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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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.


John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.


Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”


Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."


If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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Move Over, Star Wars Land: A Star Trek World May Be Coming to Universal Studios
Getty Images
Getty Images

As Disney gears up for the 2019 openings of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at both its Florida and California amusement parks, there may be some sci-fi-themed competition on the horizon. According to Disney and More, there’s a rumor out there that Universal is planning a fourth Orlando theme park, which will include a land dedicated to all things Star Trek.

The blog also states that there have been rumblings that a Star Trek stage show at Universal would take the place of the now-defunct Terminator 2 3D show, but that’s just one option, with a Bourne Identity attraction being the other. Instead, the potential Star Trek show could be expanded to a whole area of the rumored fourth park, with a focus on a recreation of a sci-fi city, according to the site.

This rumored park would be the most high-profile Trek attraction since Las Vegas's Star Trek: The Experience (as seen in the main image). Housed at the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, Star Trek: The Experience included a restaurant based on Quark's bar from Deep Space Nine and the popular Borg Invasion 4D, which was an attraction that combined motion platforms, live actors, and a short 3D film to simulate a Borg takeover.

Any potential Star Trek land would be much further off than Galaxy's Edge's fall 2019 debut in Orlando. But with two new Trek movies on the horizon, and Star Trek: Discovery returning to CBS All Access for a second season in 2018, the venerable sci-fi franchise might just be able to ride a wave of momentum to become real competition for Star Wars—if not at the box office, then at least as a theme park.

[h/t Screen Rant]


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