitor, the device which allows for time travel to be possible? Great Scott, that’s heavy! It’s also one of the most celebrated science fiction films of all time — Back to the Future!
The film was fun and engaging but behind the scenes the movie had tons of problems. It had budget issues to start, and one month into shooting had to recast its lead! Despite all of the difficulties, the first film was a success, spawning two sequels as well as an animated series, comic books and video games that gave us never before seen knowledge about our favorite characters. Do you know which Back to the Future character time traveled to the Jurassic Period? How did the invention of self-lacing shoes bring about a nuclear holocaust in the year 2045? How did Doc Brown and Marty first meet? What relationship does Superman have with the DeLorean? See how much you know when CBR reveals 20 secrets only hardcore fans know about Back to the Future!
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NEVER GOING BACK
As the saying goes, what’s old is new again! Although the first Jurassic Park came out in 1993, its latest sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom came out June 2018. Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered in 1981 but a new Indiana Jones sequel will start shooting early 2019. So when should we expect more Back to the Future sequels?
Back to the Future Part III came out in 1990, and although it’s technically possible that you could see Part IV as a film or as an interactive game, the one thing you’ll never see is a reboot. The rights are owned by co-writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and they vowed that while they’re alive, Back to the Future will never be remade!
If you had a time machine, would you use your knowledge of past events to your personal advantage? Would you place bets on sports events, knowing for certain who the winner would be? That’s what Biff did (and what Marty tried to do) in Back to the Future Part II, trying to place bets with a sports almanac from the future. Believe it or not, Doc Brown did a similar thing!
In the comic book Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines #4, we’re given the story of Doc Brown’s first trip into the future. How did he get the money for the DeLorean’s hover conversion as well as the Mr. Fusion modification? He travelled back to April 18, 1938 and bought several copies of Action Comics #1. He later sold them in the future for $2.5 million!
HOW DID THEY FIRST MEET?
Just how did Doc Brown and Marty meet each other? They’re clearly friends that trust each other and go on amazing adventures, but where did this relationship begin? According to the comics, Marty needed to get a piece of equipment for his guitar amplifier, but found out from the music store that all of the interocitor tubes were bought by Doc Brown.
Marty snuck into the Doc’s garage/laboratory and found a variety of elaborate traps that Marty was able to evade. Doc Brown was impressed by his ingenuity and offered him a job as his assistant. That job grew into a friendship that gave us some of the greatest time travel adventures of all time!
When Star Wars was being made, it operated under the name Blue Harvest. When The Dark Knight was under production, it was referred to as Rory’s First Kiss (Rory being the name of Christopher Nolan’s son). When Back to the Future Parts II and III were being filmed, the movie was referred to as Paradox.
In fact, the original sequel to Back to the Future was one film that was an amalgamation of the future and wild west storylines, but it was deemed too expensive to make. The film was split into two sequels but behind the scenes photos show the name Paradox on the filming slates.
If you thought Hill Valley was too good to be true, you’d be right. Downtown Hill Valley is actually a set located in Universal Studios. The Courthouse Square was also referred to as Mockingbird Square because it was featured in the 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird. It also made some appearances in other iconic movies from the 1980s and 1990s.
The movie theatre the DeLorean crashes into after returning to 1985 is the same theatre taken over by monsters in Gremlins. The square was also featured in the 1996 film The Nutty Professor, the 1996 sequel Escape from L.A. as well as the Steven Spielberg film Amistad. A large fire in 2008 destroyed a fair amount of the Courthouse Square.
EINSTEIN THE MONKEY
Although Doc Brown and Marty McFly had many adventures through time, the first one to actually successfully time travel was Doc’s pet dog, Einstein. When the film was screened to test audiences, many people surprisingly thought that the trip was going to go awry and expected something horrific to happen when the door was opened.
In previous drafts of the script, the nutty professor didn’t have a pet pooch, but a chimpanzee named Shemp. However, producers were concerned about the financial track record of chimps, saying that the movie would make more money with a different pet. That’s producer logic for you!
The DeLorean time machine was powered with electricity, but needed a nuclear reaction to generate 1.21 gigawatts. Just how much power is that? To put it into perspective, that much power is generated by 484 wind turbines or 10% of the energy required to launch the Space Shuttle. No wonder Doc Brown needed plutonium!
A previous version of the script had Doc and Marty getting their 1.21 gigawatts not from a bolt of lightning, but from a nuclear explosion at a bomb testing site in Nevada. Why was it rewritten? The film went $5 million over budget due to the reshoots as a result of casting Eric Stoltz. Budget restraints wound up forcing Zemeckis to tell a tighter story!
WHAT WAS UP WITH 1885?
When showing Marty how the time machine worked, Doc Brown talked about significant dates in history, and points out November 5, 1955, the day he invented time travel. Okay, so if that date is significant, what was up with the time circuits glitching and choosing the random year of 1885?
In the comic book Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines, we get further information about Biff stealing the time traveling DeLorean from the first sequel. In the comic, we see Biff struggling to operate the controls and because he’s a butthead, smashes them with his cane out of frustration. Hitting the controls with his cane is what caused the circuits to malfunction and select 1885!
FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
Doc Brown is back! Christopher Lloyd reprised his role as the Doc in Doc Brown Saves the World, a short film that was included with the 30th anniversary Blu-Ray and DVD box set of the Back to the Future trilogy. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that Doc travels through time to undo the creation of some of the awesome inventions presented in Back to the Future II.
According to the Doc, there’s a nuclear holocaust that occurred on October 21, 2045. The event occured due to computer hacking by Griff and the prolific usage of Mr. Fusion. Due to a failed attempt to get every object in the world to display the word butthead, all of the Mr. Fusions short-circuit, causing mini-nuclear explosions in homes across the world. Doc prevents the inventions from occurring, and the timestream winds up with two Doc Browns! To be continued…?
LORD OF THE FUTURE RINGS
Back to the Future II made some crazy predictions about the future (which, at the time, was 2015). Hoverboards, the Cubs winning the World Series and flying cars were all proposed, but could even Doc Brown predict that one of the extras in the film would grow up and become a big movie star?
Marty McFly, in the film’s first sequel, played Wild Gunman at Cafe 80s, but the two kids are dismayed at the fact that you need to use your hands to play. The kid in the red shirt and weird He-Man harness was actually Elijah Wood, making his big screen debut with the movie!
SPECIAL F/X (OR LACK THEREOF)
Although science fiction films tend to be visually stunning with a big effects budget, that is sometimes not the case. Small films like the 2004 Primer was made by Shane Carruth in 2004 for $7,000. Even David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, made in 1999, approached virtual reality from a very low tech point of view.
Back to the Future was a time traveling adventure, but still at its heart dealt with characters you cared about that had to deal with the repercussions of their actions. As odd as it may sound, when you count up all the effects shots in the first film, there were only 32! You think there would be more for a sci-fi film!
When you have a time machine, your ability to tell stories is endless. Reportedly it was Michael J. Fox’s idea that the third film be placed during the wild west. Fox was also excited about the idea of going to Roswell during the 1940s and getting the Doc involved with aliens.
When Christopher Lloyd was asked where he’d like to see the series go, he suggested that the characters travel back to Ancient Rome. There were rumors of the Brown family spinning off on their own adventures, which was illustrated in the comic book series Tales from the Time Train. Another pitch was time travel to the 1960s in which George McFly was a college professor and Lorraine was a flower child.
As perfect as Michael J. Fox’s casting as Marty McFly may have seemed, Eric Stoltz was originally cast as the film’s main character. After weeks of filming, director Robert Zemeckis felt that the comedy wasn’t landing the way he wanted it to. Stoltz was also a method actor, having everyone on set refer to him not as Eric but as Marty. That’s heavy.
Although Christopher Lloyd stayed for all three films as the good Doc, other actors were considered for the role of Emmett Brown. His fellow co-stars from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Jeff Goldblum and John Lithgow were also considered, as well as James Woods, John Cleese and Gene Hackman!
RICK AND MORTY
One is a young boy, the other is an older man who runs a science lab out of his garage. The two travel through time and go on adventures that have galactic repercussions. We could be talking about Doc Emmett Brown and Marty McFly, but we’re actually referencing Morty Smith and Rick Sanchez from the popular cartoon Rick and Morty!
Although we never saw Doc Brown with a drinking problem, the comparisons between the two sets of characters are pretty striking, even more so when you look at what predated Rick and Morty: the series started out with a short animated film entitled The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti. Watch it for yourself to see the similarities, but be warned that it’s NSFW!
TIME MACHINE… OUT OF A FRIDGE!
The 1989 film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure had Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan traveling through time in a phone booth (feel free to Google it if you don’t know what that is). It’s probably easy to guess what John Cusack and Craig Robinson used to time hop in the 2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine. Did you know that in early drafts Doc and Marty were not in a DeLorean?
In early drafts of Back to the Future, Doc and Marty time travel using a laser that’s attached to a refrigerator. This kind of makes sense considering how resourceful Doc Brown is. However, Steven Spielberg had fears that young kids trying to copy the movie might get locked into refrigerators. Hey, that didn’t stop Indiana Jones from doing it in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!
40TH TIME’S THE CHARM
Believe it or not, Back to the Future had to be pitched over 40 times before getting the green light from the studios. Why so many attempts? For some studios, the film didn’t go far enough (compared to other 1980s films like Risky Business and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), whereas Disney felt the film went too far (Marty being romanced by his future mother was off-putting to them).
Studio heads also didn’t like the name, with some complaining that the word future was going to make the film box office poison and a more exciting title of Spaceman From Pluto was suggested. After Robert Zemeckis directed the film Romancing the Stone and it became a hit at the box office, he was able to use his clout to get Future green lit.
BIFF VERSUS DINOSAURS
In Back to the Future Part II, Biff from 2015 takes the DeLorean back in time to 1955 to give his younger self a sports almanac that would allow him to place bets on sports matches where he knew the outcome. However, in the comic book Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines #3, we find out that his trip had a small detour.
In the comic, we see that Biff doesn’t know how to use the DeLorean’s controls, and instead of going back to 1955, he winds up in the Jurassic period! After a brief chase with a velociraptor, Biff makes a second time jump to the year 1955 and the rest is history… or is it the future?
BIFF GETS BEAT UP (FOR REAL)
Although Biff Tannen is an awful human being throughout the entire Back to the Future trilogy, in real life Thomas F. Wilson, the actor that portrayed him, is a nice guy. “Biff’s Question Song” is a part of his stand-up routine in which he pokes fun at all of the questions fans ask him regarding the filming (no, that wasn’t real manure in his mouth).
Before Michael J. Fox traveled back in time as Marty McFly, Doc Brown’s time traveling partner was actually played by Eric Stoltz. They filmed with Stoltz for over a month before realizing he wasn’t right for the role. In the cafeteria scene between Marty and Biff, Stoltz was a little too physical, bruising Wilson after multiple takes, even after Wilson asked Stoltz to take it down a notch. Wilson planned on “revenge” but Stoltz was let go before that could happen. Apparently Stoltz made like a tree and got out of there.
Marty McFly’s middle name was Seamus, but where did that come from? He’s named after his great, great-grandfather, a man that Marty gets to meet in Back to the Future Part III. Doc Brown’s middle name is Lathrop, and a disproved rumor theorized that when you read Emmett Lathrop backwards, it kind of looks like the words “time” and “portal.” Great Scott!
Do you know what Michael J. Fox’s middle name is? It’s Andrew! Unfortunately there already was a Michael Fox and Michael A. Fox registered with the Screen Actors’ Guild, so he chose the letter “J” in honor of actor Michael J. Pollard, who appeared in such films as Scrooged, Tango & Cash, Dick Tracey and House of 1000 Corpses.
DOC HAD A HUNCH
Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Doctor Emmett Brown was iconic; it’s hard to portray a mad scientist that’s mad in a fun way (as opposed to taking over the world with a death ray). Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s dialogue made Doc Brown smart, yet accessible. Christopher Lloyd’s physical portrayal of Doc Brown was based on music conductor Leopold Stokowski, but it also had to do a lot with his co-star Michael J. Fox.
Christopher Lloyd is 6’1″, whereas Michael J. Fox is significantly shorter (some sites list him as 5’4″ and others at 5’5″) and instead of trying to make Fox taller, Lloyd opted to hunch over, adding to the quirky physicality of the scientist. It also helped not trying to make Fox taller; Marty McFly was supposed to be 17, though at the time of filming, he was 24!
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