What Could Have Been #4 | Back To The Future

What Could Have Been #4 | Back To The Future

As a fan of film, I love exploring behind the scenes. Reading about the production process, the special effects and the stories of what could have been.

Back To The Future (1984)

When production started on Back to the Future, director Robert Zemeckis original choice of lead character, Michael J. Fox, wasn’t available due to his commitments with the television show Family Ties. Zemeckis instead went for his next pick, Eric Stoltz. Eric was chosen because of his great performance in the film Mask. Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan and they decided to replace Eric five weeks into the shoot. The decision was not taken because he was a bad actor but because he was playing Marty McFly a bit too seriously.

According to Christopher Lloyd this decision took place halfway through a night shoot and wondered what was happening when Eric didn’t return from lunch. When TomWilson (Biff Tannon) was told, he thought he was being fired from the film! (Do listen it’s a funny five minute story including how he and Eric got along on set*). Director Peter Bogdanovich who directed Eric in Mask said that Eric himself didn’t feel comfortable in the role. This discussion was had over the phone when BTTF was already two weeks into production.

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Naturally BTTF fans have been craving to see this footage for over twenty years but Bob Gale, the producer, said it would never see the light of day out of respect to Eric. When it came to the produce the 25th anniversary Blu-ray set the director of the documentary really pushed to include it because, “the fans really want to see it”. Even then, there is only thirty seconds of footage without audio. When asked why there wasn’t any more footage Bob Gale says, “”We wanted to soft pedal that. We didn’t want to make Eric feel bad.”

You can watch the clip of the documentary containing the Eric Stoltz footage below.

*Tom Wilson recounts the story in the Nerdist Podcast Episode 125.

What Could Have Been… is a series first created by John (@UKFilmNerd) on the original version of theunheardnerd.com. We will be re-running the series in a weekly format, but if you can’t wait for the next instalment you can check it out now. [What Could Have Been… #1-12]

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

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