Michael J Fox walking across the street in a scene from the film 'Back To The Future', 1985. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

11 Surprising Things You Don’t Know About ‘Back To The Future’

Photo: Universal (Getty Images)

Back To The Future holds a special place in many movie lovers’ hearts. Always has. Always will. If you were an ’80s kid, how could it not? The story follows an affable, smart, good-looking wannabe rockstar Marty McFly who goes back in time to meet his parents in high school. The entire concept is totally insane but includes a realistic story arc. The Robert Zemeckis-Bob Gale trilogy has developed a huge cult following over the last 30 years because everything about the films is magical.

The most casual fans probably don’t know that Michael J. Fox wasn’t the original actor cast for the role of McFly or that there were multiple rock stars who made cameos in the movies.

With the exception of the fans who built their own DeLorean time machines, below are 11 surprising things you probably don’t know about Back To The Future.

1. In the first draft, Marty didn’t travel back in time using a car.

BTTF writer Bob Gale had an entirely different ending in the first draft of his script, one that included an elaborate plan to harness radiation from an atomic bomb in order to power Marty’s time machine, returning him safely back to 1985. But his mode of transportation? A lead-lined refrigerator.

That’s right. Instead of a badass DeLorean hitting speeds of 88 miles per hour, we could have been watching a kid pack himself inside an old Maytag. It’s exactly what we saw in the most recent Indiana Jones movie, except without the time travel, of course.

2. Bill Cosby was considered for the role of Doc.

Jeff Goldblum, Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Danny De Vito, John Candy, Eddie Murphy, and Randy Quaid were also considered for the role. That’s a long casting sheet. Great Scott! Thank goodness for Christopher Lloyd and his acting prowess.

3. Michael J. Fox wasn’t the original actor cast for Marty McFly.

Eric Stoltz got the role initially. While Zemeckis wanted Michael J. Fox from the start, Fox was locked up shooting Family Ties and the studio wouldn’t allow him to leave. After six weeks of shooting with Stoltz, it was clear he didn’t have the comedic timing Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg were looking for. They made the tough decision to let Stoltz walk.

Gale and Zemeckis then went to Family Ties producer Gary David Goldberg on their knees and begged him to allow Fox to join BTTF. Goldberg finally decided to allow it as long as Fox could still get his work with the TV show in. This meant Fox worked Family Ties by day and BTTF by night, averaging just a few hours of sleep each night.

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4. That’s Huey Lewis on the megaphone.

You likely remember Marty McFly and his band the Pinheads trying out to play for the school’s dance. They’re rockin’ out to “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News when one of the judges stands up with a megaphone and says, “I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud.” That’s Huey Lewis himself.

5. Michael J. Fox actually played every note of “Johnny B. Goode” himself.

While that’s not Fox’s real voice singing the rock classic, it is actually the actor’s real hands shredding on guitar.

Fox was already a solid guitar player, but he honed his skills with a top-notch guitar coach named Paul Hanson (featured as one of Marty’s “Pinheads” in the band audition scene). Fox noted that he “hated it” when he saw people playing guitar in movies and it was obviously fake. Fox also worked with a choreographer, nailing the guitar solo scene on all fronts.

6. There’s a good reason Crispin Glover isn’t in the BTTF sequels.

Spoiler alert: George McFly (Crispin Glover) is dead in Back To The Future: Part 2. But it wasn’t originally planned that way. George was written out of the script in the sequel because Glover complained about it. In fact, the actor disliked the script so much, he demanded $1 million to reprise the role. Zemeckis and Co. refused and hired Jeffrey Weissman to take over George duties with the help of prosthetics. That’s heavy.

7. That’s Michael J. Fox playing his own son and daughter.

It’s obvious Fox is playing his own son in BTTF II. But that’s Fox playing his daughter Marlene as well. Hilarious.

8. Marty’s power-lacing Nikes were a simple “special effect.”

They didn’t quite have the technology for real power laces during the 1989 shooting of BTTF II. What they did have was a raised platform that matched the pavement and a series of wires that went up through the platform, attached to the shoes. Techs laid flat on the ground under the camera and when Fox put his foot in each shoe the wires were pulled tight and the Nike logo lit up. Movie magic.

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9. Former President Ronald Regan was offered a part in BTTF III.

Zemeckis knew the former president was a fan of BTTF and he wanted someone famous to play the mayor of 1885 Hill Valley. With the help of Universal’s chairman Lew Wasserman, who had been Reagan’s agent during his acting career, he offered Reagan the role. Unfortunately, Reagan declined, even though he had left office Jan. 20, 1989.

10. That’s ZZ Top performing as the 1885 Hill Valley trio.

Zemeckis was a big ZZ Top fan. So naturally, he invited them to be part of the last movie. The band accepted. And the best part? They didn’t need to adjust their hair and makeup.

11. Don’t worry, Biff. It’s not manure.

Biff takes a face full of manure in every single BTTF movie. Thankfully for actor Tom Wilson, it wasn’t manure at all but a concoction of peat moss, alfalfa pellets, and food coloring.

“I. Hate. Manurrrrr.”


Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who has been obsessed with ‘Back To The Future’ since before many of you were born.


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