9 Surprising Back to the Future facts

Anna Walker

As the classic time travel romp Back to the Future turns 35, we recount some trivia about the film that could surprise you. Great Scott!

1. Disney rejected the script

the film clip of Marty being kissed by Lorraine

It took many failed attempts before this classic film was actually made—44 in fact! Disney was shown the script but rejected it on the basis of the kiss between Marty and his past mother, saying it was "too incesty". Marty would probably agree with them there!

The one-time head of Universal, Ned Tanen, rejected another script of the film's writer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 1978), throwing it on the floor and claiming it to be anti-semitic, despite Gale being Jewish. In response, they named Back to the Future's central villain Biff Tanen after him

 

2. The DeLorean was almost a Mustang

A red mustang car

The iconic time machine DeLorean was an interesting choice, as the car had quite a troubled history. The vehicle became renowned for its poor driving performance and lack of power, despite being marketed as a "sports car". Just 9,000 DeLoreans were made before 1982 when the company filed for bankruptcy. In fact, the designer John DeLorean was also busted that year in a $24 million cocaine deal.

Once filming began, Ford became interested in the concept and offered $75,000 for a product placement deal if the DeLorean was replaced by a Mustang. Screenwriter Bob Gale wasn't having it, however, and replied simply saying "Doc Brown doesn’t drive a Mustang!"

 

3. Michael J Fox was exhausted during filming

Marty McFLy sleeping

Writing in his 2003 memoir, Lucky Man, Fox described his hectic schedule during filming, when he was also working on the TV show, Family Ties: 

“A teamster driver would pick me up at 9:30 am and take me to Paramount, where I would spend the day rehearsing that week’s show, culminating in a run-through at approximately 5:00 pm each afternoon. Then at 6, another teamster driver would pick me up and shuttle me to Universal Studios or whatever far-flung location we were based that evening, where I would work on until just before sunrise."

"At that point, I’d climb into the back of a production van with a pillow and a blanket, and yet another driver would take me home again—sometimes literally carrying me into my apartment and dropping me into my bed. I’d catch two or three hours sleep before teamster driver number one would reappear at my apartment, let himself in with a key I’d provided, brew a pot of coffee, turn on the shower, and then rouse me to start the whole process all over again."

 

4. Don't get excited about a reboot…

Director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale, who own the rights to Back to the Future and both sequels have maintained that no remake of the franchise will be authorised during their lifetime. 

 

5. Biff was great at improvisation…

The actor who played the film's legendary bully Biff Tannen, Thomas F Wilson, improvised many of his quotable lines, including "make like a tree… and get outta here."

Outside of his film career, Wilson is also a talented painter, comedian, YouTuber, author and religious singer. He was so tired of being asked the same questions about his role in the franchise, that he wrote a song about them (see above) titled "Biff's Question Song". He has also created FAQ postcards, which he often hands out to fans who approach him in the street with questions. 

 

6. Johnny Depp could have been Marty McFly

Johnny Depp as a young man
"Johnny Depp" by afevrier is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Years after the film's release, when reading through his casting notes, writer Bob Gale realised that Johnny Depp had originally auditioned for the role of Marty. 

Speaking about the discovery, he said, "I looked through the notes, and I said, 'Geez, I don't even remember that we read Johnny Depp!' So whatever he did, it wasn't all that memorable, I guess!"

 

7. China banned the film

For a period, Back to the Future films were banned from screening in mainland China. This was because the government then deemed time travel themes to be disrespectful of history. The ban is no longer in place. 

 

8. Lea Thompson called Lorainne a "perfect part"

Lea Thompson as Lorraine in Back to the Future

Lea Thompson, the actress who plays Marty's mother Lorraine, was told by her agent that her career would only involve playing virgins, whores and mothers. 

Reflecting on that conversation years later, she said "I realized why Back to the Future is such a great part. Because I got to play a virgin, a whore and mother all in one movie."

 

9. Crispin Glover was extremely nervous

Crispin Glover as George in Back to the Future

Playing Marty's father George was Crispin Glover's breakthrough role, but despite having appeared in other films before the project, he was struck by a severe bought of stage fright while filming his scenes for Back to the Future. 

He was so nervous, that he lost his voice and was unable to speak, meaning he had to simply mouth his lines, recording them in a studio to be added in post-production. 

Speaking about the incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1987, he explained, "There is something kind of neat about it. It makes it kind of a different way of being. It was different than it was when you were out there because you were thinking about different things but now you're just thinking about your voice."

 

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