8 Things You Didn't Know About 'Back To The Future'

1.21 Gigawatts Of 'Back To The Future' Trivia

"Back to the Future," the ultimate action-comedy-romance-sci-fi flick, turns 30 on July 3. The classic film invented its own form of time-travel (if you watch the movie 88 times in a row, you will have traveled 10,208 minutes into the future), but even the most dedicated fans may not know what went went down before the film even made it to theaters. Here are some facts about "Back to the Future" every DeLorean diehard should know:


1. Michael J. Fox really almost wasn't Marty McFly.

The list of actors who auditioned for the lead role is basically a who's who of mid-'80s Hollywood. Eventual champ Michael J. Fox was offered the part first but turned it down -- he was too busy playing Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties." Johnny Depp, John Cusack, and Ralph Macchio all tried out for the part (despite persistent rumors, Corey Hart did not audition). After lots of screen tests, the production team had it narrowed down to two actors, C. Thomas Howell and Eric Stoltz. And the winner was ... Stoltz.

2. In fact, they shot much of the movie with a different leading man.

Production began with Stoltz as the main McFly, but after six weeks of filming it was clear the movie wasn't coming together. According to executive producer Steven Spielberg, director Robert Zemeckis "didn't feel that the comedy was playing well enough."

"It cost the studio millions of dollars," said Zemeckis, who admitted to having "miscast" the role. Still, Universal agreed to reshoot the film with Fox, who at last agreed to do the movie despite an already overbooked schedule.

3. Marty was originally going to be a much darker character.

In an early draft of the screenplay, writer and producer Bob Gale said, "[Marty] was so despondent about how messed-up his life was, he was going to commit suicide." That was nixed as part of an effort to make the film funnier. Replacing Stoltz with Fox was also intended to emphasize the comedic side of the script, and the inclusion of the line, "When I kiss you, it's like I'm kissing my brother," helped dilute the creepiness of the incest subplot.


4. Shooting (and re-shooting) the movie proved incredibly difficult.

Because of Fox's busy schedule, most of his scenes had to be shot at night. "All I remember is never seeing any daylight," Zemeckis told Empire in an oral history of the film.

"The biggest headache was the dinner-table scenes at the beginning with everybody in make-up," Gale said of the grueling production schedule. "We would rehearse the master shot at night with all the characters in it. Then Bob [Zemeckis] would start working the next day without Michael and shoot the coverage. We had a stand-in doing Michael’s lines, the actors had to play the scenes without Michael there."

5. Budget constraints actually made "Back to the Future" a better movie.

According to Zemeckis, the end of the film was supposed to take place in Nevada, with the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of time-travel power provided by a nuclear test site. But, "because the studio was $5 million out of the budget, we had to come up with a different idea," he explained. "Instead of going to another location, we put a clock on the courthouse. It’s much better, tighter writing: it kept it all in Hill Valley; it kept it in the clock imagery; it was just much better."


6. The DeLorean is not just any time-traveling car.

In early iterations of the script, Doc's time machine was intended to be a "time chamber" made from a refrigerator. Zemeckis and Gale decided to use the DeLorean because of its strange, futuristic look. The car's creator, John DeLorean, may have been the biggest "Back to the Future" fan of all. Only 9,000 DeLoreans were manufactured before production stopped in 1982, and DeLorean's subsequent arrest on drug-trafficking charges spelled the end of his automobile business (he was later acquitted).

"John DeLorean wrote us a fan letter after the movie came out: 'Thank you for keeping my dream alive,'" Gale told the Los Angeles Times. "Probably half of the people who own DeLoreans today own them because they saw 'Back to the Future.'"


7. Ronald Reagan gave "Back to the Future" a presidential seal of approval.

The film includes a little in-joke about Reagan's presidential prospects, when the younger version of Doc Brown just can't believe that the actor might one day be commander in chief. Far from offended, Reagan was so amused that he asked his projectionist to replay the scene. Reagan even quoted from the movie in his 1986 State of the Union address ("As they said in the film 'Back to the Future,' ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads'").

8. This could have been the 30th anniversary of everyone's favorite comedy, "Spaceman from Pluto."

Though it's hard to imagine "Back to the Future" without its now-classic title, not everyone was such a fan during production. Universal Studios executive Sid Sheinberg tried (unsuccessfully, as you may have gathered) to change the name of the movie. His suggestion? "Spaceman from Pluto," which would tie into Marty's jokes about being an alien. Spielberg killed the idea, much to the relief of Zemeckis and Gale (and a generation of moviegoers). Sheinberg did, however, make another important change to the film: Doc's dog, Einstein, was originally going to be a chimp. After declaring that no movie with a chimpanzee had ever been a financial success, Sheinberg had the part switched to a sheepdog.


BONUS: Despite lots of Photoshopped evidence to the contrary, the real "Back to the Future" day happens this fall.

Not technically a fun fact from the original, but still good to know: For years, with the frequency and accuracy of a doomsday cult, the Internet had declared many dates the official "Back to the Future Day" -- the futuristic time visited by Marty and Co. in "Back to the Future 2." The actual date, scheduled for 30 years after the events of the first film, is October 21, 2015 (at 4:29 PM, to be exact). Fans can anticipate the impending holiday by bookmarking this handy countdown clock.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mischaracterized Sheinberg's memo as saying that no movie with "future" in the title had ever been a financial success. The memo, according to the producers, said that no movie with a monkey in it had ever proved successful.

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