Bet You Didn’t Know These Back To The Future Facts
“Great Scott!” It’s been three decades, and we’re still absolutely and shamelessly obsessed with Back To The Future. Beyond being massively successful at the box office, these films have spawned one of the most dedicated fan bases in the world. Nodding your head in approval? This is for you.
Let’s be real: we all wish we had our own hoverboard, and no car could possibly be cooler than a DeLorean. If you love Back To The Future, then you won’t want to miss our list of wild and wacky facts about these three awesome movies. So get ready! It’s time to go off-road.
Take Your Paws Off Me!
How could we help but adore Doc Brown’s fuzzy four-legged companion, Einstein, the time-travelling sheepdog? Now here’s a tougher question: would you have liked him better if he had been a chimpanzee called Shemp? Yes, this was the question on everyone’s mind during the script-writing process for Back To The Future.
Universal Pictures head Sid Sheinberg put his foot down, insisting that films with chimps would be a flop. Undeterred, writer Bob Gale said that Clint Eastwood had succeeded with simians on 1978’s Every Which Way But Loose, to which Sheinberg noted it was an orangutan, not a chimp. Einstein, we love you just the way you are!
The Hunchback of Hill Valley
Of course, Doctor Emmett Brown is nothing short of a massive personality, but the character was not written to be stooped over with a crooked back. Nor was this a physicalization choice by Christopher Lloyd; rather, the camera angles demanded it.
The two leads had quite the height discrepancy between them: Michael J. Fox was 5’4.5″, while Christopher Lloyd loomed above at 6’1″. This caused awkward camera shots, so it was decided that Lloyd had to hunch over, and voilà! Back To The Future‘s mad doc’s character was complete.
Everything rests on one moment: making sure that George McFly and Lorraine Baines kiss at the school dance! But while Hill Valley High School was filmed at President Richard Nixon’s alma mater Whittier High, the gymnasium dance scene was shot inside…a church! And Whoopi Goldberg’s connected, too.
Almost all of Sister Act was filmed in the same Hollywood United Methodist Church, and so was a scene from Tom Hanks’ movie That Thing You Do! That stage that Marty McFly leaps across as he imitates Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix? That’s where the choir would be.
Let’s face it: not every joke can be translated successfully. Marty’s mom Lorraine, played by Lea Thompson, calls Marty by the name she spies on his purple underwear in 1955: Calvin Klein. The moniker sticks and he uses it with everyone he meets…but not in French.
As incredible as it may seem today, the brand name Calvin Klein was not well-known in 1985 France, so the joke had to be consistently replaced with the name of the French designer Pierre Cardin. That’s not all: Biff Tannen’s insult “Butthead!” became…”Banana!” How forceful.
It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
Beyond its status as a fan favorite, Back To The Future was also an enormous box office success. But it set a new record: longest time ever for a film to earn $200 million at the box office, reaching that mark at 232 days.
This gradual climb to success began with the film impressing all by conquering top ten lists, remaining in first place in ticket sales for twelve weeks straight.
Think you’re a Back To The Future superfan? Continue reading and you’re bound to find tons more surprises!
Sleepless In Hill Valley
Michael J. Fox worked insane hours for the filming of Back To The Future. Family Ties co-star Meredith Baxter was pregnant at the time, meaning the plot of the show had to be shifted to focus more on him. So how did he manage it?
Fox would film at Paramount from 10 AM to 6PM, and then he would head to Universal, where he finished after 2 in the morning. Because Friday’s shows were taped live, requiring more rehearsal, he often wouldn’t get to Back To The Future until 10 PM! Now that’s commitment.
“Johnny B. Goode” would revolutionize the world of music as we know it just three years after the Enchantment Under The Sea dance. Naturally, Back To The Future would have us believe, that hearing the song in 1955 would have brought the house down. But did you know it was almost scrapped?
Chuck Berry wasn’t ready to grant Marty McFly permission to invent rock and roll. The scene had been written without consulting him, and he didn’t authorize his song’s usage until the day the scene was filmed. The director and producer considered cutting it, but preview audiences ate it up, and the rest is history!
Depends on the rider, but a skateboarding isn’t always like a bike; once you learn it, you might need to learn it again! Michael J. Fox lost the skill in the five-year gap between filming the first and second installments of Back To The Future.
The young actor had apparently forgotten his skateboarding skills in his hiatus from the franchise, and had to brush up his chops. Skateboarding was just beginning to become trendy, and the films would come to be greatly influential in spreading its popularity.
Easter Egg Hunt
One of the best parts about Back To The Future is the incredible attention to detail. For lovers of the series, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, because there’s always hidden gems to discover. An absolute fan favorite would have to be the name of the mall.
Remember when Doc is trying to escape the Libyans in the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall? At the end of the film, it’s been reduced to the Lone Pine Mall, because Marty knocked down one of Mr. Peabody’s trees in 1955. Don’t alter the past any further, McFly!
One of the funniest moments in Back To The Future is when Marty’s future dad, George McFly, boldly orders a chocolate milk at Lou’s Café. It slides across the counter, he grabs it, takes a slug, and marches over to ask Lorraine to the dance.
Hopefully, you weren’t under the impression that actor Crispin Glover was always able to catch that glass with so much confidence! You can easily guess what happened in one of the outtakes: it flew right off the counter with a crash. Oops!
Keep reading and find out more wild and wacky facts about Back To The Future!
Hip To Be Square
Back To The Future fans know this: Huey Lewis and the News recorded “The Power of Love” for the film, and the frontman stepped on camera as one of the disapproving judges for the talent competition at the beginning of the movie. But here’s what you probably didn’t know.
Huey Lewis was in hot demand. Columbia Pictures requested that he pen the lead song in another huge film: Ghostbusters! Out of loyalty to Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis, Lewis politely declined, Ray Parker Jr. took over, and what came out are two of the most iconic film themes ever.
Same Old Song And Dance
As one of the main characters in one of film’s most beloved series, you automatically gain an army of fans and admirers the world over. But over time (make that three decades), their questions can get a little repetitive. That’s what happened to the actor behind Biff/Griff Tannen, Tom Wilson.
Being asked what fellow castmembers are like in real life or how the hoverboards really worked repeatedly can get pretty tiring. What’s Tom Wilson’s solution to giving the same answer over and over again? He hands out cards with prepared statements! At least he has a good sense of humor about it — after all, he’s a stand-up comedian!
Having A Blast
Did you know Mask actor Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly? As it turns out, changing lead actors after six weeks of shooting ended up altering the film’s ending entirely. Originally, the film’s climax called for Marty and Doc to wind up at a Nevada nuclear facility. The power needed for time travel was supposed to come from an atomic bomb detonation.
But because of the casting switch to Family Ties star Michael J. Fox, $5 million dollars had already been siphoned from the film’s budget, and so it was decided to keep it ‘simple.’ Thus, lightning strikes the clock tower, and Marty McFly can transport back to 1985.
What’s Eating Marty McFly?
We loved him in Teen Wolf or Homeward Bound, but it can’t be denied: the defining performance of Michael J. Fox’s career is as Marty McFly in the Back To The Future series, and we adore him for it. But you’ll never guess who competed for the role, apart from the original Marty, Eric Stoltz, of course.
Hot off the success of The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio was offered the part, but wasn’t interested. Even more surprising, a fresh face who’d just appeared in A Nightmare On Elm Street auditioned for the part. His name is Johnny Depp. You may have heard of him.
You Can’t Have Just One
Back To The Future was only supposed to be one film. Keeping the series’ cult status in mind, that’s practically inconceivable. But that’s what director Robert Zemeckis would have you believe. According to him, no, there were neither hoverboards nor Western trains in the original vision for the film.
Zemeckis claimed that the ending of the first film, the indescribably famous scene where Doc, Marty, and Jennifer fly off to their next adventure at an unknown destination, was left intentionally open, as a “joke”. We’re just grateful he eventually changed his mind!
For more fun Back to the Future facts, rean on!
From DeLorean to Lothlórien
Before he grew up to be a wide-eyed hobbit, Elijah Wood was a kid of the future. In fact, his brief cameo in the back of Café 80’s in Back To The Future II would turn out to be the very first big screen appearance for this world-famous actor.
Sporting a green colander on his head, Elijah Wood and his friend scoff at Marty McFly for playing a video game in which he has to “use his hands”; after all, this is 2015 we’re talking about! Who knew eight-year-olds could be so judgmental?
No Self-Tying Nikes…Yet
So we don’t have flying cars just yet, as Jimmy Kimmel joked. And we’re still more than a little bit sore about not having any real hoverboards here in the future. But Back To The Future II nonetheless managed to accurately predict quite a few technological advancements.
While they couldn’t exactly grasp what would be the Internet (can you blame them?), the film’s writers did nail the concept of Skype or FaceTime video call conferences. Plasma flat-screen televisions have indeed replaced their far more cumbersome predecessors. We could do without some of the news drones though!
Way back when, before “Dani California”, or even “Californication”, he stopped off in Hill Valley, California. Biff Tannen’s not the only guy ruining lives, and stepping into the role of Douglas J. Needles was an Aussie-American by the name of Michael Balzary. But we know him by his stage name — Flea!
This bass-slapping legend’s band Red Hot Chili Peppers were still climbing the charts back in 1988. Today, he’s easily one of the most renowned bassists the world over, he was yet to become a household name when he appeared in the Back To The Future sequels.
Marty Goes West
Back To The Future III defied the usual stigmas surrounding second sequels, and turned out to be a massive hit. So who can we thank for this rollicking romp around the Old West? Why, Marty McFly himself! Michael J. Fox was the force behind pitching the concept.
Back in 1985, director Robert Zemeckis picked his lead actor’s brain about what time period he’d like to see onscreen. Fox wanted to act in a Western, and so it came to be. Biff Tannen actor Tom Wilson also noted how much he enjoyed being a cowboy. With a DeLorean, anything’s possible!
Doc My Ride
You’d be hard-pressed to find a word more associated with Back To The Future than DeLorean. The entire premise of the film series hinged on the time machine that Doc Brown had created from a DeLorean DMC-12 car. But not everyone wanted it to be that way.
The product placement coordinator on set tried to convince the studio that they ought to switch it out for a hot Ford Mustang, saying that Ford Motors would shell out cash in exchange for the plug. Writer and producer Bob Gale declined, and the rest is pop culture history.
You don’t want to miss the next couple of facts about Back to the Future — read on!
If at first you don’t succeed…it’s the lesson that the writers and producers of Back To The Future can teach us all. In retrospect, it seems ludicrous, but the film’s script was rejected by Hollywood film studios no less than 40 different times, starting in 1981.
They had to field all sorts of different reasons for the script’s rejection, ranging from complaints that it was too risqué, to the claim that time travel films were tacky and wouldn’t sell. They were even told that it was too lighthearted and ought only to be considered by Disney!
Down In The Dumps
Fans of the film would definitely agree, seeing Biff Tannen and his posse of buffoons — and his inter-generational incarnations — getting cut down to size by Marty McFly time and time again, and ending up covered in manure almost every time, is just so satisfying.
Haven’t you always wondered what they used for the iconic manure scene? Fret no longer, we have the answer: it’s mostly just a bunch of clods of dried-up sphagnum, otherwise known as peat moss. Don’t you wish you could have done that to the bully in your school? Yuck.
Slip The Disc
History lesson time! That Frisbee that Marty McFly picks up and chucks at Buford Tannen in Back To The Future III is no anachronism, but a carefully-placed reference to the beloved toy’s origins. In 1885 California, it is technically feasible that such a thing could have existed.
Founded in Connecticut, Frisbie Pie Company had been supplying pies to satisfy the sweet tooth of New Englanders since 1871. Local schoolchildren and then Yale students discovered the aerodynamics of the pie plates. Thanks for doing your research properly, screenwriter Bob Gale!
Getting The Royal Treatment
The fanfare surrounding the release of Back To The Future was stupendous, and the public was so hyped up that the London premiere was graced by some very special guests: Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Michael J. Fox had the honor of being seated next to her.
But that’s not all. The film’s writers paid homage to their royal fan several years later. In the original version of Back To The Future II, you can see a reference to “Queen Diana’s visit” on the October 22, 2015 copy of USA Today.
My Heart Will Go On…To 1955
The band of racist goons serving as acolytes to Biff Tannen move quite fast, but hopefully you didn’t miss this famous face. Titanic devotees, it’s your favorite handsome millionaire sleazebag, so eat your heart out: one of the three in Biff’s crew, Match, is played by Billy Zane.
Just like a handful of other celebrities on this list, Back To The Future was Billy Zane’s first film role. He was only a teenager at the time.
Who else was behind the scenes of the Back To The Future series? Stay tuned and you’ll see!
“Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Jelly Beans”
As it happens, British royalty weren’t the only major Back To The Future enthusiasts. Back across The Pond, the film attracted yet another high-profile fan: US President Ronald Reagan. As he was already in his second term, the film gave Reagan a shout-out with a couple inside jokes.
Reagan was already fond of the young Republican character Michael J. Fox played on Family Ties. Most famously, despite the film’s wisecracks about his first wife and the fact that an actor would become president, Reagan quoted Doc Brown’s show-closing line in his 1986 State of the Union address.
Okay, this next fact will definitely give us all the feels. According to Bob Gale, the writer and producer of Back To The Future, the idea that would launch a film saga was hatched right at home, from someone near and dear: his old man.
Bob Gale found his father’s high school yearbook from University City High in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. As he thumbed through the old photographs, he stopped to ponder: if he and his father had gone to high school together, would they have been friends? And thus, Marty McFly was born.
He would later go on to direct such massive hits as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and of course, Back To The Future. Robert Zemeckis has made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most respected directors. And he has The Beatles to thank for it.
For his application to film school at USC, he submitted a short film based on a Beatles song. Almost a decade later, he made the Beatlemania film I Wanna Hold Your Hand, uniting him with Bob Gale and Steven Spielberg, the trio that would create Back To The Future.
A Timely Fashion
The malleability of time is a central motif in Back To The Future, but when it came to taking liberties with real time, the filmmakers refused to be inaccurate. Pay extra close attention to the time frame of the storm at the clock tower and you’ll see just how accurate they really were.
Marty McFly arrives at 9:56 PM, and after a few tense moments of Doc struggling to hook up the equipment, the lightning strikes the clock at 10:04 PM. If you time it as you watch, that took nine and a half minutes. Not too shabby!
Lightning Never Strikes Twice
The same theme song opens and closes the series. But as it turns out, sometimes Mother Nature herself provides the most impressive bookends. That’s what happened to the set where 1885 Hill Valley was filmed for Back To The Future III.
Located on the outskirts of the small Sierra Nevada mountain town of Jamestown, California, the area was destroyed by wildfire a few years after filming. The cause of the blaze? It’s said to have been started by…lightning. Curious!
Keep reading for more surprising trivia about Back to the Future!
Damsel In Distress
Doc Brown deserves love too, and we couldn’t be happier than he found it, even it took him until Back To The Future III. But did you know that Clara Clayton was based, at least partially, on a real-life historical figure? She’s Mark Twain’s daughter, Clara Clemens.
Clara’s dress getting caught on the train, as well as her horses getting spooked, are direct references. She almost plunged down a ravine when her dress got caught in an carriage that had overturned. Her future husband, Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch, grabbed the carriage’s horse seconds before disaster.
Getting Ticked Off
The first film opens as the camera pans through what we will come to discover as Doctor Emmett Brown’s workshop, populated by a sea of clocks. They’re all in perfect synchronicity, but appearances can be deceiving — it was difficult to achieve this.
Some clocks were quite finicky, and would routinely stop or otherwise malfunction, ruining the take. This meant that an entire team of 20 crew members had to be poised off camera grasping a series of ropes and switches to trigger them. Talk about precision!
Back to the Future’s Comic Relief
Biff Tannen is the quintessential towering bully that we all love to despise. But in reality, he’s quite a funny guy. Several years before Back To The Future, aspiring actor Tom Wilson first left his native Philly to seek his fortune in LA, his living situation was anything but serious.
Wilson is a comic by trade, and his roommates were none other than Brooklyn bad boy, comedian Andrew Dice Clay and the master of Soviet stand-up, Yakov Smirnoff. One can only imagine the banter that must have filled a household populated by comedians on the cusp of greatness.
Back In The Future is laced with references to rock and roll, and it managed to merit a fast-fingered rock god’s participation, albeit for a split second. When Marty McFly wakes up his dad with shrieking heavy metal, the name Edward Van Halen is written on the cassette tape.
Turns out, it actually is the Van Halen guitarist Eddie himself on that Walkman tape, serving up an “Eruption”-style volley of ferocious guitar licks as Michael J. Fox claims to be Darth Vader. Never mind the surprise of future technology — that sound would shock just about anyone out of sleep!
With his bug eyes, mad scientist hair, and rubber face, Christopher Lloyd’s larger than life performance as Emmett Brown in the Back To The Future films is nothing short of iconic. And we have the Pilgrims to thank for his existence. Wait, what?
Mayflower passenger John Howland fell overboard during a storm in the Atlantic, but was rescued, and has over 2 million descendants today. Among Lloyd’s many famous cousins are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Humphrey Bogart, Alec Baldwin, and FDR. That would certainly make for one heck of a family reunion!
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