Back To The Future 1 (dc)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Back to the Future Q and A session...
...here at the University of Southern California.
We have the distinct honor to have the two Bobs:
Director-Writer, Robert Zemeckis, and Producer-Writer, Bob Gale.
They're here to answer questions about the making of Back to the Future.
And having just screened the film, I'm sure there will be plenty of questions.
My name is Laurent Bouzereau and I am producing the Back to the Future DVD...
...in collaboration with Universal Studios Home Video.
I will be moderating today's event.
I will be also repeating each of the questions so that the audience can hear it.
And all of you at home watching this DVD and listening to this audio commentary...
...can also hear what the questions were. So here we go.
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.
Well, let's get started, Bob and Bob.
Can you tell us a little about where you were at in your career...
...at the time that you started working on Back to the Future?
Bob Zemeckis, tell us about your career at the time.
Where we were when we wrote the screenplay was different from when we made the movie.
When we wrote the screenplay, we had just finished Used Cars...
...and we couldn't get a movie made.
We couldn't get a movie made anywhere.
It was like a three, maybe four-year dry spell.
We wrote Back to the Future during that time.
And then I went off and made Romancing the Stone...
...and then we were able...
...to get Back to the Future made after that movie, thankfully it was a hit.
Because I've got a...
In my archives, I've got a rejection letter from every single studio.
Every single studio.
Sometimes more than one from the same studio.
Sometimes they sent it back twice, rejecting Back to the Future...
...as an idea for a movie.
Bob Gale, do you want to tell us a little bit about how you guys write together...
...how you came up with the actual idea for Back to the Future?
And, maybe, begin with your initial fascination with time travel.
We'd always wanted to do a time-travel movie.
...we were fascinated by the fact that people always predict the future wrong.
We thought it would be interesting to make a movie that took place in a future...
...scene like the 1939 World's Fair, that had everything wrong in the future.
So that was...
The idea of doing a time-travel movie kind of came out of that.
But there was really no movie there.
After Used Cars came out, I went back to visit my parents in St. Louis, Missouri...
...and I found my father's high school yearbook.
I discovered that my father had been the president of his graduating class.
Something that I didn't know.
I started thinking about the president of my graduating class...
...who was somebody I would've had nothing to do with.
I was head of the Student Committee to Abolish Student Government.
So I thought, "If I had gone to high school with my dad...
"... would I have been friends with him?" And that was the spark of the idea.
So when I came back to California, I told that little story to Bob.
He jumped up and said:
"Yeah, and wouldn't it be interesting if your mom, who said that she'd never, ever...
"... kissed a boy on a date or anything, turned out to be the school slut?"
So we started cooking on this...
...and that's how the concept got going.
Of course, there was only one way to have a kid go to high school with his parents.
And that was, from our point of view, to do it in a time machine.
We'd seen plenty of movies where...
Plenty of stories... In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court...
...he gets hit on the head and he's suddenly back in the past.
And we never bought that.
So we decided that if somebody was going to go back in time...
...it had to be with a time machine.
So that's how the creative juices got flowing.
Obviously, the part in the past in the movie takes place in 1955.
The Academy Award for Best Picture that year went to a movie called Marty.
Is it just a coincidence or was it a conscious decision...
...to call Michael J. Fox's character in the movie Marty?
I think that was a coincidence. I don't remember us thinking about that.
No. We never thought about that.
The fact that Marty...
...had never even occurred to me until you just mentioned it right now.
Sometimes we name characters that are inside jokes, other times...
...I think, in the case of Marty, I think it was just a name that...
Sometimes we just name characters that have a good sound to them...
...that they roll off your tongue kind of easily.
Then other times we name them after people.
Like Biff Tannen.
Ned Tannen was the president of Universal.
When we were making I Wanna Hold Your Hand...
...at one meeting that we had...
...he got irate with us in his office and threw the script on the floor...
...and accused us of wanting to make an anti-Semitic movie...
...even though I'm Jewish.
So, in honor of good old Ned, Biff got his last name.
How much research did you find yourself doing on the 1955 time period...
...to make sure that everything was accurate?
We did quite a bit of research.
It seemed to be the process of coming up with ideas was to just...
...go and immerse yourselves in... We would immerse ourselves in...
We'd go to the library and read the newspapers of the time.
You know, those great Time-Life series and photograph books of the time.
You have to sort of be a history buff to enjoy doing something like this.
When we came up with specific scenes...
...we would research, specifically, if we could do a certain thing.
But most of it was just sort of getting a flavor for the time.
Then, of course, once the production gets going, then it gets to be...
...really fun, because then everything starts to get real...
...and you have teams of researchers in the art department, and they start...
...coming up with ideas, and then you can just sort of riff on what they bring you.
It wasn't a foregone conclusion automatically that 1955 was the year.
In fact, when we wrote the script in 1980, it was also 1955 then.
And as the years went by...
...because it was four years later that we actually got the movie made...
...we gave Marty an older brother and an older sister...
...so that you would understand the age of his parents...
...that they would be in high school in 1955.
But 1955 was important because we wanted Marty to invent rock 'n' roll.
That was one of the ideas that we had real early on.
So, if it was any later than 1955, that couldn't have worked.
We knew it had to be after rock 'n' roll. It wouldn't have worked if it was 1950 or 1949.
When you were writing the script, did you have any specific actors in mind?
No, I don't think...
You know, Bob and I actually entertain ourselves by saying:
"Wouldn't so-and-so be funny to do this?"
But I've found, over the years, we do that on specific lines of dialogue.
We'll sit there and say:
"Nicholson. He would really be able to do this line great. "
So, for me anyway, they become these kind of shadow characters.
And I never really see anyone specifically when we're writing.
- I don't. Do you? - No.
Sometimes, in terms of trying to conceive how a character would deliver dialogue...
...we would imagine in our heads, like, Jack Nicholson or Jimmy Cagney...
...or somebody who has a very distinctive way of speaking.
And that's just sort of a guideline to put somebody's voice in our head that...
...allows us to give the dialogue a certain style.
Sometimes it's based on somebody that we actually know.
Again, just to give the character a style of talking.
In Back to the Future, since most of the characters were young people...
...and there aren't any big stars that are going to be young people...
...we never thought of that at all.
Could you talk a little more specifically about your collaboration...
...and how you actually write together?
Yeah, we write together.
We just put ourselves in the office together and we write together.
I think that the way I sort of describe it is that we just, basically...
...springboard ideas back and forth and act scenes out together...
...and then if we come up with something good, Bob writes it down.
He writes it in longhand.
We first started outlining it with index cards.
And a lot of times we'll think of a scene, and we don't know where it goes.
...one of the first scenes in this movie was Marty Invents Rock 'n' Roll.
So we write that down on a card and we pin it up on the wall...
...and you say to yourself, "Okay, if Marty's going to invent rock 'n' roll...
"... we have to establish the fact that he can play rock 'n' roll. "
So that automatically tells you there has to be a scene...
...at the beginning of the movie that has him, it turned out to be his audition...
...so that you could see that he knows how to play it.
So, one scene then becomes two scenes.
And every time we come up with an idea...
He's gonna invent the skateboard.
So we have a card that says Skateboard Chase...
...and that means we have to see him on a skateboard somewhere...
...in the beginning of the movie.
So, again, one scene then becomes two scenes.
And pretty soon we have a bunch of cards up on the board...
...and a lot of times there'll be a lot of space in between them, and we'll say:
"How do we get from this scene here to that scene over there?"
And we'll start kind of focusing on what would have to happen.
We always use pushpins on those cards because we're always moving them around.
Sometimes we'll say:
"We can't have that scene here. It's gotta come two scenes later. "
And eventually we have a full outline.
And then we start really talking about...
...each scene, and the dialogue, and the physical action that takes place.
It might be noteworthy... I remember, to say a few things about...
...my recollection about writing the screenplay, which was, it took years.
It took us years. I mean, this was...
I think it took us at least three years to write this.
- Is that about right? - No.
Maybe it felt like three years.
Well, from when we finally made the movie it was.
But we started writing in...
I think it was around September of 1980, after Used Cars came out.
And the first draft has a February '81 date on it.
And then we spent two months doing a re-write on that.
And that was the draft we took everywhere in town and everybody passed on it.
I remember, one of the things that we suffered over...
...one of the big breakthroughs was the...
We didn't know how to get Marty out of the Oedipal situation with his mother.
I remember that.
I think that took us months to figure that one out.
And we didn't know how we got...
We knew we had this great story that got us to this place.
And then we didn't know what to do.
And I remember we were stuck on the fact...
...that the Marty character had to do something.
We couldn't figure out what he could possibly do.
And then the big breakthrough came when we decided that...
And my favorite line that we wrote in the entire movie is when she says:
"It's like I'm kissing my brother. "
That just solved that whole problem.
We were able to actually make that story work.
We struggled over that for a really long time.
And I think the other big breakthrough which made the movie...
...just charged the screenplay, was when we came up with the idea...
...of making the time machine mobile.
Our first drafts were, the time machine was this machine that was this big...
It was a chamber.
It was in Doc's lab and...
...if he had to go anywhere, he had to put it in the back of a pickup truck.
In fact, in that early draft, the nuclear-powered thing...
...required them to drive it out onto a nuclear test site in New Mexico.
And that was the climax of the movie, and it stayed that way...
...until budget problems made it impossible for us to do that.
The thing with the nuclear test site...
We actually went into production expecting to design that...
...and the idea was in all the early drafts of the screenplay.
The only place they were able...
...to get enough energy was...
...they had to bring the time machine to the Nevada nuclear test site...
...in the '50s, where they set up all those little villages and towns...
...to blow up with nuclear bombs.
And Marty and the Doc sneak onto that...
...and the big countdown was to the nuclear blast.
When Marty went back in time, he arrived at ground zero...
...and there was a bunch of tourists there, taking his picture and stuff.
We were told that we had to cut $2 million out of the budget.
And that's one of the things where there's method to the madness.
Because the realization that we weren't going to be able to go and move the company...
...to Nevada or to Arizona or someplace and shoot.
We were going to have to do the whole thing at the studio, to do it for the price.
But it turned out that it became a much better scene.
It became a much better scene because...
...there was no way to involve the Doc, actually, if I remember right.
It was just over the walkie-talkies...
...where Doc was just there, on a side of a mountain, watching all this stuff.
And of course, just tying everything into the town...
...and keeping it all local in the town, just made it all absolutely better.
And it's one of those things where necessity becomes the mother of invention.
"You gotta cut that scene out. " Bob and I spent a weekend...
...walking around the back lot at Universal trying to figure out:
"If this is the only environment we have that isn't gonna cost us any money...
"... that we can completely control, exactly what are we gonna do?"
We managed to cook up the clock tower sequence.
One of the most memorable characters in the movie is, of course, Doc Brown.
I was just wondering if you had any kind of inspirations...
...or any kind of influences...
...that helped you create that particular character.
Christopher Lloyd always said that he made the character Doc Brown...
...a combination of Albert Einstein and the conductor Leopold Stokowski.
So all those big, broad gestures that he's always doing...
Chris is a big classical music aficionado.
So that's what he had in his mind, a big shock of hair like Stokowski.
If you don't remember who Stokowski is, just watch the beginning of Fantasia.
That's Leopold Stokowski.
In the early drafts of the screenplay, the reason we...
We always wrote him as Professor Brown.
That had a good ring to it. You know, he was a professor.
We never wrote him as a Doc.
And Sid Sheinberg, the head of the studio, insisted that we change his title...
...from professor, because he thought it just sounded too corny.
There's those famous Sid Sheinberg stories which we can tell you.
He had three notes when Steven gave him the screenplay to read.
One was that we couldn't call the Doc "Professor. "
The second one was, in the original draft of the screenplay...
...he had a chimp as a mascot, instead of the dog...
...and Sid said, "You have to get rid of the chimp...
"... because no one is gonna see a movie with a chimp in it. "
We actually had this meeting with him. It was hysterical.
He said, "I've done the research.
"No movie with a chimpanzee in it has ever made a profit. "
I said, "Well," because in the '80s, "there were these two Clint Eastwood movies...
"... Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can.
"So, what about those movies, Sid?"
And he said, "That was an orangutan in those movies. "
And the third one was, he hated the title. But we stuck to our guns on that one.
There was a fourth one, which was...
...that originally Marty's mother's name was not Lorraine.
It was Meg. Remember that?
He didn't like that name, so he said, "Name her Lorraine. "
Coincidentally, his wife's name is Lorraine.
So we knew how to pick our battles.
I think Sid's comment was that nobody was going to see a movie with the word "future" in the title.
So we decided that was the one. We would give up the others.
We changed the chimp to a dog and the names. But we stuck to Back to the Future.
Then, afterwards, we were having a meeting, a celebratory meeting...
...in Sid's office, after the movie was a giant success.
We said, "Well, you see, Sid? People went to the movie. "
And he says, "Yes. But I'll never know if I was right or not, will I?"
And I guess not.
Bob Gale, can you actually reveal what the alternate title was?
Well, the alternate title...
This got hot and heavy during the production and postproduction...
...of the movie because we'd given Sid what he wanted on these other issues...
...and he kept on this.
And he decided that the hip title for the movie should be Spaceman from Pluto.
And that's because of the comic book that the kid has in the barn...
...Space Zombies from Pluto.
Sid actually sent us a memo where he outlined certain changes...
...that should be made in the movie to reflect this new title Spaceman from Pluto.
One of them was that instead of Marty saying, "I'm Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan"...
...he should say, "I'm from the planet Pluto. "
There were one or two other things like that.
Bob and I got this memo, and we were really scared and worried...
...because he meant it.
You gotta be careful about the kind of fights that you pick...
...with the head of the company.
He wasn't just the head of the studio, he was the head of the company.
Everyone at Universal thought Back to the Future was a great title, except for Sid.
So we went to Steven with this memo, because Steven had been copied on it...
...and we said, "Steven, what are we gonna do? He really means it.
"He really wants to change the title. "
And Steven, in this one solution to the problem...
...I think earned all the money that he made off of all these movies.
He wrote a memo back to Sheinberg, and he said:
"Dear Sid, thank you so much for your most humorous memo.
"We really all got a big laugh out of it. "
Steven knew that Sid was too proud to admit that he'd meant it seriously and we never...
That was the end of it.
Going back to the time machine itself, what convinced you to choose the DeLorean?
The joke in the barn, because...
That's what my memory is.
We backed it into that joke because we thought a car from...
What would really look like a spaceship landing in the barn in the '50s?
We said, "Hey, a DeLorean's got these gull-wing doors.
"That'll really look like a futuristic machine from outer space. "
- And that was basically it. - And it was stainless steel.
And we had no idea there'd be all this cocaine controversy...
...and it would be such an infamous car when we wrote the joke.
We actually got a fan letter from John DeLorean after the movie came out.
He just sent us this glowing letter, how much he enjoyed the movie...
...and thanked us for keeping his dream alive, and said that any of the people...
...that worked on the car in the movie could have a job on his design team.
Can you explain why you don't really go into the back story...
...of the relationship between Doc Brown and Marty?
We never really thought about it. We thought that the familiarity of him...
...being able to just walk into his lab...
Actually, you know what? We always saw it as...
...the way Leave It to Beaver was with Gus the Fireman.
Beaver always had the Fireman that he could go to, as basically like his therapist.
And he went there and he would tell him about all the problems he was having with his family.
We always said, "Let's have a relationship...
"... between Marty and Doc. " Marty would be this kid who was attracted...
...to this crackpot scientist who was building inventions in this garage down the street.
But we just felt to build a whole back story would take too long.
We just sort of did it by trying to blast through it with the fact that...
...obviously they know each other because they're so familiar.
When I was a kid, people had moved next door to us.
The guy was a retired professional photographer.
Not retired, he was just much older, and he had all this great darkroom equipment.
I was eight years old, and I'd never seen any of this kind of stuff before.
So this guy was like a magician to me...
...and me and my brothers would go over there and watch him develop film.
We developed a relationship with him.
He was just somebody that was kind of in my head as the type of thing.
Plus, in a smaller town, if everybody tells you there's a guy who's dangerous, a crackpot...
...well, every kid's gonna want to find out who that guy is and get to know him.
And every single movie story can be found in episodes of Leave It to Beaver.
So for all you screenwriters out there...
...if you're struggling with a problem in your screenplay, watch Leave It to Beaver.
You'll find the way to fix the script in that series.
As you took the script around town, and kept getting rejections...
...did you, at any point, go back to the drawing board and revise the script?
What happened was that Spielberg wanted to do it right after Used Cars.
He was the only guy who got it.
But we had made two movies that he executive produced that flopped.
- Plus 1941 which we took... - We took the blame. Yeah.
His only money-losing movie up to that point was the one that we wrote.
I said to Steven, "If we make this movie, and it doesn't work...
"... we'll probably never be able to work again. "
And he said, "You're right. "
We just put it on the shelf.
We actually even had one meeting on the movie with a studio executive, who I won't name...
...who was so excited about it.
We sat down in his office and he went, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. "
We're telling him what we want to do, and we thought it was a really good meeting.
And he said, "So what's Steven's involvement?"
And we said, "Well, nothing. " He said, "Oh. "
And the meeting was over and we knew that that was it.
So then after Romancing the Stone, now everybody wanted to make it.
Bob and I felt that the only upstanding thing to do...
...was to bring it to the only guy who had original faith in it...
...not based on our box-office track record.
So we brought it back to Steven.
Then he had become famous with E. T. And everything.
So it was like this perfect fit, because he was becoming this...
...fantasy brand name... - Master of fantasy and family entertainment.
That was one of the big objections to the script...
...is everybody told us that it was too sweet. It was too nice.
Everybody was looking for R-rated, raunchy comedies.
Except Disney, who said it was too dirty.
Because of the thing with his mother, they said, "No, no. "
That was before the Eisner-Katzenberg days. That was the old Disney.
They said, "No, we can't make this. "
It wasn't raunchy enough for most studios, and too dirty for Disney.
So we were stuck.
How did you go about coming up with the mechanics of the time travel?
Well, the mechanics of time travel...
The fact that everybody says, "Why 88 miles an hour? What's so special about that?"
It's easy to remember. That's all. There's no special significance to that.
The whole idea of what the time machine should look like...
We decided way early on that...
...if there was going to be a working time machine...
...one of the problems we had to solve writing-wise, was "Where did it come from?"
First we said, "Well, it could come from the government.
"The government could be working on it. "
We thought about it and said, "No, if they built it, it wouldn't work. "
Then we thought, "Some major corporation could be working on it. "
Then we said, "No, we don't like the idea that a major corporation is working on time travel. "
That opens up a big can of worms that we didn't want to deal with.
We thought that the American myth is...
...that there's a guy who, in his garage...
...invented the automobile engine that gets 200 miles to the gallon.
He invented the reusable match that the match companies...
...won't let us have because it'll put them out of business.
The car companies won't let us have the engine. That's the guy that would invent time travel.
And he would look like Dr. Emmett Brown.
One of the things that we kept stressing to our art department...
...and the people that we hired to help design the DeLorean...
...was that it really needed to look dangerous...
...and look like it was built in somebody's garage.
It couldn't have a real Star Trek machined look...
...because a guy that's trying to invent stuff in his garage...
...would just stick something on the side of his car temporarily to see if it worked.
Then he'd forget that it was temporary. He'd put some other coil on there.
Pretty soon you'd have this big mishmash.
So we wanted it to look dangerous.
At the same time, because it was nuclear...
...we did do some homework on nuclear reactors. Those big vents that are on the back...
...those are supposed to be cooling towers, like you have at a nuclear power plant.
After the plutonium fires off, you have...
...all this big steam come out of there because that's what would happen in a nuclear reaction.
So we did actually try to have some sense of logic...
...that we could stick to and make sense out of, that was a guide.
But as far as the actual nuts and bolts of time travel itself...
...that's one of the things that Bob and I were really proud of.
We were absolutely fanatics about dealing with...
...what the real rules of time travel would be.
We basically based our time-travel theories on The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.
Simply, we stuck to that one...
...which is that you travel through time, you don't travel through space.
Most of your time-travel stories and movies make that fatal mistake.
You're in California, and you travel back to ancient Rome.
How did you get to Rome, if you're in this latitude and longitude?
And in the H.G. Wells stories, the time machine never moved in space...
...except at the very end, when he drags it a few feet.
So that's exactly what Bob and I did in how our time machine worked.
We were very careful. As a matter of fact, I was just thinking about it...
...as I was watching the end of the movie just now.
I remembered that we had...
The whole reason why we had the car not be able to start...
...after he got back, at the end of the movie, to the future...
...was so that we didn't have to deal with the duplication of two DeLoreans.
We only had to deal with him being duplicated once.
And that one paradox, we cleaned up real quick.
And, of course, if you talk to all the time-travel scientists...
...and the people who study this stuff...
...they think that we'll probably be able to figure out how to travel into the future.
Traveling to the past will be much more difficult because of the paradoxes involved.
Eric Stoltz was in the movie prior to Michael J. Fox.
Can you tell us why you had to re-cast the role of Marty?
The lesson that I learned was...
...you have to stick to your convictions at all costs, no matter what.
What happened to me...
It was completely my fault, and I miscast Eric Stoltz.
I didn't know it at the time. I felt I was going to be able to make it work.
I had always envisioned Michael in the part...
...but he was doing this TVseries.
And conventional wisdom was that you can't possibly do...
...a feature film with an actor who's in a TVseries. It's impossible.
One of the other mandates I was given by Mr. Sheinberg was...
...if I didn't have the movie for Memorial Day, I'm not making it.
So I was stuck, and I had to cast somebody...
...and Eric was the best that I had available.
Then, when I shot the first couple weeks of the movie...
...he wasn't understanding, or I wasn't able to communicate the type of humor...
...that I was seeing in the movie.
The other reason that Steven deserves the money he made off of this movie...
...was the fact that when I went to Steven and said:
"I've got to re-cast Eric," he said:
- "You're right. " - "You're right. "
He went to Sid, and got him to agree.
Not only got him to agree to let me re-cast him, of course, the painful part was...
...everything that poor Eric had to go through...
...but then, also, to agree to allow us to make a movie...
Basically, we made this entire movie at night.
We made this movie from 6:00 p. m. To 6:00 a. M...
...because Michael was working on the TVshow during the day.
Then he'd drive to the studio. We stayed on nights.
- It was the most... - It was splits, most of it.
It was splits most of it, but it was pretty insane because we were on soundstages...
...shooting, lighting the soundstages for daylight at 2:00 a. m.
It was pretty insane, the way we did it.
We didn't make the Memorial Day date, but we did make the Fourth of July.
The irony of it all is that...
...because we put Eric Stoltz in the movie is the reason we got Michael J. Fox.
We approached Gary Goldberg, who was the producer of Family Ties.
That was the first phone call we made, because we wanted Michael in the movie.
And he said...
He read the script, he said, "This is perfect for Michael.
"I cannot let him read this script.
"When he reads this, and I tell him that I'm not going to let him out of the TVshow to do it...
"... he'll hate me for the rest of his life. "
Meredith Baxter-Birney, who played his mother on that show...
...was pregnant at that time, and Michael was really carrying the show.
So that just right away put him out of it.
We kept pushing our start date back while we kept trying to find...
...the perfect Marty McFly.
By the time we made the realization that we had to make a change...
...it was now the beginning of January, 1985.
Meredith Baxter-Birney had already had her baby.
So we went back to Gary Goldberg and said, "We are up against it, Gary.
"There's only one guy that can play this part. "
He said, "I'll let Michael read it. If he wants to do it...
"... it's fine with me, as long as you guys understand that Family Ties is always first.
"If there's a conflict between us and you, we win. Family Ties wins. "
So that was the rules.
Of course, when Michael read the script, he flipped for it.
He said, "Try and stop me from being in this movie. "
One of the amazing things about the movie is, of course, the performances.
I was just wondering how much of those performances are in the script...
...and how much of the performances was improvisation by the actors.
I don't like to watch actors improv in movies.
I hate watching actors trying to think up lines while they're acting.
But if they can take the essence of what we wrote and improve it...
- Make it theirs. - Make it theirs. I'm fine with that.
The whole point is that the screenplay is supposed to be this...
...blueprint for the movie.
I've always said that good directing is good casting and good writing.
You cast the right actor, and you've got a good script...
...your directing looks great.
The mannerisms that Crispin Glover has...
...that's what he brought.
He came in to read and he started doing all that stuff with his hands.
We just looked at each other and said, "This guy was probably born to play...
"... George McFly. "
Right. My job as the director, in that case, was the endless...
...throwing the net over Crispin, because...
...he was completely off about 50 percent of the time in his interpretation of the character.
He had bizarre ideas of what the character's wardrobe should look like...
...and what his hair should look like.
Probably the single hardest thing...
...that we had to do in the movie was...
...at the very end, when he comes in as the new George McFly...
...and he looks like a normal, middle-class, American citizen...
...that was pulling teeth to get him to do that.
Crispin thought that when George shows up at the end of the movie...
...he should be wearing gray baggy pants...
...and a sleeveless, tank top T-shirt...
...like some guy in the barrio.
I swear to God, he absolutely...
He did those scenes totally under protest.
That was the second time we filmed them.
We filmed them once and they weren't right.
He actually went around dressed the way Bob just described on the set...
...trying to solicit the crew...
...to say, "Don't you think this is how George should look?"
Nobody on the crew agreed with him.
There's a scene in the cafeteria...
...when he's writing his stories...
...and if you look real close at his performance...
...his face is all red, and his eyes are puffy and bloodshot...
...because Crispin insisted that his hair should be sticking straight up.
The day before, we had shot...
...Michael's side of the scene with his hair down.
It didn't make any sense. "Crispin, I don't understand this. "
He said, "When I write, I think my hair should be straight up. "
I said, "But I don't get that. " He said, "You don't get that?" I said, "No. "
He couldn't explain it.
When Bob said, "It's not going to match with what we...
"... shot yesterday," he said, "Brando never matched. "
That was his answer to that.
Wasn't it difficult for Michael J. Fox to shoot his television series...
...and shoot the movie at the same time? How did he manage?
How could he even function doing that?
He was young.
He was young in those days.
We started shooting with Michael...
...around the first or second week of January, 1985.
I think his show ended shooting...
...about the second or third week of March.
Then we wrapped photography in the third week in April.
We also had the problem of...
...we had to finish everything in the square...
...that was the 1950s, because we had to turn it...
...around to the 1980s, so we actually shot...
...the daytime scenes on the back lot, on the weekends.
So Michael didn't even get to sleep on the weekends...
...because the only time we could get him for a full day of light...
...was on Saturday and Sunday...
...at great expense, because everyone's working platinum time on Sunday to shoot.
He didn't sleep hardly at all during that whole...
...ten to twelve-week period that we were making the movie.
How did you go about selecting Christopher Lloyd...
...to play the character of Doc Brown?
Neil Canton worked with Christopher Lloyd...
...on Buckaroo Banzai.
As I remember, the guy that we first wanted to have...
...play Doc Brown was John Lithgow...
...who also was a veteran of that movie.
He wasn't available, and Neil said, "You guys have got to meet Christopher Lloyd. "
Chris came in.
Didn't say a word, just sat in the office.
But he looked at us with those eyes...
...and we said, "That's Dr. Emmett Brown. "
As a matter of fact, Chris never...
...said a word. I never had a conversation with him the entire movie.
Chris is so shy that...
...I'd just say, "All right, Chris...
"... we're going to hang you in a harness, up on the thing.
"The camera will be here. You're going to hang from the clock.
"There will be lightning and wind. " He would go, "Okay. "
It took this entire movie for Chris to warm up to me enough...
...for us to have conversations in the following movies.
Chris would just say, "Okay. "
The amazing thing about him is that he would be different every time.
Every take he'd do something a little different.
You never exactly knew what it would be, but it was always right.
He created such latitude with this character...
...that we always had an embarrassment of riches in the editing room.
He'd just do some crazy thing with his eyes on one line and one take...
...and then he'd do something else in another take.
It was always a tough decision to say which of these moments we would use.
He was always wonderful, and it was good for the other actors.
It was especially good for Michael J. Fox...
...because Chris kept surprising him.
So he was able to react a little bit differently in each scene...
...in each take, and that kept his performance fresh.
It kept him on his toes when he might have...
...preferred to go into his trailer to take a nap.
You've got to love Chris. Somebody asked a question earlier about...
...what happens... How does a performance get designed?
For example, I think Chris is 6'4"...
...6'2", and Michael is not that tall.
You've gotta love Chris, because Chris does the whole movie...
...hunched over, so I could keep them both in frame.
Chris did the whole performance like this: "Marty!"
He did that for me, because otherwise...
...I couldn't keep these guys in frame.
He just kept himself in frame for me...
...and made the character live that way.
The other thing I remember is...
...Chris absolutely would never let you know what he was going to do...
...until the camera was rolling.
He would only ever do a rehearsal...
...or a camera blocking, literally...
...at quarter speed.
He would stumble through his lines, and he would have the script pages with him...
...so then when we would say, "Roll!"...
...he was nowhere where the camera operator could find him in frame.
Basically, I just started rolling the camera...
...all the time, telling everybody:
"We don't know what's going to happen, but it will be good. "
The only way to get a full-speed rehearsal...
...is to roll film. It was a thing Chris had about that.
Did you always have a sequel in mind...
...because, of course, at the end of Back to the Future...
...Doc Brown comes back in the car?
No. I've said in this other documentary...
...if we were planning for a sequel, I wouldn't have put the girl in the car.
- The ending was a joke. - It was a joke.
It was a joke: "Something's got to be done about your kids. "
We had no idea whether this movie would make a dime.
We would have been happy if it had just barely broke even...
...because our other movies lost money.
We didn't know that anybody would have any interest in seeing this picture.
The characters go riding off into the sunset. That's the end of the movie.
What were you looking for when you were casting the role of Biff?
Interestingly, there's a character in the gang with a crewcut...
...who's credited as "Skinhead. " His name is J.J. Cohen.
He was somebody we were very seriously considering...
...to play Biff. He came in and just knocked us out.
He didn't have the physical presence. Playing against Eric Stoltz...
...you would have never believed that he could push Eric Stoltz around.
If Michael J. Fox had been in the movie at that time...
...J.J. Cohen might have ended up being Biff, because he would have been...
...four or five inches taller than him.
We wanted somebody that had...
...a real physical presence...
...and Tom Wilson is a big guy.
Absolutely nothing like the character of Biff.
Just the sweetest, most gentle guy in the world.
He says that when he was a kid, he got picked on...
...and that's where he drew his inspiration for what he did.
Can you make comments about Lea Thompson...
...and working with her on the film?
Lea was just so great and wonderful and sweet...
...and she did everything she was told and never gave us any problems.
Like a dream. She would just work and do it perfect every take.
She was just absolutely fantastic.
We can't tell great Lea Thompson stories...
Because there are none.
She was a director's dream. Always on time, always knew her lines.
Always did it right.
Actually, something we should talk about is that...
...one of the important decisions that we made in the movie...
...was using young actors to play themselves old.
At the time, there were executives that thought...
...maybe we should find actors that looked like them...
...to play them older.
We went through quite a lot of makeup tests to prove that...
...it could be done this way. Normally, certainly at that time...
...this wasn't done. You didn't take an 18-year-old or 22-year-old...
...actor, and put makeup on them and make them look like they were 47.
So we did a lot of extensive makeup tests...
...with Ken Chase, we hired. He'd done all the prosthetic makeup on Roots.
Ken always told us that it would have been easier for him...
...if he were making these 18-year-olds...
...look like they were 75 instead of 45.
Then he could have put full makeup on all over their face...
...but he had to create these appliances so the actual face of the actor...
...would be able to move, and everybody didn't look like they had too much Botox.
It's a tribute to all the cast...
...that they were able to create things in their performance...
...that made you buy them at age 47.
It wasn't just the makeup, it was their posture and their body language...
...and their wardrobe, of course.
Can you tell us about working with Dean Cundey, your director of photography...
...and Larry Paull, the production designer on Back to the Future?
I had worked with both Dean and Larry...
...on Romancing the Stone, and got along with them great.
The design of the movie, basically...
The thing we started with was the town square.
We wanted to make this cynical statement about what...
...it used to look like, and what it looks like now.
That was a lot of fun to do...
...and to be able to just take it from there.
We actually considered shooting that on location, remember?
- Right. - We scouted Petaluma.
We went to Petaluma, which is where Joe Dante made Explorers...
...which came out a couple weeks before our movie did in 1985.
It had this great look to it, but when we started realizing...
...all the headaches we would have trying to change...
...the light fixtures, the street lighting...
...everything, every business that had to be bought out...
...to change a modern-day town and take it back 30 years...
It ended up that it was pointless to do anything except shoot it on the back lot.
In terms of the car...
...Michael J. Fox talks about how demonic that car was.
Do you have any memories about how difficult it was to work with it as a prop?
Oh, yeah, it was a terrible car. The frame is plastic.
They had a four-cylinder Volvo engine in that model DeLorean.
It didn't have any pickup at all.
It was impossible to shoot around.
We had to cut one apart because it was too small to get a camera in.
So all the scenes that we have inside...
...the DeLorean, where Michael is sitting in there and driving it...
...were a process done on the stage. We actually had to...
...cut the car apart so we could pull the back wall out and get the camera in there.
Yes, but all movie cars are like that.
As soon as you bring a picture car...
...on the set, it just doesn't start.
Or it runs out of gas. It never fails.
It's just one of those curses. I've never had it not happen.
One of the problems that we had a lot was...
...and nobody would have ever thought of this one...
...we'd be shooting outside on the back lot, and at night...
...it got cold out there. It was winter when we were shooting it.
The way that the DeLorean gull-wing doors stayed up was...
...there were these little gas-jet things, like you use to open up a door.
When we left the door open for a while...
...the gas would condense in the cold...
...and the door would start to drop down in the middle of a take.
Finally, in between takes, we had the special effects crew out there...
...with portable hair dryers...
...and they were in there heating up those valves...
...heating up that gas so that the car door would stay open through an entire take.
ILM did the special visual effects for all three movies.
Obviously, they were in their early days at the time you made the first picture.
I was just wondering if you had any concern at the time...
...about some of the visual effects that had to be done to the picture.
There's no digital work.
Everything was optical.
There's only about 30 shots in the whole movie.
Everyone sees it as a big special effects movie, but...
...there weren't that many shots. In those days, everything had to be a lock-off.
They had this little Vista Vision camera that could only run...
...a minute of film.
That was real old-fashioned optical stuff from the early days of Star Wars.
That's what everything was.
The car at the end was a miniature...
...that they made move just like they did the spaceships in Star Wars...
...on an articulated arm.
They had a motion-controlled camera...
...they had up at ILM with a green screen and a blue screen.
Just all the old optical work.
We never saw a decent optical until about...
...a week before the picture had to be turned over to negative cutting.
We were terrified, because this was the first time we'd ever worked with ILM.
We would get these comps down, and they would be terrible.
Bob would have these frantic conversations with Ken Ralston...
...about why this didn't look right, and why this didn't look right...
...and would it even be possible to get it in time.
There's the one shot that still doesn't work...
...Ken just couldn't get the one where...
...you see his eye through his hand.
That's the imperfection that we put in there for...
We didn't want to insult Allah.
It's a movie, so it's perfect enough.
ILM worked on all three movies.
Obviously, when Back to the Future was made, they were in their earlier days.
I'm wondering if you had any concerns about some of the work...
...that had to be done in the movie, in terms of visual effects.
In the shots of Chris on the clock tower, you can see the cable on his harness.
Which would be an insult...
...if I paid $9 to go see Spiderman and I actually saw...
...a cable in the shot. There's no excuse for that now.
But, in those days, there was no way to remove it.
That was the best-played piece of performance.
This movie would be so easy to make now.
Can you imagine how I would have done the town square?
I would have just painted it in.
I would've had huge buildings. And then, when I went back...
...to the '80s, it would've been so completely different.
I wouldn't have had to do it all physically.
I could have made it better, if I had digital technology.
Movies have always been this technical thing.
It all, ultimately, comes back to the script and the imagination of the filmmaker.
The digital stuff is just a tool.
Being a director and a screenwriter...
...was there a particular scene that you were excited about...
...going in and directing?
Did that scene come out exactly the way you had imagined it?
I just couldn't believe how lucky I was...
...on the day we shot Michael walking into the town square...
...for the first time, because I had those great cumulus clouds in the sky.
If I was doing the movie today, I just would have painted all those in.
The sky would have looked perfect. But it was, "I can't believe...
"... how lucky we were to have that sky. "
- That was a great thing. - So, you have those, or...
...there's millions of times in this movie, where the actor...
...will do something you never imagined, and you go, "Wow!
"I never thought I'd ever see an actor do a reading like that, or hear that. "
Those are the gems. But, as far as...
...my work, it's always just compromise.
It's always less than I ever imagined it.
I always have to go in and say:
"We'll piece this together. We'll figure out a way to make it work, somehow.
"If we had another day, it could have really been great. "
That's how I come away from everything.
In this movie, we did have the unusual circumstance of actually...
...getting to redo a couple of those scenes.
We did make them a little bit better.
They were also angst-ridden, because once you go back, you feel...
...you're compelled to make it better.
That's why, any time you re-shoot, it's always a pain...
...because you're going, "Oh, no. I've got to make it better now. "
There's nothing worse than re-shooting.
Michael J. Fox would go crazy because...
...we'd have these conversations, "When we did this scene before... "
He'd go, "Damn it. I never did this scene before. "
Some scenes I shot...
...exactly the way I shot it with Eric.
Completely, camera in the same place.
Other times, I was able to go back and say:
"We can improve this by doing this. "
And the best thing is, you get to...
The advantage of going back and redoing stuff, is you know what you don't need.
"Let's not waste our time doing that.
"That wide-angle, we're never going to use it. " So that was helpful.
Can you comment on the editing of the film?
Was it as frantic as the shooting, in terms of schedule...
...and are there any deleted scenes?
I was coming into the editing room about two hours before the call.
So I'd go and I'd edit, and then I'd...
Because we were shooting nights, I'd edit, then I'd go see dailies...
...and then I'd start to work.
I think the editing rooms were trailers near the back lot.
Toward the end, I'd just get in a golf cart and zip over and they'd look at it.
Look at a scene, give them my notes.
We had to put two editors on, because we had to have this accelerated...
...release. Because, when did we wrap?
We wrapped, I think, on April 20.
- And the movie came out on... - July 3.
So nine and a half weeks from when we wrapped, the movie was in the theater.
This movie ruined postproduction schedules in Hollywood.
Because nobody thought this was even possible.
And at the point when we changed actors...
...Universal was resigned to the fact that the movie probably wouldn't come out...
...until the middle of August now.
So, we were kind of thinking that...
...we'd have a release date in the middle of August.
And then we had this dynamite sneak preview.
And Mr. Sheinberg sees the movie with this audience and they go nuts.
And the visual effects weren't finished...
...and the last shot was in black and white. It was still rough.
But the audience just got it, and got it big time.
And he pulled us aside, and he said:
"Is it possible? What will we have to do...
"... to get this movie out for the Fourth of July weekend?"
And we said, "Write some checks. "
And he said, "Okay, whatever it costs, do it. "
And we actually had sound crews working 24 hours a day.
In the Hitchcock Theater, where we were doing the mix...
...we had a pre-dub crew working the graveyard shift.
They'd start work at 8:00 p. m. And go home at 7:00 a. m.
And then we'd come in at 8:00 a. M...
...and mix the picture with the tracks that they had pre-dubbed the night before.
So that was insane.
Bob Gale, can you tell us a little more about those sneak previews?
Any surprises after the first one?
The first sneak preview... We had two sneak previews.
The first one was in San Jose, and we didn't invite the studio to that one.
One of the advantages of having Steven Spielberg as your executive producer...
...is you can close the door on people that you don't want there.
We didn't want their feedback yet. We didn't want the studio...
...to give their feedback. We wanted to hear what the audience had to say.
One of the things that...
The movie had gotten no publicity.
Back then, there was no Internet, there was no advance word about anything.
Here we had a recruited audience that only knew they were seeing a movie...
...that had Michael J. Fox, who they knew from Family Ties...
...and Christopher Lloyd from Taxi...
...and it was a comedy, and they didn't even know what it was about.
They didn't even know it was about time travel.
So when the DeLorean came out of the truck, they didn't know what it was.
And, I remember, when Doc does his time-travel experiment with Einstein...
...and the car and the dog disappear.
This very nervous thing happened in the audience...
...where people thought that something bad might have happened to that dog.
They were real worried about that.
There was a big sigh of relief when the dog comes back and he's okay.
And I remember that the point in that screening where they got it...
...was when Marty sees his father in the cafe...
...in that scene where Biff and those guys come in and start harassing: "Hey, McFly. "
At that point, you knew they were totally with it...
...and they completely went with it.
We cut six or seven minutes out of the picture after that screening.
And that was the last time that ever happened.
That people didn't know it was a time-travel movie.
Once they knew it was a time-travel movie...
...and the word got out it was about a kid who meets his parents...
...a lot of the stuff at the beginning...
...played differently than it did with a completely cold audience.
And, of course, no one was ever again worried about the dog.
Can you tell us a little bit about Steven Spielberg?
What is he like to work with on a day-to-day basis...
...in production and postproduction? Was he very hands-on?
With me, Steven's great.
Steven's a director, so he doesn't ask you to do insane things.
He's always respected my vision as a director.
I can't speak for other directors, but for me...
...he's never meddled in the process anywhere.
Tell them the story about how Steven was so concerned about the score.
- Remember that? - For this movie?
Bob had worked with Al Silvestri on Romancing the Stone.
And Steven wasn't that enamored with the score of Romancing the Stone.
And he made no bones about making that clear.
And he thought we needed somebody who could do a more...
...John Williams kind of a score.
And he was always paranoid about what the score was going to be.
So, in that first preview...
...we had a mixture of temp music...
...and we'd had the first two days of scoring.
So we had some of the real score cut into the movie.
So one of Al's cues came on during the sneak...
...and Steven says to Bob, "That's what your score should sound like. "
And Bob said, "That is the score, Steven. "
Yeah, right, I remember that.
Steven's always trying to do what's right for you and the movie.
And you just have to sometimes...
You just have to cherry-pick his ideas.
Because sometimes he'll have really good ideas...
...and sometimes he's not making the movie you're making.
So, it's like...
...he's just another opinion in the mix.
Bob has a theory. He says:
"If one person says something, that's their opinion.
"If two people say the same thing, probably millions of people will agree. "
So, if one person said, "I don't like that"...
...and somebody else said, "I like that, I didn't like this"...
...and there's a difference of opinion about everything...
...we'd just shrug our shoulders and say, "Let's not worry about that. "
But if two or three people kept saying:
"That thing where Biff does this really bothers me. "
Then we'd look at that and say, "Maybe there's a problem with that. "
Did you guys have any concerns, and what was the reaction before the movie came out?
We had two previews in theaters...
...and one on the studio lot.
There was a controversy about that, too, because...
...they had just built the Hitchcock Theater...
...and supposedly it was cursed.
Meaning that any movie that ever played in the Hitchcock...
"If the movie is a comedy, never play it at the Hitchcock...
"... because nothing plays in the Hitchcock Theater.
"Everything we ever screened there is... "
I remember Sid got up and said...
We turned to him, and we said, "So much for the curse of the Hitchcock Theater. "
And Sid says, "The curse of the Hitchcock Theater has been shitty movies. "
And the other thing was, we developed the original screenplay at Columbia.
And Steven originally developed E.T. At Columbia.
So when the lights came on after Sid saw the movie, he said:
"I get the best stuff from Columbia Pictures!"
It was something like that.
I remember that I got...
...incredibly, almost paralyzed with fear...
...when I had all these good previews.
Because I understood that the movies...
...I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars also had tremendous previews.
And it didn't mean anything. It's two different worlds.
There are so many wonderful movies that are made...
...and they're great, and they work, but nobody wants to go see them.
So I was really terrified...
...that they weren't going to be able to open this movie.
I was just terrified that...
...the movie might not find its audience.
But then, I also remember...
...that I didn't like the TVspots.
And I realized on making this movie that...
...that's an art form that I don't understand...
...and I should just butt out of the marketing...
...I forget who it was, but whoever cut the TVspot...
Every single piece of marketing material...
...had that one line of Michael Fox's in there where he said:
"Are you telling me that my mother has the hots for me?"
And I thought the way you sell this movie is with all my effects...
...and my action.
But they saw the movie and they said, "This is what the spot should be. "
And that one line was in everything, and there was something about that.
They understood that that's what people would come in for.
Seeing Michael J. Fox say that was the whole campaign.
For me, the first time that I thought maybe we might have something happening...
We shot the exterior of the high school stuff down at Whittier High School.
And one night, we were shooting the dance stuff...
...and word got out that Michael J. Fox was in this movie...
...and suddenly we had kids lined up...
...seven-deep, trying to catch a glimpse of Michael J. Fox.
That never happened to us before on any movie we'd done...
...and we said, "Wow! This guy's really a star. "
We didn't realize how big a star you can be from being in a hit TVseries.
And Michael was unavailable to do any promotion.
I remember that, because Sid was angry about that.
"So we've got the star of this movie, and we can't even put him on TV!"
...on top of anything else, with Family Ties...
...they decided they were going to shoot an entire season in Europe.
- Like Family Ties Goes to Europe. - Goes to London. Yeah.
And that was the summer the movie opened.
So Michael wasn't around to A: Enjoy all the insanity of the success of the movie...
...and B: He wasn't around to promote the movie.
He just kept hearing on the phone that the movie's a success.
Do you remember good reviews? Bad reviews?
Were you concerned about reviews or even paying attention?
The reviews? No.
There were some...
We got a lot of good reviews but some people didn't like it.
That's what makes the world go round.
If you start worrying about that, you can really make yourself insane.
I remember Steve Martin, I saw him do an interview once where he said:
"The critics who...
"... give my movies good reviews are insightful, wonderful, genius people...
"... and those who give my movies bad reviews are worthless scum. "
At what point did you guys realize that not only did you have a hit...
...but you had a mega hit?
And how did it change your life and career?
Second weekend, the box-office gross was higher than the opening weekend.
You don't see that anymore.
When the movie was released, we were only in 1,100 or 1,200 theaters.
And I think our opening box-office gross was $10 million for the weekend...
...which was big.
And, in fact, that summer, 11 out of 12 weeks...
...from when the movie was released, it was the number one movie in America.
One weekend we got knocked out by National Lampoon...
...some National Lampoon movie.
Our big concern was that we were going to get clobbered...
...by the Mad Max...
...Road Warrior, Beyond the Thunderdome.
- Right. - I remember. Oh, that was going to be it.
And we rolled right over them.
So we were really excited about that.
What's interesting about this movie was...
...I went to a couple of theaters to watch it play...
...with the public.
And people, when Michael got back...
...and he did that thing with his family...
Everyone assumed that the movie was over, and some people started to leave...
...and then they would come running back in...
...because the movie was still going.
Because we had so many different endings on this movie...
...that people were trying to guess the endings, and, of course, they were wrong.
Can you explain how you stay in tune with the popular culture, what's going on?
Is that awareness important to you and is it part of your creative process?
The awareness is that it's a constant sort of anxiety and fear...
...because you don't know why it is, and when it's going to go away.
And you look around and see it happening to other filmmakers all over the place.
And the landscape of everything...
...is changing so dramatically.
But I just keep asking myself the two questions which are:
"Do I want to go see this movie?"
And, "Do I think anybody else wants to go see it?"
Because that's the best I can do, and it's really out of my control.
We find that if you try to second-guess the audience too much...
...you're going to shoot yourself in the head.
There's plenty of movies where...
...you see that somebody in the studio is saying, "Oh, this is hot right now.
"We've got to put Britney Spears in a movie. " Or whoever it is.
Whoever's hot, or whatever the big thing is has to be in the movie.
And it's a bad idea...
...because it's not true to somebody's vision.
Yeah, one studio executive, when we were trying to make this movie...
...going back to the early days, you know...
...again, I won't mention his name, but he said:
"Look. Time-travel movies never work.
"They just don't work. "
That's what he said.
The Back to the Future trilogy was a huge success, of course.
I'm wondering if there were any times where you had creative differences...
...when you were working together on the films.
We truly respect each other's talent and opinion.
What happens when we'll have a difference of opinion about something...
...instead of believing that one of us is right and the other one is wrong...
...I'll say, "What is it about this that bothers you?"
He'll start explaining it, so that I can try to get inside his head and figure it out.
Generally what would happen is that we would come up with something brand-new...
...that was better than what my original idea was...
...or what his idea was. That's true collaboration.
You get a synthesis and...
...instead of two plus two equals four, it equals eight.
There is something about that, that I think a movie like Back to the Future...
...which is a movie that really benefits from...
...the writers being a team.
When you have a collaboration like mine and Bob's, whatever that is...
...because it does work.
Another thing that it has is...
...there's no ego involved.
When one of us comes up with a great idea...
...the other person says, "That's a really great idea. "
That goes right into the script.
Why I think it's good for pop movies like this is because...
...we're able to temper each other's own indulgences.
So we don't get self-indulgent, like you can when you're writing.
You don't have somebody there killing your darlings...
...or calling you on it. It gets very self-indulgent.
You say, "This scene is going on forever. Cut this stuff out. "
You're making mass entertainment...
...so you might as well be collaborating.
It's not something that's like a poem...
...where it's supposed to be just your...
...emotional vision. - Your vision.
You're already bringing in actors...
...and technicians, and all these other people...
...to help you realize a vision, so...
...all filmmaking is collaborative, all the way through.
Bring each other into it, and bring the audience in that way.
At the end of the day, we want the movie to work for an audience.
What's the point if nobody's going to go see it?
Or if they go see it and they don't get it?
Make sure that they get it.
Can you tell us about the music, how you went about choosing it...
...not just the score, but also the actual songs.
Huey Lewis and the News was such a big part of the movie.
Johnny B. Goode was always in the original script.
There was no second choice. It had to be Johnny B. Goode.
That turned out to be the most expensive piece of music in the movie.
We were thinking, "We've got a movie that's got...
"... teens in it. We've got to have a record on the radio. "
From the beginning, we knew we wanted to have...
...a signature song that we could get on the radio.
Alan said, "You've got to hear this guy, Huey Lewis. "
Al Silvestri. And I said, "Okay. " I didn't know.
The Sports album had just come out.
We called them, and they were very enthusiastic to get involved.
They wrote a song that wasn't right.
I brought Huey into the editing room...
...and I showed him the cut scene.
This was during this insane postproduction.
I think I cut I Want a New Drug to it.
Just to give him an idea, when Michael blasts out of the Doc's thing on a skateboard.
Huey said, "I get this. You want a major song. We've got to do a song in a major key. "
That was it. He went off and wrote Power of Love.
I remember when Neil Canton called me, and he said:
"I just found out Power of Love," this is two weeks before the movie came out...
"... is going on the radio in heavy rotation. "
I said, "Great. " We had to send all the field people...
...out to all the radio stations to remind them to say:
"From the movie Back to the Future. "
The studio always wants the song to be the title of the movie.
Huey Lewis said, "I can't work that way. I've got to just write the song...
"... that is going to be right for it. "
Then he decided to write the second song. We only asked him to write one.
They wrote the second song, and we put that in there.
I think it was the only number one single that Huey ever did.
It was some big breakthrough record for these guys, even after the album.
And it got nominated for an Academy Award.
It was great.
All the DJs were saying, "From the movie Back to the Future. "
It was just one of those things where all the...
...synergy all came together.
The plan came together.
Bob Zemeckis, I was wondering if you could tell us...
...how you feel about the movie, looking back at it today.
Other than there being some sloppy stuff in the movie...
...from a technical standpoint. I was watching that early remote head...
...and I hadn't seen this movie on the big screen...
...since it came out.
I'm sitting there and I'm watching in the...
...dance scene, we had this terrible remote head called...
...the "hot head," and you could see it jerking. I'm going, "Oh, man. "
Nowadays, all that stuff is perfect.
I don't know if I'd be doing this comedy...
...that broad kind of comedy.
Maybe, if the script is right, maybe I will. I don't know.
- It's a pretty good movie, actually. - It's pretty good.
I don't know if we've grown as screenwriters from this.
This is the best thing we've ever written.
It's a pretty terrific screenplay.
We're always flattered that we hear it's used in...
...classes, as a quintessential example...
...of how you set stuff up, and how you pay it off.
All that stuff works. Those are tried and true...
...rules of storytelling, and we made them work.
That's the nice thing of having the writers be the filmmakers...
...when the director totally gets the script because he wrote it.
We start talking about Sid Sheinberg a lot.
When the movie came out, he said, "That screenplay is like a Swiss watch. "
He's right. There is not a single...
...frame of that movie that isn't...
...doing what they told us we're supposed to do in film school:
Advance plot or character. It's really economical, this movie.
Can you discuss the deleted scenes...
...that were in the movie and were taken out prior to the release?
God, I don't remember.
I know what they are, because we pulled them out to put them on the DVD.
The Darth Vader scene was a whole lot longer.
- Right. But that was just shortened. - That was shortened.
That was two minutes longer.
Everything was pretty much lifts.
There was a scene where Doc Brown...
...in the '50s, opens up the suitcase that we see him put in there.
He's going through all of his personal belongings...
...and he wants to know, "What's this thing?" And he pulls out this hairdryer.
He's got this fixation on underwear, so he pulls out this pair of underpants...
...and he's disappointed that they're cotton...
...and that the underwear of the future isn't made out of paper.
We had a little scene where...
...as a stall to get...
...George McFly out to the car...
...the kid in the red hair...
...that cuts in at the dance, locks him in a phone booth.
When he looks at the clock, to see what time it is...
...he decides he'd better be sure and calls...
...the time and temperature to find out exactly what time it is...
...and ends up being locked in the phone booth.
That turned out to be a scene that we didn't need.
How'd he get out?
We showed Strickland coming over and saying: "See what happens to slackers, McFly?"
We filmed them letting him out, but we didn't ever use it.
You'd see him come out and knew that Strickland must have let him out.
This is how dangerous it is, how you can get so self-destructive.
We almost cut the whole Johnny B. Goode scene out of the movie.
- Do you remember this? - Yes.
It was the eleventh hour, and it was because of this thing:
It's the only place in the movie...
...where the storyline stops.
For Michael to do this performance.
I actually had Artie lift it, and I looked at the movie without it...
...and it worked okay, and then Artie, my editor, said:
"Why don't we leave it in for the preview?"
These things are scary, what happens.
You lose your focus, and you're thinking:
"Maybe I should make the movie shorter. " And, "It doesn't advance anything.
"It's fun to watch this, but... "
Once the audience went crazy, then, you know.
It's really a shame that we can't preview anymore, because...
...previews are so important. You can't because...
...the movie is reviewed on the Internet the next hour.
It's a terrible tool that's been destroyed. It's so important to be able to do that.
One of the end sequences, with Doc in the car, uses fusion.
It is a contemporary concept now, but how did you know about it then?
We knew about that. We read about that.
Fusion was something that everybody's been experimenting with.
I think about six or eight months after the movie came out...
...was when those scientists in Utah claimed that they had figured out cold fusion.
That was all over the news for four or five months, until...
...nobody could replicate those experiments.
It turned out they didn't know what they were doing.
We actually got a letter from the Defense Department...
...when the movie came out. They wanted to know what we knew...
...about fusion power.
- Very scary, kids. - The government, that's how it works.
The sneak previews went pretty well, and, obviously...
...there was great potential for the movie, but were you still...
...concerned somehow that the movie would lose money and not turn a profit?
It's the studio's money, and the way we rationalize it is, we say:
"The studio has decided that it's worth...
"... $20 million to them to make this movie. "
We're going to realize it as best we can...
...but they pushed the button and said we're going...
...to write this check against this movie and hope that it works.
Otherwise, you'd drive yourself crazy.
You have better odds if you took your $20 million, went to Las Vegas...
...and put the $20 million on the come line at the crap table.
Your odds are better than making money on a movie.
That's the business we've chosen, so...
...there's nothing we can do. We have to do this gambling.
You have a little more control, because you do actually make the movie yourself.
But, as far as the odds of what movies make money and what movies don't...
...most movies actually lose money.
Bob Zemeckis, at the time you were developing this screenplay...
...your name was attached to the project as director.
Was that a plus in getting the project made?
Before I made Romancing the Stone, it was a hindrance...
...and after I made Romancing the Stone, it was a help.
But the script was the same.
The script was the same, but nobody ever read the script and said:
"We'd like to give this script to this other director to make. "
Because nobody liked the script.
All these rejection letters that Bob has in his archives...
...we got 42 or 44 of them from studios and different producers.
It wasn't like anybody was calling us up and saying:
"I'll do anything to make that script Back to the Future. "
There wasn't anybody that was interested.
That wasn't a decision that we ever had to wrestle with.
Bob was going to direct the movie, end of conversation.
Before Romancing the Stone, I was getting the worst possible reputation...
...which is: His movies are good, but they don't make any money.
Man, that was the kiss of death.
Bob Zemeckis, you mentioned earlier...
...that you noticed a few flaws in the movie...
...things that the average viewer would not catch. What is your take on that?
That's just me seeing all the little flaws.
That's the way it is. I look at movies that I love and I think they're perfect.
Then I talk to the filmmakers and they don't know what I'm talking about.
It's always the same in all the arts. A painter will look at his painting...
...and he'll look at that tree limb that he never got right.
That's the only thing he'll focus on. When everybody else...
...is looking at the whole canvas, saying, "What a great painting. "
I don't think you'll ever find a director that...
...will say, "I made the perfect movie. "
If they do say that, the movie is probably a complete piece of junk.
At the end of Back to the Future...
...Marty returns to a new and improved 1985.
Was it always written that way?
Yeah. It was 1985.
You've got to look at that ending in historical context.
It was a very '80s ending.
The fact that things changed for the better...
...as a result of his actions, was always something that...
It's the story of a kid who teaches his father how to be a man.
Yes, but things changed for the better, they were material things.
They were possessions. He had a truck.
His father had a BMW.
But his father is a successful author. Come on.
Yeah, but it was the '80s.
It's interesting. There were a couple of reviews that came out of Europe...
...that keyed in on the blatant idea that...
...how can these filmmakers equate this kind of happiness...
...with material possessions?
But not a single critic, that I remember, talked about it in America.
There's a lot of product placement in the movie.
Was this meant to be a direct slam against the materialistic attitude that we had in the '80s?
In terms of creating an image of the past...
...one of the ways that you create the past is through brand names.
We made a conscious effort...
...to find products that had a different logo in the past...
...so that we could use those.
It used to be, in the '60s or the '70s...
...they'd make a movie, and a car would pull into a gas station...
...and there would be no name on the gas station.
We would say, "That's ridiculous. It has to be...
"Somebody owns that gas station. It's some brand of gasoline. "
Put the brand in there, that makes it real.
There was a product placement department at the studio that had just gotten started...
...and they were trying to cram all kinds of stuff at us.
We would nix anything that didn't work too well.
Shell gasoline, for example...
...would have paid more for a placement than Texaco did...
...but Shell didn't change their logo.
So Texaco was the perfect gas station...
...because, how different a Texaco station looked in the '50s, compared to the '80s.
The same with Pepsi versus Coke.
A Coke bottle in the '50s and a Coke bottle in the '80s were the same...
...but a Pepsi logo was completely different.
When we talk about the sequels, we'll tell you all the product placement horror stories.
Nobody cares about product placement until they know the movie...
...is going to be a hit. That's one problem with sequels.
There is one story I've got to tell you.
The product placement department hired this real sleazy guy.
A lot of these product placement guys are sleazy...
...because they try to figure out how to graft these corporations...
...and make these ridiculous promises.
So he made this deal with the California Raisin Board...
...that Back to the Future was going to do for raisins...
...what E. T. Did for Reese's Pieces.
They came to me with this proposal to put raisins in the movie.
I'm saying, "What brand? Sun-Maid Raisins?"No. Just raisins.
"Can't you have a bowl of raisins at the dance?"
I'm going, "A bowl of raisins looks like a bowl of dirt.
"How is that going to photograph?"
If we can't put a brand name somewhere...
They had taken $50,000 from the California Raisin Board...
...for this placement that wasn't going to happen in the movie.
Finally, what we gave them was...
...the bum on the bench in 1985, when the DeLorean comes back at the end...
...it says "California Raisins" on that bus bench.
That was what came out of that deal.
When the California Raisin Board saw it, they were livid.
I didn't realize at the time they'd already actually paid the money.
They told the studio they were going to sue them...
...and the lawyer at the studio called me and asked me about it.
I said, "You'd better settle and give them back their money...
"... because I'd be happy to be a witness for them. "
Because of the way they'd just tried to...
...force this on us, and we weren't going to do it.
So the California Raisin Board ended up not paying for that exposure.
The lesson I learned on this, in the subsequent sequels...
...was never do product placement. Ever. Anymore.
The only real way to do product placement is to get permission and then get cooperation.
If you're going to do Texaco, and they give you signs...
...and uniforms and stuff, that you don't have to make.
That's the only way. I never take money anymore, because...
...you've got another creative person. - You've got another producer...
...that's saying, "What am I getting for my money?"
Product placement just isn't worth it.
You've touched on it throughout this whole discussion, but I'm just wondering...
...if you could tell us what was your favorite part of making this film.
My favorite part of making this film was writing it.
The actual making of the movie, I don't remember any good times.
Seeing the movie work when it was finally put up on the screen...
...that was a thrill. But the actual shooting of the movie was just...
...survival. It was cold.
I remember never having enough sleep, always being half-asleep.
I was the most unhealthy I ever was when I made this movie.
I was the fattest, and the most...
...out of shape and sick that I ever was, making this movie.
So, I guess, the writing and the finishing were the favorite parts.
And the actual shooting was just survival.
I think the best moment I had on the set was Michael J. Fox's first day.
When he walked in front of the camera and he started doing the scene...
...and I just felt, "Thank God. That's Marty McFly.
"It's gonna work now. It's gonna work. "
Kind of along the same lines, about your expectations with the actors...
...you said you were very happy with the performances.
But would you say that they exceeded your expectations?
Yeah, they're brilliant.
This is one of those movies where everybody is on the same page.
Once Michael came into the movie, it was like everything just gelled together.
Everybody just got the tone of what the humor of this movie should be.
All the performances around Michael were better.
Lea was fine with Eric Stoltz, and Chris was fine, but...
...when Michael J. Fox was working with them, it just supercharged it.
It just went into the stratosphere.
If you talk to actors, they'll talk about...
...give and take and how important it is to be playing a scene with somebody...
...that gives back something for them to work from.
And that was always what was happening.
I would say, honestly, they're better than I thought they could ever be.
I've been fortunate to work with so many great actors...
...that it's always better than I ever imagined.
It really is. It really, truly is.
How much control did you have over the final cut?
That's the final cut.
You know, I've never had any of these final cut problems.
Never, ever, once in my entire career have I ever had to have a struggle...
...over the cut of the picture.
Now, of course, I contractually have final cut in everything that I do.
But even in the early days...
...I didn't have final cut, but nobody wanted to tamper with it.
You know, I really believe that...
...most studio executives don't want to do the filmmaker's work.
And it becomes more of a personality clash...
...than it has anything to do with the movie when you have these issues about final cut.
I've never had anyone ever try to take the movie away...
...on any movie I've ever made.
Are you making any changes to the movie for the DVD?
Taking out, for example, the wires that you mentioned.
The ones we see in the clock tower scene.
I hate that.
I don't think you should ever do that. That would be like...
That's like colorizing a movie, a black-and-white movie.
- It is what it is. - Warts and all.
I don't get this adding scenes back in and re-cutting the movie.
I don't get that at all.
It should be the way it was.
At that moment in time, this is the movie and this is the way it was, and...
...that, I think, is what it's supposed to be.
For those of you that have only seen the movie on home video...
...on the video it says, "To be continued" at the end.
You didn't see that here. That was never on the theatrical release.
It won't be on the DVD.
We only put that on the video as a way of telling the world...
...that there was going to be a sequel.
So, if anybody says, "That's different," nope.
The film that you saw was a new print made from the original elements.
It's been re-mastered in hi-def and it looks absolutely great.
I supervised the video transfer. But it is the movie that you just saw.
Is the trailer for llI going to be on the end of II?
And the only thing that's different about that is that...
...at the end of that trailer it said, originally, "Coming summer 1990."
And now it doesn't say, "Coming summer 1990."
If you could travel in time, where would you go?
It depends. If I could come back...
...I would go to the future. I mean, I would go to the past.
But if I could only go one way, I would go to the future.
And Bob Gale? Where would you go?
Maybe I'd go back and see what my parents were like in high school.
That would certainly be about the most interesting thing I can think of.
Can you tell us who were some of your major influences...
...when you were making this movie?
Any other writers, directors, that truly inspired you?
The classic American directors.
I mean, I think that the main influences on this movie are definitely...
...you know, Frank Capra and Billy Wilder.
Throw a little John Ford in there when you start getting into the sequels.
But I'd say it's more like a Billy Wilder movie more than anything.
Maybe? But those are the filmmakers that we love.
The classic American filmmakers.
I think we're gonna end on that note.
Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, thank you so much for your time.
This was really, truly an amazing experience. Thanks so much, everybody.
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Battlestar Galactica 01x10 - The Hand of God
Battlestar Galactica 01x11 - Colonial Day
Battlestar Galactica 01x12 - Kobols Last Gleaming Part 1
Battlestar Galactica 01x13 - Kobols Last Gleaming Part 2
Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie
Beast From 20,000 Fathoms The 1953
Beast Within The
Beast of War The
Beating Of The Butterflys Wings The 2000
Beatles Anthology The Episode1
Beatles Anthology The Episode2
Beatles Anthology The Episode3
Beatles Anthology The Episode4
Beatles Anthology The Episode5
Beatles Anthology The Episode6
Beatles Anthology The Episode7
Beatles Anthology The Episode8
Beatles Anthology The Special Features
Beatles The - A Hard Dayss Night
Beatles The First US Visit The
Beau Pere - Stepfather - Bertrand Blier 1981
Beautiful Troublemaker The (1991) CD1
Beautiful Troublemaker The (1991) CD2
Beautiful Troublemaker The (1991) CD3
Beautifull Mind A CD1
Beautifull Mind A CD2
Beauty And The Beast
Beauty and the Beast (Disney Special Platinum Edition)
Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996)
Bedford Incident The
Bedroom Key The CD1
Bedroom Key The CD2
Before Night Falls 2000 CD1
Before Night Falls 2000 CD2
Before Sunset 2004
Behind Enemy Lines 2001
Behind The Sun (Walter Salles 2001)
Being John Malkovich
Being There (1979) CD1
Being There (1979) CD2
Belle Epoque CD1
Belle Epoque CD2
Belle and La Bete La (1946)
Bellinin And The Spynx CD1
Bellinin And The Spynx CD2
Bells Of St Marys The (1945)
Belly Of The Beast
Belly of an Architect The
Bend It Like Beckham
Bend of the River 1952
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Benny and Joon
Best years of our lives 1946
Bet on My Disco
Better Off Dead 1985
Better Than Chocolate
Better Tomorrow 2 A CD1
Better Tomorrow 2 A CD2
Better Tomorrow 3 A
Better Way To Die A
Between Heaven and Hell
Beverly Hillbillies The 1993
Beverly Hills Ninja
Beyond Borders CD1
Beyond Borders CD2
Beyond The Clouds
Bez konca (No End 1985) CD1
Bez konca (No End 1985) CD2
Biches Les (Claude Chabrol 1968)
Bicho de sete cabezas
Big Blue The CD1
Big Blue The CD2
Big Bounce The
Big Chill The
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)
Big Fat Liar
Big Fish 2003
Big Hit The
Big Lebowski The
Big Mommas House
Big Shot - A Confessions of a Campus Bookie 2002
Big Sleep The
Big clock The 1948
Big girls dont cry
Billy Madison 1995
Bingwoo 2004 CD1
Bingwoo 2004 CD2
Bionicle 2 A Legends of Metru-Nui
Bionicle Mask Of Light 2003
Birch Tree Meadow The
Bird People in China The 1998 CD1
Bird People in China The 1998 CD2
Bird on a wire
Bishops Wife The 1947 CD1
Bishops Wife The 1947 CD2
Bite the bullet
Bitter Sugar (Azucar amarga)
BlackAdder 1x1 - The Foretelling
BlackAdder 1x2 - Born to be King
BlackAdder 1x3 - The Archbishop
BlackAdder 1x4 - The Queen of Spains Beard
BlackAdder 1x5 - Witchsmeller Pursuivant
BlackAdder 1x6 - The Black Seal
BlackAdder 2x1 - Bells
BlackAdder 2x2 - Head
BlackAdder 2x3 - Potato
BlackAdder 2x4 - Money
BlackAdder 2x5 - Beer
BlackAdder 2x6 - Chains
BlackAdder 4x1 - Captain Cook
BlackAdder 4x2 - Corporal Punishment
BlackAdder 4x3 - Major Star
BlackAdder 4x4 - Private Plane
BlackAdder 4x5 - General Hospital
BlackAdder 4x6 - Goodbyeee
BlackAdder Christmas Carol 1988
BlackAdder The Cavalier Years
BlackAdder the Third 3x1
BlackAdder the Third 3x2
BlackAdder the Third 3x3
BlackAdder the Third 3x4
BlackAdder the Third 3x5
BlackAdder the Third 3x6
Black Adder V - Back and Forth
Black Hawk Down
Black Mask 2
Black Rain CD1
Black Rain CD2
Black Widow 1987
Black and White (1998)
Blackout The 1997 CD1
Blackout The 1997 CD2
Blade 3 - Trinity
Blade Of Fury
Blade Runner (1982 Original Cut) CD1
Blade Runner (1982 Original Cut) CD2
Blade Runner Directors Cut
Blair Witch Project The
Blame It On Rio
Blast From The Past 1999
Blast from the Past
Blazing Sun (1960) CD1
Blazing Sun (1960) CD2
Bless The Child
Blind Chance (1987) CD1
Blind Chance (1987) CD2
Blind Spot Hitlers Secretary (2002)
Blob The 1988
Blood Wedding (1981)
Blood and Black Lace
Blow 2001 CD1
Blow 2001 CD2
Blow Dry 2001
Blown Away 1994 CD1
Blown Away 1994 CD2
Blue (Derek Jarman)
Blue Collar Comedy Tour The Movie
Blue Max The CD1
Blue Max The CD2
Blue Planet The 1
Blue Planet The 2 - The Deep
Blue Planet The 3 - Open Ocean
Blue Planet The 4 - Frozen Seas
Blue Spring 2001
Blue juice 1995
Blues Brothers The (1980) CD1
Blues Brothers The (1980) CD2
Boat Trip - Feedback Overflow
Bob Le Flambeur 1955
Bob Marley Story - Rebel Music
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
Bone Collector The
Bonnie and Clyde
Book of Fate The
Book of Pooh The
Boondock Saints The
Boot Das 1981 CD1
Boot Das 1981 CD2
Bourne supremacy The-1CD
Boy Who Saw The Wind The
Boys and Girls
Boyz N the Hood
Branca de Neve
Bread and Roses
Breakfast Club The
Breakfast at Tiffanys
Breakin all the rules
Bride with White Hair The
Bridge Man The CD1
Bridge Man The CD2
Broadway Danny Rose
Brother (Takeshi Kitano)
Brother Sun Sister Moon 1972
Brother from Another Planet The 1984
Brotherhood Of The Wolf
Buena Estrella La (Lucky Star)
Bugs Bunny - Baseball Bugs (1946)
Bugs Bunny - Big Top Bunny (1951)
Bugs Bunny - Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942)
Bugs Bunny - Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944)
Bugs Bunny - Bugs and Thugs (1954)
Bugs Bunny - Bully for Bugs (1953)
Bugs Bunny - Frigid Hare (1949)
Bugs Bunny - Hair-Raising Hare (1946)
Bugs Bunny - Haredevil Hare (1948)
Bugs Bunny - Long Haired Hare (1949)
Bugs Bunny - My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (1948)
Bugs Bunny - Rabbits Kin (1952)
Bugs Bunny - Tortoise Wins by a Hare (1943)
Bugs Bunny - Wabbit Twouble (1941)
Bugs Bunny - Water Water Every Hare (1952)
Bugs Bunny - Whats Up Doc (1950)
Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck - Rabbit Fire (1951)
Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck - Rabbit Seasoning (1952)
Bugs Bunny and Elmer - Rabbit of Seville (1950)
Bugs Bunny and Taz - Devil May Hare (1954)
Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam - Ballot Box Bunny (1951)
Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam - Big House Bunny (1950)
Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam - Bunker Hill Bunny (1950)
Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam - High Diving Hare (1949)
Bugs Life A
Bullet in the Head
Bulletproof Monk 2003
Bullets Over Broadway
Bully (Unrated Theatrical Edition)
Burning Paradise (Ringo Lam 1994)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid A Special Edition
Butchers Wife The