Movie Trivia: Back to the Future

Can you believe it's been 25 years since we first went back in time? Well, maybe you can if you've seen all of the press coverage recently. With the trilogy just released on Blu-Ray, we thought it was a good time to do a little time-traveling back to 1985 ourselves to do a little trivia research. Here's what we found.


In an alternate universe, perhaps one where Calvin Klein plays Johnny B. Goode at a school dance, John Lithgow is Doc Brown and Eric Stoltz or C. Thomas Howell is Marty McFly with Melora Hardin from The Office as a girlfriend. It's a totally different movie, isn't it? But that's the way it could have gone. John Lithgow was unavailable and Christopher Lloyd was, so the role of Emmett Brown went to Lloyd.

Michael J. Fox is Marty McFly. It's hard to imagine anyone else in the part - but he couldn't do it because of his Family Ties commitments. The bigwigs behind the show really didn't want Fox to focus his attentions elsewhere, so Robert Zemeckis started looking at his next two choices: C. Thomas Howell and Eric Stoltz. Stoltz won and actually started filming scenes before he and the producers mutually decided that the part was a bad fit for him. With nothing to lose, the Back to the Future people approached Michael J. Fox again. This time, he was allowed to do the film as long as it in no way interfered with his filming schedule with them. That meant that after Fox was done with Meredith Baxter, Justine Bateman and Michael Gross during the day, he spent his evenings and the wee hours of the morning with Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, filming until 2:30 a.m.

Claudia Wells was the original Jennifer Parker in the first Back to the Future, but it easily could have been Melora Hardin, Jan on The Office. Wells was cast when Eric Stoltz was Marty McFly, but then a sitcom pilot she had shot got picked up and the powers that be refused to let her do the movie simultaneously. Hardin was recast in the role. Then Eric Stoltz was replaced and Michael J. Fox's small stature became a problem: they didn't want his girlfriend to be taller than him, so Hardin had to be replaced. By this time, Wells' T.V. show had fallen through and she was available for the part again. By the time Back to the Future II was being cast, Wells' mother had cancer and Wells turned the part down. It went to Elisabeth Shue instead.


I used to love looking at my parents' old yearbooks, so I can relate to this inspiration: writer Bob Gale was going through his dad's yearbook and found out his father was president of his class. "I’m looking at this picture of my dad and I’m thinking about the president of my graduating class who was one of these 'school spirit' guys I would never have anything to do with … then I’m thinking, 'Gee, was my dad a jerk like the president of my class?'" Gale said. When he mentioned the idea to Robert Zemeckis, Zemeckis thought about that old stereotype of mothers who become prim and proper once they have kids but got around quite a bit when they were high schoolers themselves. The two ideas were merged to create the basis of the story - but don't think that the writers banged out a script overnight. The story went through 40 rejections before it was finally approved.

Finding Hill Valley

If you've ever wanted to visit Hill Valley, well, you can - at least parts of it. Hill Valley High School is actually Whittier High School in Whittier, California. Richard Nixon once roamed the halls there. But the dance scene wasn't filmed there - it was filmed at Hollywood United Methodist Church, which is famous for the 20-foot-tall AIDS ribbon affixed to the exterior of the church. Twin Pines Mall is really Puente Hills Mall in Rowland Heights, California... but we'd advise against trying to hit 88 mph in the parking lot like Marty did. The house used for Doc Brown's house is quite famous - it's the Gamble House in Pasadena, as in David B. Gamble of Proctor and Gamble. Today, it's a National Historic Landmark that's open for tours, so if you should feel the need to live out a personal dream of pretending to be Doc Brown, the opportunity is available. But no experiments on the premises, please.

Other Future Facts

The Internet hoax that was so hotly forwarded earlier this year may have been inaccurate, but here's something to look forward to: in Back to the Future II, Doc and Marty look at a 2015 USA Today newspaper with the following headlines:

• Slamball Playoffs Begin

• Cubs Sweep Series in 5

• Marshall Runs 3min. Mile

• Washington Prepares For Queen Diana's Visit (Sadly, this one won't be happening.)

• Thumb Bandits Strike (This refers to an unused bit about people using thumbprints to pay for things instead of cash, leading to thieves cutting off people's thumbs)

• Man Killed By Falling Litter

• Tokyo Stocks Are Up

• Swiss Terrorist Threat

• Shredding For Charity

• President Says She's Tired

• Kelp Prices Increase

• Pitcher Suspended For Bionic Arm Use 10.

• "Jaws" Without Bite (We see Jaws 19 playing at a theater earlier in the movie) Bob Gale isn't concerned about any of these headlines coming true, but he does think they probably got the entire concept of the newspaper wrong: "In 5 years, will we still have paper newspapers? I don't know!"

It was Billy Zane's movie debut. He played Match, a member of Biff Tannen's gang. Remember how Reese's Pieces made such a splash after E.T.? California Raisins was looking to do the same with Back to the Future.

They suggested having the raisins prominently featured as a snack at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, but Bob Gale told them that a bowl of raisins simply wouldn't read on camera and would resemble a big bowl of dirt. To appease them, he did throw in a shot of Marty jumping over a bench with a big California Raisins ad plastered on it.

Tony Hawk was originally hired to be a stunt double for Marty's skateboarding scenes. When Eric Stoltz was replaced, however, so was Hawk: he was far too tall to be Fox's stunt double, and Fox was actually pretty adept at skateboarding and didn't need as much help.

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

The bit about Tony Hawk is a myth. Hawk was born in 1968 and would have been 16 and in high school when they filmed the movie, too young to be hired. It was pro-boarder Bob Schmelzer who doubled Eric Stoltz. Producer Gale hired him along with Per Welinder when he saw them performing on the boardwalk at Venice Beach.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Movie Trivia: Back to the Future"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More