'Back to the Future' Myths and Misinformation Debunked


With the 25th Anniversary of Back to the Future, there has been a lot of reporting about the films, including some erroneous information.  Given that BTTF.com is the website for the most accurate information about all things Back to the Future, I thought this would be the right place to set the record straight.


Michael J. Fox never turned down the role of Marty McFly.

Michael was ALWAYS our first choice to play Marty, but we knew he was committed to his TV show Family Ties.  In late summer 1984, we approached Gary David Goldberg, the show’s producer, and inquired about Michael’s availability.  Gary read the script but told us he simply couldn’t let Michael out of Family Ties to do it.  Meredith Baxter Birney (who played the mom on the show) was pregnant at the time, and Michael was going to be having a bigger role to ease her work schedule.   (Gary also told us he wasn’t even going to let Michael read the script because he was afraid Michael would hate him for not allowing him to do it!)    When we decided to recast Marty in January 1985, we went back to Gary in desperation.  By then Meredith had had her baby, and Gary was amenable to accommodating us, with the understanding that we would have to adjust our schedule around Michael’s television schedule.   Michael read the script, said yes immediately, and the rest is history.

Corey Hart was never seriously considered for the role of Marty.

In 1984, our casting directors read every young actor in Hollywood in hopes of finding the perfect Marty McFly…and in other cities as well…and Corey Hart may have auditioned – I have no memory of it, but it’s certainly possible.  I know for sure that we auditioned Johnny Depp and John Cusack, but we didn’t think either was right.  The only other actor we seriously considered was C. Thomas Howell who, along with Eric Stoltz, was actually screen tested.


Leonard Nimoy was never going to direct Back to the Future.

I don't know where the story got started that Nimoy was going to direct Back to the Future.  No one but Bob Zemeckis would have ever been allowed to direct Back to the Future because we both had complete control of the script.


Tony Hawk was not involved with Back to the Future in any way.

It has been reported numerous times that Tony Hawk choreographed the skateboard sequence in Back to the Future.  We have no idea where this fantasy got started, but all you have to do is look up Tony Hawk’s date of birth to know it’s impossible.  Hawk was born in May 1968, which means he would have been 16 years old (attending Torrey Pines High School in San Diego) when we filmed the skateboard sequence.

The skateboard sequence was designed with input from professional skateboarders Per Welinder and Bob Schmelzer, both of whom are credited in the end titles, and who also assisted in teaching skateboard technique to Michael J. Fox, Eric Stoltz and the stunt men.  Stunt coordinator Walter Scott and Charlie Croughwell (Michael J Fox’s stunt double) also were involved in working out the sequence, as were (obviously) director Bob Zemeckis and I.

Doc Brown’s first and middle names were not selected because they were anagrams.

There are those who think that Emmett (misspelled in the phone book in Part 1 as “Emmet”) is supposed to be “time” spelled backwards, and that “Lathrop” is almost “portal” spelled backwards.  In fact, these names were selected because Bob Zemeckis and I thought they sounded good, and were somewhat out of the ordinary, thus creating a good contrast to the common last name of “Brown.”


The Back to the Future DeLorean was not designed by George Barris.

The DeLorean was designed on paper by Ron Cobb and Andrew Probert, and was built by our Special Effects Supervisor Kevin Pike and his team, with artistic supervision by Michael Scheffe.  These are the guys who earned and deserve the credit.  Sad to say, George Barris has a bad reputation in Hollywood of trying to associate himself with projects he had nothing to do with.  In fact, the Legal Department at Universal Studios had to send Barris a cease-and-desist order to force him to take down references to Back to the Future on his website, yet Barris still continues to promote the lie that he was somehow involved.  Jay Ohrberg was subsequently hired by Universal to replicate the DeLorean Time Machine so that the studio could have additional cars for promotional purposes.  But Ohrberg is a gentleman and an honorable man and has never claimed credit for it.


Doc Brown never traveled to the year 2010 in Back to the Future or Back to the Future Part II.

On July 5, 2010, there was an internet hoax that got a lot of traction in which someone created time displays that had a July 5, 2010 date.  The hoaxer was exposed and admitted it was a prank.  In the Twin Pines Mall sequence of Back to the Future, Doc says he intends to go 25 years into the future, noting that he’ll be able to see who wins the next 25 World Series.  So if he actually had set the time circuits at that moment, he would have traveled to October 26, 2010 and not July.  (And Doc would have been amazed to learn that the 2010 World Series hadn’t started yet, because Division Series Competition, which began in 1995, added another week to the post-season baseball schedule…meaning he would have only found out about the winners of 24 World Series!)

The movies playing in Hill Valley are NOT “Watch The Skies” (which was an early title for Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind) and “A Boy’s Life” (which was an early title for Spielberg’s E.T.).

The facts: like so many things in the Back to the Future trilogy, the movies playing at the theaters make some sort of story-telling point, a specific joke, or a social comment.


Back to the Future
1985 – Orgy American Style, an XXX rated porno flick at the Essex Theater.  This establishes that the town square of Hill Valley in 1985 is run down.
1955 -  Cattle Queen of Montana starring Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan at the Essex Theater; The Atomic Kid starring Mickey Rooney at the Towne Theater.  (In 1985, the Towne Theater is a run down church.)   The Reagan film reminds us that the man who is the U.S. President in 1985 was still an actor in 1955.  The Atomic Kid is the movie that inspired that original nuclear test site ending which was later revised to become the lightning bolt sequence.


Back to the Future Part II
2015 – Jaws 19, in 3-D Holomax, directed by Max Spielberg.  This establishes that giant screen 3D films would be playing in the future, and makes a joke about too many sequels.  Max Spielberg is, of course, Steven’s son.
1985-A – the Essex movie theater is not seen, but it became the “Hill Valley Theater of Live Sex Acts” as part Biff’s various “cultural improvements.”


Back to the Future Part III
1955 Pohatchee Drive-In Theatre – 3 sequels from Universal Studios are playing, listed on the marquee:  Francis in the Navy, Ma and Pa Kettle At Waikiki, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.  These were selected to show that even back in 1955, studios made sequels.


Crispin Glover did not win a lawsuit against Universal.

It’s true that Glover sued Universal over the use of his likeness in Back to the Future Part II.  However, nobody won because the case never went to trial.  It was settled out of court by Universal’s insurance company who decided it would be cheaper to pay Glover to go away than to actually go to trial.  Glover got a check and dropped the lawsuit.

Back to the Future Part II did not predict that Florida would win the 1997 World Series.

When the Florida Marlins won the 1997 World Series, there was a rumor that spread on the internet and some conventional media that we had predicted this in Back to the Future Part II.   But all fans know that’s not true.  We correctly predicted that by 2015 Miami would have a major league baseball team (Miami received the franchise in 1991 and the Marlins began playing in 1993).  We incorrectly predicted it would be an American League Team called the Miami Gators.


Griff's bat is not signed by Ken Griffey III.

Griff's bat is signed by "Kirk Gibson Jr."  The gag was inspired by Kirk Gibson's stellar year in 1988 and clutch walk off home run in that year's world series, which took place just a month before we started shooting Back to the Future Part II.  The gag was concocted by production designer Rick Carter and me, in a discussion regarding what signature the bat should have on it.  Neil Canton, being a die-hard Giants fan, went along with it, seeing the humor in it, despite his total disdain for the Dodgers.

There will not be a Back to the Future Part IV nor a remake of the original.

As both Robert Zemeckis and I have stated repeatedly over the years, we have no plans or desires to make another Back to the Future movie -- not a Part 4, nor a remake of Part 1.  Nor does Universal or Amblin Entertainment have any such plans.  How do we know?  Because, per our contracts with these companies, no Back to the Future sequel or remake can even be scripted without discussing it with us first.  No such discussions have taken place.   We are very proud of the Trilogy as it stands and we want to leave it as is.

I hope this quells the current rumors. As always, BTTF.com is and will be the definitive source for news and information regarding Back to the Future.  True or false, you can always find out for sure at BTTF.com.

— Bob Gale,  November 2010

— Bob Gale, November 2010