"'Back to the Future' is such an entertaining movie because it's got a little bit of everything. It's like somebody brought a big dumpster full of good ideas and backed it up and poured them all through my window, with Bob Zemeckis behind the wheel of the truck."
— STEVEN SPIELBERG
The making of "Back to the Future" may not have put director Robert Zemeckis behind the wheel of a truck, but he did sit behind the wheel of a DeLorean. It was only for a minute, though, for the 34-year-old filmmaker rarely finds the time to sit down at all.
Pacing across the set, framing the next shot between his hands, joking with a crew member or motioning to an actor about his ideas for the next scene, Zemeckis appears to be in constant motion.
"I love working with Bob because he's possessed," says Michael J. Fox who portrays the film's lead character, Marty Mc Fly. "He must wake up in the morning chanting 'The movie. The movie.' And when he gets to work, he's full of energy and very positive."
Following the tremendous box office success of the romantic adventure "Romancing the Stone" starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, Zemeckis has emerged as one of the most talented young filmmakers working today.
A 1973 graduate of the USC film school, Zemeckis and his writing partner, "Back to the Future" producer Bob Gale, made an important contact while the two were still in school — Steven Spielberg.
Describing his first meeting with Spielberg in Film Comment, Zemeckis recalls, "They used to have a course at USC where those of us in the class would go to Universal once a week and spend the day in a different department to learn how the studio worked. The last day of the semester they said we were going to meet with a young director, Steven Spielberg. He had just finshed his first feature, 'The Sugarland Express,' for what seemed like a huge budget: $2 million. We walked into his office, and the door opened and this kid walked in. After the class I hung back and said to him, 'I have this student film. Would you like to see it?'"
"When I first saw Bob Zemeckis' student film at USC, from which I hired him to direct 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' he had done a highly stylized film," says Spielberg. "I feel that every film Zemeckis and Gale have made, and every film Zemeckis has directed, has been a high order of pop cultural art -- something that I don't think any other filmmakers are tapping into."
"Back to the Future" is a comedy-adventure-science-speculation-coming- of-age-rock-and-roll-time-travel-period film," laughs Zemeckis about combination of every film genre. He adds, "My feeling about making a time travel movie into a fun adventure is to take the audience back in time, because everyone who sees the movie knows past history."
Zemeckis and Gale chose 1955 as their destination on the time line, a year which they are too young to really remember but which they look back at fondly.
"I guess the thing that happened in the '50s that makes it so nostalgic throughout the decades that followed was that it was the first time that the teenager started to rule --and he's ruled ever since."
Teenagers were the stars of Zemeckis' feature film debut in 1978, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," a comically nostalgic story of the Beatles first trip to New York for an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." His next film was from a screenplay co-written by Bob Gale, based on an idea by Spielberg and John Milius, titled "Used Cars." Kurt Russell starred in the irreverent comedy that was applauded by both Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby.
Additionally, Zemeckis and Gale shared the writing credit with John Milius on "1941," a World War II comedy directed by Spielberg.
Born and raised in the southside of Chicago, Zemeckis began making short films with his 8mm camera while still in high school. He attended Northern Illinois University before transferring to the University of Southern California.
Zemeckis is married to actress Mary Ellen Trainor.
Steven Spielberg presents a Robert Zemeckis film "Back to the Future," starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson. The screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, with music by Alan Silvestri. It is produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. The director is Robert Zemeckis.
as of June 5, 1985