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11 Things We Just Learned About Back to the Future

In his new book, We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, author Caseen Gaines chronicles the conception, creation, production, and legacy of the trilogy, thanks to a bevy of important interviews and a ton of really fun stories. Even for fans of Back to the Future, the book is packed with new information about the classic series, and even we couldn’t help but be shocked by some of the new stuff the book contains. You should probably pick up your very own copy before Biff steals them all for his personal gain. 

1. Family Ties scheduling didn’t (really) keep Michael J. Fox from his starring role.

The search for the right Marty McFly—and a major detour into casting the wrong one—is a big part of We Don’t Need Roads, including some seriously juicy tidbits about how exactly casting shook out.

Although Michael J. Fox topped Robert Zemeckis’ short list, the actor didn’t have a clue about the director’s interest until many months later. During the initial casting, executive producer Steven Spielberg took it upon himself to call up his friend Gary David Goldberg, who was executive producing the Fox-starring sitcom Family Ties, to see if he thought Fox would be a good fit for the part. Goldberg thought he was—and that the film would be a huge hit—but he refused to even give the script to Fox, he was so afraid his young star would take the role and potentially upend the success of Family Ties. 

2. The decision to axe original star Eric Stoltz was “agonizing.”

Unable to secure Fox, the team eventually decided to give the part to Eric Stoltz. After four weeks of shooting, Zemeckis couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong with his production. One night in the editing bay, he finally realized what it was: his lead actor. Zemeckis calls the realization a “horrible truth” that he had a “gnawing suspicion” about for weeks. Once the decision was made to cut Stoltz (and Fox was secured), filming kept going for a few days, with Stoltz notably cut out of shots before he was officially let go. 

3. Stoltz was fired at the Twin Pines Mall.

In January 1984, Stoltz arrived at the Puente Hills Mall in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley for a night shoot, seemingly unaware of what was about to transpire. He shot a few scenes (none of which featured his face), and was later informed by Zemeckis himself that his services were no longer needed. Before the boom dropped, however, other members of the cast (including Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Crispin Glover) were told what was about to transpire by various members of the production team. Days later, Fox arrived to begin filming. 

4. Stoltz’s termination led to Melora Hardin’s exit.

Originally cast as Jennifer Parker, actress Melora Hardin was fired from the production before she even shot a single scene—her height, while perfect for Stoltz, was all wrong for the shorter Fox. Claudia Wells, who had originally been offered the part before turning it down to work on a sitcom, was then officially brought on board for the role (her sitcom, Off the Rack, had been canceled in the interim). Wells, of course, was replaced in the final two entries in the franchise, due to personal reasons. 

5. The original time machine was a truck.

In the very first draft of Back to the Future, Marty and Doc traveled to the future in a pickup truck (perhaps Marty’s cool new truck from the end of the film?); the big climax didn’t happen at the clock tower, but at a nuclear test site. Eventually, Zemeckis and Gale decided that the time machine chamber had to be something a little more “dangerous,” deciding on the DeLorean DMC-12 as the perfect fit. By the time filming rolled around, the beleaguered car company had gone bankrupt, but even that didn’t stop the production from acquiring the three models necessary to make the movie. 

6. Lea Thompson didn’t love her dance dress.

Lorraine’s crinkly, very pink Enchantment Under the Sea Dance outfit is one of Lea Thompson’s signature looks from the film, but the dress drove actress Lea Thompson mad. It was uncomfortable and tight, and Thompson often spent off-times during shooting walking around in her '50s-era underwear to just get away from the thing. Yet Thompson recognized the value of the dress, ultimately keeping one version for herself once filming wrapped. That certainly came in handy once filming on the sequels began, because no one could locate the stored version, and Thompson had to bring in hers from her own collection! 

7. That “TO BE CONTINUED…” title card in the film’s credits was only available on home-video.

The film wasn't greenlit for two sequels until long after the film had left theaters, but Universal cleverly inserted that famous “TO BE CONTINUED…” title card into the credits when the film was released on VHS and Beta on May 22, 1986. The card was later removed from the film’s 2002 DVD release because, per screenwriter Bob Gale, the production team “wanted the DVD to represent the movie as it was seen theatrically.” 

8. The sequels almost went to the swinging '60s.

As Zemeckis and Gale got around to crafting the sequels, casting negotiations were breaking down with Crispin Glover. With the possibility of Glover returning for the new films looking increasingly bleak (and indeed, he didn’t return), the team had to figure out how to have a film that didn’t feature George McFly in a way that wasn’t wildly obvious. An early idea held that Marty and Doc would actually go to 1967 in Back to the Future Part II, and that George would be busy giving a lecture at Berkeley, keeping him neatly out of frame for the majority of the movie.  

9. The first script for the sequels was a massive, 165-page affair.

Bob Gale’s screenplay for one sequel, titled Paradox, eventually ballooned out into a giant, 165-page screenplay, and then a 220-pager, both of which had all of the bones of what would become Part II and Part III. The screenplay was split—and two new sequels set up to accommodate it—by the end of January 1989.

10. The flying cop car from Back to the Future Part II broke a forklift.

One of the recurring themes in Gaines’ book is the overcoming of incredible odds—and bizarre circumstances—by the BTTF team. While all of the casting kerfuffles that marked the series are easily the biggest hurdle the project had to overcome, there was also a steady parade of technical snafus that threatened to derail the production. During the filming of Back to the Future Part II, Zemeckis planned to stage a shot that focused on the landing of the futuristic flying cop car as seen from below. To accomplish such a shot, the car was kitted out with a special channel between its undercarriage and the interior, one that allowed a forklift to slip through, all the better for seamless lifting. Unfortunately, the forklift bent in the middle of a test run, making the shot impossible, which is why the final shot only shows the front of the car (the rest of it was chained up to lift the vehicle up and lower it down).

11. The reference art for the Drew Struzan-crafted poster for Back to the Future Part II was shot on the set of Part III.

Drew Struzan, who had also designed the iconic poster for the first film, spent a day on set in the Sonoran Desert, where both Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd took a break, changed out of their Western apparel, donned their Part II duds, and posed for a series of photos for the artist. Struzan posed them as he saw fit, allowing him to explore a range of options for the new poster. (A similar shoot for Part III took place on a sound stage, a much less impressive setting.)

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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