In celebration of October 21st, 2015—the future date to which Marty McFly traveled—here are some previously unshared secrets from the Back to the Future trilogy!
* It’s become common knowledge that Marty McFly was originally played by Eric Stoltz before the creative team realized he wasn’t the right fit. But not many people know that before that the role had been cast with none other than Andre the Giant. Director/co-screenwriter Robert Zemeckis had been impressed when he saw Andre hit Hulk Hogan with a ring-bell in a 1982 wrestling match. “He had the perfect charisma for Marty,” Zemeckis says. “But after shooting a couple days of footage, we realized it just didn’t work. It’s called Back to the Future,” he added, lightly chuckling, “not Back to the TALL.”
* In early drafts of the screenplay, co-screenwriters Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis had indicated the DeLorean would travel into time once it reached a speed of 33 mph. “33 was Patrick Ewing’s jersey number,” Gale says, “and it was very important to us to squeeze in that cool reference.” Universal Studios, however, had other ideas. “They told us it had to be faster,” Gale says. “Make it bigger! More explosions! Classic studio stuff.“ Gale and Zemeckis fought tooth and nail but ultimately lost that battle. “And you know what?” Gale says. “They were right. Now I hate the number three. And Patrick Ewing.”
* Elsa Raven—who portrayed the Save the Clocktower Woman who shouts at Marty and Jennifer early in the movie—had a brief but powerful love affair with Christopher Lloyd. “I was only shooting for a day, and none of my scenes were with Chris,” Raven says. “But he happened to be hanging around the crafts services table, and we just clicked.” Within a few days, the relationship burned out, but both still look back on it fondly. “She was a very skilled lover,” Lloyd says. “Certainly don’t need a time machine to remember that.”
* Once, while being driven from the set of Family Ties to the set of BTTF, star Michael J. Fox realized the car was stocked, not with his preferred beverage, Diet Pepsi, but with 7Up. The driver apologized, explaining this was the beginning of his shift and the car had been like that when he picked it up. Fox said he understood but asked why the driver couldn’t have checked the beverages before leaving headquarters. The driver again apologized, saying he’d been running late so there wasn’t time for a beverage check. Fox said it wasn’t that big a deal, but he definitely didn’t drink any of the 7Up, instead staring out the window moodily for the rest of the ride.
* The shooting script for BTTF Part II featured some future inventions that ultimately didn’t make the cut, including something Zemeckis dreamed up called the DataGrid, which was very similar to what we now know as the internet. Gale had forced them to take it out because it was “too far-fetched.” “Yeah, he won’t let me forget that,” Gale says. “Like, seriously. He’ll just pound me with direct messages on Twitter: ‘Oh, look, Bob, I’m talking to you via the DataGrid. Not so far-fetched now, is it?’ ‘Hey Bob, how could someone ever imagine that information could be exchanged in such a ridiculous way as this?’ That sort of thing.” “I don’t want to be a dick about it,” Zemeckis says, “but it does get my goat. I mean, nobody knows that I thought up the internet, just with a much better name.”
* Though Huey Lewis and the News are now forever associated with BTTF, it didn’t seem like such a sure thing at first. “I’ll admit, when they approached me about writing a song, I was skeptical,” Lewis says. “I’m a music guy, you know? I write songs that play out of music things, like radios and stereos. A song that played out of a movie? At the time that seemed pretty dumb.” Zemeckis and Gale finally convinced Lewis by pointing out the songs he wrote for the movie could also play out of a radio or stereo. Lewis says it’s the best decision he ever made. “Now everybody’s playing music out of movies,” he says, “But we were there first.”
* Right up until shooting, Marty’s last name was not McFly but TimeDude. “There was something so evocative about that,” Zemeckis says. “You have this teenager who ends up being a time traveler, but it’s actually been foreshadowed in his last name the whole time: Time Dude.” Lea Thompson, who portrayed Lorraine McFly, was the one responsible for the switch. “I said it made no sense that I would be called Lorraine TimeDude,” Thompson says. “Because my character didn’t travel through time. Also I’m not a dude.” Zemeckis and Gale realized their error. In a rush to come up with something else before shooting started, Gale looked down at their fast food lunch and said, “Um, I don’t know, how about McFry?” “Perfect!” Zemeckis said, though he had actually misheard it as McFly, which, of course, was what it went on to be. “I still think about that sometimes,” Gale says. “If it had been McFry, the movies might have been even more successful.”