Back to the Future was released in 1985. In this sci-fi classic, a small-town California teen, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), is taken back into the ’50s when an experiment by his eccentric scientist friend, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), goes awry. Traveling through time in a modified DeLorean car, Marty encounters young versions of his parents (Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson), and must make sure that they fall in love or he’ll cease to exist. All the while, Marty knows he has to return to his own time and save the life of Doc Brown. The film was almost titled Spaceman from Pluto. I’m thinking it is a good thing they went with Back to the Future.
1. The script was rejected over 40 times by every major studio at the time.
I bet they all kicked themselves when it became such a big hit.
2. The school in the film is Whittier High in California which is Richard M. Nixon’s alma mater. James Tolkan’s Mr. Strickland (Prince in the City, Underworld,”Leverage”), who appears in all three films, was described by Gale as “a joy to work with.”
3. Early in the script, the time machine was a laser device in a room. The climax had it attached to a refrigerator on a truck which was driven to a nuclear test site with Marty inside. They changed it to lightning because they were afraid kids would lock themselves in refrigerators. That was probably an excellent call.
4. And Doc Brown had a pet Chimp.
5. The garage was on a flat just next to Burger King on Victory Boulevard; they had a deal to shoot the scene there at no cost. That is a pretty sweet deal.
6. When Lorraine follows Marty back to Doc’s house, she and Doc exchange an awkward greeting. This marks the only on-screen dialogue that Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson ever have even though they have appeared together in five movies and one TV movie.
7. 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.
8. In the early 1990’s Back To The Future Cartoon, Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) was the voice of Doc Brown.
9. In the window of the Cafe 80’s Marty sees several Nintendo games.
10. And a Roger Rabbit doll.
11. 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.
12. In the first scene at the diner, Marty asks for a Pepsi Free. This refers to a brand of Pepsi that was the company’s first caffeine free cola. Ironically, in the same scene, Marty asks for a Tab, which was actually a diet cola brand produced by Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola.
13. 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.
14. When Robert Zemeckis was trying to sell the idea of this film, one of the companies he approached was Disney, who turned it down because they thought that the story of a mother falling in love with her son (albeit by a twist of time travel) was too risqué for a film under their banner. In fact, Disney was the only company to think the first was risqué. All other companies said that the film was not risqué enough, compared to other teen comedies at the time (e.g. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Revenge of the Nerds (1984), etc).
15. During Doc’s demo of the time machine, just before he is about to leave for the future, he tells Marty, “I’ll get to see who wins the next twenty-five World Series.” At the time the scene was written and shot, no one was thinking there would be a sequel, let alone a sequel where the hook Back to the Future Part II (1989) would be Marty wanting to get a hold of a “sports almanac” so he could bet on games.
16. 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.
17. Biff’s catchphrases “make like a tree and get outta here” and “butthead” were improvised by Thomas F Wilson.
18. Doc Brown refers to “jigawatts” of electricity. This is the now-obscure but once-standard pronunciation of the word “gigawatt”, one billion watts. Nowadays it is usually pronounced with a hard “g” as in “gander” and “gold”. In neo-Latin languages, still, it’s pronounced with a soft “g”. So he chose it.
19. Back To The Future was the top grossing release of 1985.
20. According to an interview he did on The Tonight Show in 1987, 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.
21. 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.
22. Marty’s guitars were used throughout the movie: – Erlewine Chiquita (“big amp” sequence) – Ibanez black Strat copy (scenes of Marty’s band performing in the 80’s) – Gibson 1963 ES-345TD (Marty performing at the dance).
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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. Per Welinder also choreographed and coordinated the skateboarding action together with Robert Schmelzer.
26. The Twin Pines Mall is, in fact, the Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California. Today, JCPenney is no longer an anchor there.
27. 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”.
There are only about 32 special effects shots in the entire film. It was Ranked #10 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Sci-Fi” in June 2008. The production ultimately used three real DeLoreans. 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. They even sold kits so people could make their DeLorean’s look like time machines.