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Trivia / Back to the Future

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  • Acting for Two:
    • Michael J. Fox plays Marty, his older self in 2015, his children Marty Jr. and Marlene (yes, the daughter), and Seamus in 1885. He also posed as William for the picture of him in Part III, who he also later voiced in the Telltale game.
    • Christopher Lloyd shares a scene in Part II with himself as Doc meets his 1955 self.
    • Thomas F. Wilson plays 1955 Biff Tannen, 1985 Biff (three versions, no less: the Jerkass from the beginning of Part I, the wimpy version from the end of parts I and III and beginning of Part II, and the Jerkass In Chief from the 1985-A universe in Part II), 2015 Biff and his grandson Griff, and Buford "Mad-Dog" Tannen in 1885.
    • Lea Thompson portrays both Lorraine Baines McFly, George's wife, in 1955, three versions of 1985, and 2015, and Maggie McFly, Seamus's wife.
    • Elisabeth Shue plays Jennifer's younger and older self at the same time in Part II.
    • James Tolkan played both Principal Stanford S. Strickland in 1955 and 1985 and his ancestor, the U.S. Marshal James Strickland in 1885.
  • Approval of God: John DeLorean wrote a letter to Bob Gale after the first film's release, thanking him for immortalizing his eponymous car and saving the discontinued brand from falling into obscurity.
  • Creator Backlash: Crispin Glover was infuriated with the sequels because the production used Stock Footage from the first film with an especially convincing lookalike as The Other Darrin to the point that many people do not realize he had no part in them, and so is credited for a performance that he didn't do. He successfully sued for misappropriation of his likeness. While he later patched up his relationship with Robert Zemeckis, he has nothing positive to say about writer/producer Bob Gale.
  • Dawson Casting: Marty, Lorraine, George, Biff, Jennifer, etc. Makes some sense in Lorraine, George, and Biff's cases, since in the first movie they had to play both their teenage selves and their adult selves. Initially, not so much the case with Jennifer, who was played by 19-year old Claudia Wells in the first film, but then played by 26-year old Elisabeth Shue in the Sequels and that wig she wore to make her resemble Lea Thompson made her look every bit her age.
  • Defictionalization:
    • There are no back seats in a DeLorean, original or newly built; they only have a pair of front bucket seats. (That's why Jennifer had to ride sitting in Marty's lap.)
    • Marty's entire 2015 outfit is available to purchase. Nike sneakers with self adjusting laces can be yours... for $1,700. You can even buy a Hoverboard, although obviously non-functional (a joke by Zemeckis during a "Making of" video implied the Hoverboards were real devices about to come on to the market, and so Mattel was bombarded with questions about them).
    • A Match Made in Space, George's novel, was kinda-sorta defictionalized. The book itself was made as a blank diary with the book's cover, and a companion book has the short summary that would go behind one of the covers on the dust sleeve.
  • Disowned Adaptation: Bob Gale hated many of the video game adaptations of the franchise, particularly the first one by LJN Toys. According to him, the makers of the game didn't want any input from the filmmakers, and when he saw it, he wanted a lot changed, but was told it was too late to do anything. He advised fans not to buy it, and felt that Telltale Games handled the process much better.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Universal president Sid Sheinberg insisted on several changes, several of them positive. He suggested "Professor Brown" be changed to "Doc Brown", which he felt was less stuffy. He also insisted on Emmett Brown's chimpanzee pet being changednote , which became the dog Einstein, and requested Marty's mother's name go from Meg to Lorraine (his wife's name). One note that was heavily resisted was suggesting the title be Spaceman From Pluto after the comic seen in the film; the Bobs were aghast at it, but Steven Spielberg used his clout to veto it by way of faxing Sheinberg and saying it was a "good joke".
    • Why the sequels exist at all - the studio wanted to cash in on the first movie's success by putting forth two more sequels, which the Bobs had not planned on doing. When the ultimatum came down that the studio would make them with or without their involvement, Zemeckis and Gale agreed to return so the movies would be on their terms at least.
    • Cost considerations forced a complete change in the tactic to return to 1985 in Part I, from powered by a nuclear test explosion to powered by the lightning bolt. By all accounts, it was a major improvement, as keeping it "local" in Hill Valley, added an immediate urgency, and gave Doc something to do with the clock tower (in the original script, he simply watched from a mountainside).
  • Executive Veto: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, who own the franchise rights, have refused to make a fourth film or reboot the franchise because they don't want to turn the trilogy into a Franchise Zombie.
  • Fake American: Marty McFly — Michael J. Fox is in fact Canadian. You can hear his accent when he pronounces "sorry" as "sore-y."
  • Hey, It's That Place!: Courthouse Square, on the Universal Backlot, has been in dozens of productions; prior to BTTF, its most well known use was as the courthouse square in To Kill a Mockingbird. The set tragically burned to the ground during the 2008 Universal Studios fire, and was later rebuilt.
  • I Am Not Spock: Actor Thomas F. Wilson (Biff). He even wrote a song about it. He also started carrying small laminated cards he'd hand out to fans he'd run into, featuring answers to the most frequent questions he's asked about the movies. Not only is he exactly the opposite of a bully (and Biff) in real life, he drew on his real life high school experiences of being bullied in order to play Biff.
  • On-Set Injury:
    • Back to the Future Part II: During a "hoverboard" stunt scene, stuntwoman Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon was accidentally bounced off a pillar before falling thirty feet onto concrete, sustaining serious facial and wrist injuries.
    • Back to the Future Part III: The scene of Michael J. Fox being hanged wasn't acting. He actually was near hung to death there. He was quickly cut down when Robert Zemeckis noticed the "acting" was getting a little too real.
  • The Other Darrin: Jeffrey Weissman replaced Crispin Glover as George McFly in the sequels. Likewise, Elisabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker.
  • Pop Culture Urban Legends: Once real-life history got into the decade of the 2010s, pretty much every year there would be a picture claiming that that day was the day Marty went to when he went to the future (with the date being photoshopped to the current date). It's easy to tell the fakes, since the real years in the movies all end in 5. Now that the real date has passed, only time will tell if these fakes will stop being made.
  • The Red Stapler:
    • The DeLorean. At the time the movie came out the Delorean Motor Company had been bankrupt for almost 3 years and DeLoreans were considered a failed car. Nowadays there's an active "time machine conversion" community, DeLorean dealers, and DeLorean conventions — all because of Back to the Future. There's apparently even a company in Texas that bought the rights to the design and is making new DeLoreans.
    • The skateboarding sequences in this film resulted in a boom in the sport's popularity.
  • Scully Box:
    • Because Christopher Lloyd is 6'1", much taller than the 5'4" Michael J. Fox, camera tricks were used to avoid using one. For example, the two are rarely in the same shot together and, when they are, one is usually sitting down or much closer to the camera than the other. When Doc Brown is talking, he's often moving around so much that the viewer can't really tell how tall he is. Lloyd also improvised a hunch in his posture that helped give the character more of a Mad Scientist look.
    • Thomas F. Wilson is 6'1" and was deliberately cast to serve as an imposing bully, but in select scenes camera angles and boxes were used to make him appear even larger.
  • Star-Making Role: For Michael J. Fox.
  • Trope Namers: These movies named the following tropes:
  • What Could Have Been: In 2018 there were plans for a manga, illustrated by Yusuke Murata (of One-Punch Man fame) and overseen by Bob Gale, which would have followed on the events of the original movie. However, due to rights issues the project was cancelled, leaving us with nothing but a few pieces of leftover artwork.
  • The Wiki Rule: Futurepedia, the Back to the Future Wiki.

    Part I 
  • Banned in China: The film was banned in China mainland for a while because the notion of time travel "disrespects history". The ban has since been lifted.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: J.J. Cohen was originally cast as Biff Tannen. However, he didn't look so imposing against Eric Stoltz, the Trope Namer for The Other Marty, so Thomas F. Wilson was cast as Biff while Cohen was recast as Skinhead, one of Biff's Mooks. According to Bob Gale, had Michael J. Fox been cast as Marty from the beginning, Cohen would definitely have landed the role of Biff/Griff/Buford Tannen instead of Wilson. Billy Zane also auditioned to play Biff before being cast as another one of Biff's mooks, Match.
  • The Cast Showoff: Kind of. Although Michael J. Fox is miming his performance of "Johnny B. Goode" he did actually learn to play the song (having played guitar in high school) so he could do so accurately. The guitar solo was actually played by Tim May, who also had previously performed the guitar solo on "Born to Hand Jive" from Grease.
  • Channel Hop: Zemeckis and Gale originally pitched the film to Disney and then to Columbia Pictures, both of whom turned it down, albeit for completely different reasons: Columbia felt it was too quaint (this was the era of sex comedies like Animal House, Porky's and Revenge of the Nerds), Disney thought it was too raunchy (in particular, they took umbrage with the angle of 1955 Lorraine coming onto her future son).
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Although Eric Stoltz was replaced by Michael J. Fox (a few clips of him remain in the finished film), the former has since regretted his involvement in BTTF. At one point, Stoltz turned down an offer to be interviewed for a BTTF companion book.
    • Crispin Glover was intensely displeased over the ending, in which Marty and his family are more well off and Biff now works for George instead of the other way around, claiming it to be too materialistic and lacking enough heart, as well as sending a bad message that it's okay for one to bully back his former bully.
  • Creator-Chosen Casting:
  • Deleted Scene:
    • Wonder why George had peanut brittle for dinner in 1985? Originally, after meeting with Biff, Marty tries to urge George to stand up for himself when a child selling peanut brittle shows up. Instead, he caves, buying all of it, with the child's father saying "See, I told you we'd only have to stop at one house."
    • After the "Mister Sandman" Sequence, Marty asks a woman to pinch him to see if he's dreaming.
    • The 1955 Doc looks at the contents of his 1985 counterpart's suitcase, which include a Playboy magazine and the hair dryer Marty takes with him while playing "Darth Vader".
    • In 1955, before Doc gets introduced to George, Doc and Marty see Lorraine cheating on a quiz in class, surprising Marty.
    • The Darth Vader scene was longer, ending with Marty knocking George out with chloroform, explaining how George overslept and missed school. It got cut because it lasted too long and was redundant.
    • While discussing their plan, Marty tries to get George to hit him as practice.
    • Just when Marty leaves for the dance, Doc gets asked for a permit by a cop for his "weather experiment", and Doc gets it: a $50 bill, quite a bit of money back then. Also, Marty worries about his plan, asking "What if I go back to the future and I end", to which Doc says "Why shouldn't you be happy?"
    • George, realizing he's late during the dance, goes into a phone booth to confirm the time, but Dixon, the bully who'd kicked George and later cuts in on him and Lorraine, traps him inside, with Strickland chastising him.
    • While shooting with Eric Stoltz, they filmed a scene in which Marty uses some clever MacGyvering to escape detention with Mr. Strickland. The scene was never refilmed with Michael J. Fox, as they had apparently decided to cut it by that point. It does appear in the novelization, however.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Two examples that didn't make the film because of Eric Stoltz. When they filmed the cafeteria scene, Stoltz roughed up Thomas F. Wilson for real and Wilson almost broke his collarbone. The normally nice guy Wilson planned to get revenge during the car park scene at the dance by actually punching Stoltz but Michael J. Fox had taken over by then so he never got the chance.
    • An unintentional example, but remember that Michael J. Fox was filming the first movie at night while still keeping his obligations to Family Ties during the day. Any scene where Marty looks wiped out and exhausted from everything going on is most likely not acting.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • Tom Wilson has said that he and Crispin Glover didn't get along very well with Eric Stoltz when he was initially playing Marty, as Stoltz acted fairly arrogant throughout filming. Stoltz was apparently very rough when shooting the diner scuffle and genuinely hurting Wilson, who said that he was ready to trade blows by the time Stoltz left the film. Wilson even said that for years he thought Stoltz was fired due to his behavior on set, not because the producers wanted Fox originally.
    • Post Stoltz firing, the cast became very timid towards the producers because they felt their job was in danger, after all they fired the lead actor months into filming. Lea Thompson was heartbroken because she was friends with Stoltz, having previously worked with him in The Wild Life, while Crispin Glover didn't come back for the sequels because of bad blood between him and producer Bob Gale (who claimed for years Glover was a prima donna asking for an absurd pay hike).
  • Inspiration for the Work: According to Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, there were two things that led to the creation of the movie:
    • Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis first toyed with the idea of a time travel story as far back as 1975. Their initial inspiration came from the Zeerust depicted in the Norman Bel Geddes "Futurama" display at the 1939 World's Fair, and the General Motors "Futurama II" display at the 1964 World's Fair, with their first concept being a time travel caper that ends with the present day turning into the future that those expositions promised. Gale notes that they didn't have a precise story or hook in mind, but he did come up with the title Professor Brown Visits the Future.
    • In 1980, Gale came up with Back to the Future's hook after he visited his parents in St. Louis, Missouri. Searching their basement, Gale found his father's high school yearbook and discovered that the elder Gale was president of his graduating class. Gale had not known the president of his own graduating class, and wondered whether he would have been friends with his father if they went to high school together.
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
  • Looping Lines: Crispin Glover lost his voice due to nervousness while filming. For some scenes, he had to silently mouth his lines, with his voice being dubbed in later at a recording studio.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Michael J. Fox did not sing "Johnny B. Goode" (the final singing audio was recorded by Mark Campbell), although he did learn to play it. For bonus points, his guitar coach Paul Hanson taught him to play the song in B, figuring an 80s guitarist like Marty wouldn't play a song in B flat. He's playing the song on-set in B and says it's a "blues riff in B," but nobody told Tim May, the guitarist who recorded the final audio, so the film audio is the original B flat version. Of course, May was more well versed in 50s music, having previously played the guitar solo on "Born to Hand Jive" from Grease.
  • Orphaned Reference: Ever wonder why George had peanut brittle for dinner in 1985? Originally, after meeting with Biff, Marty tries to urge George to stand up for himself when a child selling peanut brittle shows up. Instead, he caves, buying all of it, with the child's father saying "See, I told you we'd only have to stop at one house."
  • The Other Marty: The Trope Namer.
    • Eric Stoltz was cast as Marty, and filmed some scenes, before being replaced by Michael J. Fox because people felt Stoltz was too serious for the role - all of which was a tad bit ironic considering that Fox was always the first choice for the role and came on as the replacement for the actor meant to replace him. A few shots of Stoltz remain, namely of Marty driving the Delorean and Biff being punched. They finally did include some Stoltz footage in the Blu-Ray release of the trilogy.
    • J.J. Cohen was initially chosen to play Biff Tannen, but was replaced by Thomas F. Wilson as Cohen wasn't considered physically imposing enough next to Stoltz; Cohen was cast as one of Biff's gang members instead. According to Bob Gale, had Michael J. Fox been cast from the beginning, Cohen would've probably won the part, because he was much taller than Fox.
    • When Claudia Wells temporarily dropped out of the movie due to scheduling issues, Melora Hardin was briefly cast as Jennifer Parker opposite Eric Stoltz, but had to be replaced after he was dismissed as it was discovered that she was taller than Michael J. Fox. Ironically enough, it was the female crew members who complained about the height disparity between Hardin and Fox, while the male crew members had no problem with it, whatsoever.
  • Prop Recycling: According to the documentary on the Blu-ray, the two cat sculptures standing beside the clock were originally created for Cat People.
  • Sleeper Hit: No one expected the movie to become as big as it did. Robert Zemeckis openly admitted he was just hoping it would break even and the final bit with the Delorean flying and "something's got to be done about your kids!" was meant as a joke on Marty having just changed the past for his parents. Michael J. Fox recalled that when he was in London filming the Family Ties TV movie, his agent called and told him that the movie was a hit. He was pleased, but the agent had to reiterate that it was a BIG hit.
  • Technology Marches On: Lampshaded In-Universe:
    • First, when Marty dines with his future maternal family in 1955, Lorraine asks whether his family owns a television set, to which Marty says, "Yeah, you know we have two of 'em...", making her younger brother say "Wow, you must be rich!", to which their mother says, "Oh, honey, he's just teasing you. Nobody owns two television sets!"
    • Later, Marty tries to explain his knowledge of an episode of The Honeymooners as having seen it as a rerun. In several non-English dubs of the movie, the word 'rerun' doesn't exist (usually because the country concerned had not adopted the policy of re-airing episodes of television shows as of the mid-eighties), so Marty says instead that he saw "The Man from Space" episode of The Honeymooners "on tape".
    • As the 1955 Doc looks at Marty's camcorder, he says "Now this is truly amazing: A portable television studio. No wonder your president is an actor, he's got to look good on television!"
  • Throw It In:
    • Many of George McFly's mannerisms (the shaking hands, the infamous Honeymooner's laugh) were ad-libbed by Crispin Glover. Glover explained years later in an interview that he saw the original 1985 George as a deeply unhappy man, and that his laugh at such a trivial moment on TV was his way of forcing out happiness. Allegedly, much of that was Glover's normal behavior, and the real challenge was getting him to act normal for the improved-1985 scenes.
    • Huey Lewis improvised the line "I'm afraid you're just too darn loud", as the silly excuse for Marty's band to be rejected.
    • During the "Mister Sandman" Sequence, when Marty sees the 1955 Texaco gas station, there was originally only one attendant working on a car, but Robert Zemeckis had the costume department find 3 more attendant costumes, believing it'd be funnier.
    • According to Bob Gale, Red (the homeless guy)'s name was ad-libbed by Michael J. Fox, so he isn't Red Thomas, the mayor of 1955 Hill Valley.
  • Troubled Production: Everyone involved in the film was sure it would bomb because absolutely nothing went smoothly. (Among the crew, it was nicknamed The Film That Would Not Wrap.) The shoot nearly drove Robert Zemeckis insane, ruined his health, and threatened to wreck his career if the film wasn't a hit.
    • The script for the film floated around Hollywood for years. Writer-Director Robert Zemeckis and his cowriter, Bob Gale, were shot down by several studios for various reasons; Disney and 20th Century Fox considered the script too raunchy while Columbia Pictures thought it was too quaint, and others were hesitant due to their involvement in 1941 (1979). The film finally landed with Universal Studios after the two scored a hit with Romancing the Stone, but the film's script underwent heavy rewrites just prior to filming, some of which was due to budget limitations and Executive Meddling.
    • Zemeckis reportedly wanted Michael J. Fox from the start to play the lead role of Marty McFly, but Fox was busy with Family Ties, so they casted Eric Stoltz in the role. According to Thomas F. Wilson, neither he nor Crispin Glover got along with Stoltz and found him arrogant. The producers had their own complaints with Stoltz, finding him too much of a dramatic actor for a comedy film and annoyed by his insistence on Method Acting. Crispin Glover lost his voice due to nervousness while filming, and butted heads with Zemeckis and especially Gale (which led to him refusing to reprise his role in the sequels).
    • Six weeks into filming, a deal was reached to work Michael J. Fox into the film around the schedule of Family Ties. Stoltz was quickly fired and replaced with Fox, and Stoltz's scenes were reshot with Fox in the role. Stoltz was reportedly very upset when Zemeckis broke the news, and to this day he refuses to talk about the film. His firing made the rest of the cast very nervous about their job security, with Lea Thompson in particular being dismayed as she was good friends with Stoltz, having previously worked with him in The Wild Life. Despite this, overall mood on the set improved with Fox in the role.
    • And because of working two productions at once, Michael J. Fox was running on fumes, commuting between the BttF and Family Ties sets with virtually no sleep in-between. He would record the show during the day and film the movie at night, once he went into a panic on the show because he thought he needed the camcorder prop he was actually using for the movie. In his interview on Inside the Actor's Studio, he notes that he was basically a zombie, which luckily enhanced his acting a fair bit.
  • Underage Casting: Intentional example. Lea Thompson is just nine days older than her onscreen son Michael J. Fox. Crispin Glover is actually three years younger than Fox, and Thomas F. Wilson is just two years older than Fox. This trope is played straight when it comes to scenes in 1985. But it becomes averted once we go back in time to 1955, where Thompson, Glover, and Wilson are playing their characters at or around Marty's age.
  • What Could Have Been: Has its own page along with Part 2 and 3.
  • Working Title: The film was almost titled Spaceman from Pluto due to Executive Meddling. It took the intervention of Steven Spielberg to get this resolved, and the way in which he did it is absolutely legendary. Instead of arguing against the title, resulting in a battle he may not have won, he pretended to misinterpret it as a hilarious joke, as if he couldn't comprehend someone seriously suggesting a title like that.

    The Animated Series 
  • Channel Hop: More than a decade after the original run on CBS, the show resurfaced from March to August 2003 on Fox on their then-new "Fox Box" Saturday morning lineup, programmed by 4Kids Entertainment- likely to fill the E/I quota.
  • Creator Backlash: In one interview, Bill Nye talks about a science demonstration segment he did where he was meant to demonstrate static electricity with two balloons sticking together. While they were filming, there wasn't enough static built up on the balloons to get them to stick, so the crew used some 77 adhesive spray to get them to stick, which in Nye's opinion completely ruined the realism of the demonstration.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Only 18 episodes made it to VHS and Laserdisc, and none of them made it to DVD until October 20, 2015, when Universal released a Complete Series DVD set of the show—one day shy of the "futuristic" date Marty, Doc, and Jennifer visited in BTTF Part II. Up until then, you had the aforementioned incomplete releases, and whatever tapes were circulating from the original run on CBS, and the reruns on Fox (see above).
  • The Other Darrin:
    • In the animated segments, only Mary Steenburgen (Clara) and Thomas F. Wilson (Biff) reprised their roles from the movies.
    • In a bizarre version of this trope, Christopher Lloyd played Doc in the live-action bits, and Dan Castellaneta played his animated counterpart.
    • In the French dub, only Luq Hamet (Marty) reprised his role from the films.
  • What Could Have Been: The head of children's programming for CBS suggested adding an alien to the ensemble for season two, but Bob Gale nixed the idea.

    The Pinball Table 
  • The Other Darrin:
    • Michael J. Fox did not allow his likeness for the game. Instead, artist Paul Faris' son plays Marty on the playfield and the backglass.
    • Similarly, it's unclear who voiced "Marty", but everyone agrees the voice doesn't even come close to sounding like Michael J. Fox.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: In addition to the movies' main theme, the game features ZZ Top's "Doubleback" and Huey Lewis and the News' "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time".

    The IDW comic book 
  • Ascended Fanon:
    • George's reluctance at letting Robert Zemeckis adapt A Match Made in Space into a movie references an article in USA Today's Real Life reproduction of the 2015 newspaper cover prop. According to this page, the phony article was written by Gannett vice president Matt Urbanos to replace the junk filler used by the original newspaper prop.
    • One popular fan theory was that Doc reverse engineered the hoverboard in order to get the time train working, since the board was pretty much the only bit of future tech at his disposal at the time. This idea was sort of used in "Continuum Conundrum," when Doc mentions he used components from the hoverboard to help get the steam trike time machine working.
    • It confirms Cracked's theory that Doc burned his house down for insurance money.
  • Development Gag:
    • Doc Brown's prototype flux capacitor is called a "temporal field capacitor," which was the original name of the flux capacitor in early script drafts of the first movie.
    • Biff's daughter Tiff, who was considered as a character for the Telltale game but was ultimately dropped, shows up in the "Tannenville" timeline in the "Citizen Brown" adaptation of the game's story.
    • Supplemental materials for Back to the Future: The Ride, once kept on Universal Studios' website and seen in the pre-ride queue, included Doc's plans for a "Timeman" time machine suit that is activated when the wearer runs to a speed of 8.8 mph. In the comic, Doc manages to create a time machine suit using a Victorian-era diving suit from 1893, although he still has to reach 88 mph for temporal displacement.