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October 12, 2010 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Never-before-seen footage of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in Back To The Future Before Michael J. Fox could take the part of Marty McFly, producers cast Eric Stoltz and filmed for five weeks. The producers eventually decided to go with Fox, fired Stoltz, and locked the footage away in the vault. Now, twenty-five years later, we finally get to see the "other" Back to the Future.
posted by Servo5678 (66 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like someone went back to 1955 and messed around, forever changing the 1985 that I knew.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:07 AM on October 12, 2010 [25 favorites]


Marvin, you gotta give her an injection of adrenaline directly to her heart. See that's where they fuck for the first time on the dance floor. And if she ODs, they can't fuck. If they can't fuck they can't fall in love, and I'm history. So what you have to do is, you have to bring the needle down in a stabbing motion. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
posted by griphus at 6:14 AM on October 12, 2010 [27 favorites]


Starting at about 10 seconds into the first link you can see Zemeckis is wearing a calculator watch. That's fantastic.
posted by jedicus at 6:15 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would like to see the complete footage. It would be kinda neat to compare performances.
posted by grubi at 6:15 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


marty mctheflyII?
posted by condour75 at 6:22 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love Back to the Future in an entirely imprudent manner. I already have tickets to one of the October 23rd showings. And now I may have to buy this box set.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:28 AM on October 12, 2010


If you'll excuse me, and I'm paraphrasing myself here, but I have said before that if Stoltz is a fine red wine, then Fox is a dry martini.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:33 AM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Great Scott!
posted by dig_duggler at 6:35 AM on October 12, 2010


Just watching those few clips of Eric Stoltz with no dialogue, you can tell the tone would've been completely different. I never really thought about Fox being funny, but I suppose that's the sign of a good comedic actor--playing it sort of straight but pulling off funny at the same time.

I wonder if Stolz is still bitter over that.
posted by zardoz at 6:37 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eric Stoltz resembles Crispin Glover a bit more in these clips. I wonder if that was a conscious decision.
posted by hanoixan at 6:41 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


zardoz: "I wonder if Stolz is still bitter over that"

So bitter he's building Cylons.
posted by bwg at 6:43 AM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is great. The whole cast and crew is so oblique in the "making of" featurettes when they talk about how MJ Fox was cast: "Well, see, we first wanted to go one way . . . but then we, well, decided to go in a different direction and . . . then Mike came on board and we reshot and what a breath of fresh air blah blah blah"
posted by Think_Long at 6:45 AM on October 12, 2010


Just watching those few clips of Eric Stoltz with no dialogue, you can tell the tone would've been completely different.

I think a big part of what made Michael J. Fox funny in BTTF was that he seemed not just awed, but constantly overwhelmed by everything that happened. These few little clips of Stoltz show the awe--and a lot of it--but he seems more detached, which I think would have played a lot less funny.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:48 AM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I would like to see the complete footage. It would be kinda neat to compare performances.

Seriously. They filmed for five weeks, and we get 10 seconds of soundless footage.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how much the costuming changed, too. Instead of the life preserver vest, Eric Stoltz looks like he just got done shooting the Head Over Heels video.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:07 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, Robert Zemeckis's comb-over is a crime against humanity.
posted by delmoi at 7:08 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just based on that brief clip, it sounds like Stolz had the right look and was a fine actor but just wasn't funny enough in that context. We're so used to Fox's performance that it seems like the way it had to be done -- but that's what's so great about it. He's making subtle comic choices every moment he's on screen.
posted by John Cohen at 7:12 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post has been quite enlightening for me. First I find that I can go see BTTF in a theater on the 23rd, and then I find that Caprica is finally back. Good news all around!
posted by wierdo at 7:14 AM on October 12, 2010


One of the most interesting things, for me, is how much Stoltz looks like Crispin Glover in these clips. That's good casting, just from a genetic plausibility perspective.

I'm a fan of Back to the Future, and I have no complaints about Michael J. Fox but it is incredibly interesting to think of what was lost by switching stars - not to take away from Michael J, but Eric Stolz is a fine actor as well, and maybe it would have been as good, certainly it would have been differently good, with him in it?

Also, didn't they use some of this footage in Fringe to show they were in the alternate universe where, among other things, Eric Stolz was never replaced?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:15 AM on October 12, 2010


Duh. Read ALL the links, jackass.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:16 AM on October 12, 2010


Maybe Stoltz was just too damn loud.

I wonder how he handled that kind of rejection.

And so on.
posted by condour75 at 7:17 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that they changed the wardrobe, as well as the actor. Black coat and black jeans vs. an orange puffy vest and blue jeans.

I'm trying to imagine how I would've felt about Back to the Future back in '85 if Marty McFly has been intense and hot rather than tiny and cute-ish.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:18 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder what would have happened to the sequels. Perhaps they wouldn't have been made at all because the original wouldn't have been such a hit. If it were a hit and they were made, perhaps they would have been better.

Something happened in the sequels, especially the second movie - it's like all the producers, writers, directors, and actors thought they'd take the magic of the first movie and amp it up beyond all recognition. They pushed the comedy too hard, and maybe they would have gone darker if Stoltz was in the lead. Would they have been better? Who knows.

Overall, I'll take two relatively worse sequels for the jem that is the original with Fox.
posted by Muddler at 7:30 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


you can tell the tone would've been completely different.

Yeah. DARK. And it still would have kicked ass.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:30 AM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Damnit, now I really want to see that version. Can't really tell from those clips but it looks like it would wind up being quite a bit darker, which could be really interesting.

I think I say that mostly 'cause, while I love the first, the subsequent two are a real let down after its quality.
posted by opsin at 7:30 AM on October 12, 2010


Note to self - jem is spelled gem unless you're talking jem and the holograms. Must be the overdose of 80s references infiltrating my mind.
posted by Muddler at 7:32 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seriously. They filmed for five weeks, and we get 10 seconds of soundless footage.

This is the real scandal that no one wants to talk about. The footage is soundless because Stoltz lost the ability to talk. He was fine when they shot the scenes from 1985, but something about the traveling through time took away Stoltz's ability to speak. They tried having him sign his dialogue initially, but that didn't work. Then they hired James Earl Jones to do a voiceover, but that didn't work.

Fox's audition consisted of time traveling so that he could prove that the time travel wouldn't affect his ability to speak. Once they saw he could do that, he was hired.
posted by flarbuse at 7:38 AM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Something happened in the sequels, especially the second movie - it's like all the producers, writers, directors, and actors thought they'd take the magic of the first movie and amp it up beyond all recognition. They pushed the comedy too hard, and maybe they would have gone darker if Stoltz was in the lead.

The worst thing about BTTF II is there's no emotional core to the 2015* part. I mean, we're told Marty's son will get in some kind of trouble and everything will go downhill unless Griff's gang is stopped. But it's not that clear what terrible thing Marty and Doc are supposed to stop from happening, and it's not at all touching the way Marty trying to get his mom to fall for his dad instead of him is.

The later parts of BTTF II -- alternate 1985 and going back to 1955 -- are great. They do have that emotional core. To me, that's what BTTF II is all about, but the future stuff had to be thrown in there to set up the alternate 1985.

* Hey, only 5 years left -- they're running out of time to come out with those hoverboards.
posted by John Cohen at 7:41 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's interesting how much the costuming changed, too. Instead of the life preserver vest, Eric Stoltz looks like he just got done shooting the Head Over Heels video.

This is also interesting because it would change the script, as well. There are several lines from 1955 folks along the lines of 'Did you just jump ship?'
posted by shakespeherian at 7:47 AM on October 12, 2010


Michael J. Fox played the situation like it was one, big, exciting, joyous adventure. Stoltz seems interesting here, but he seems much more dark and more like a conventional leading man - like a leading man from a pre-Gladiator Ridley Scott movie. I can see how his otherwise good performance wouldn't jibe well with the rest of the vision.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:49 AM on October 12, 2010


It would be interesting to see a darker, straight-ish leading man contrasted with Christopher Lloyd's over-the-top Doc Brown.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:52 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah. DARK. And it still would have kicked ass.

A lone crusader, traumatized by a formative memory with his parents, stalking criminals in the night. In a terrifying costume. Forcing them to listen to Van Halen.

criminal: WHO ARE YOU?
shadowy figure:(in gravelly voice) I'M DARTH VADER.
posted by condour75 at 7:52 AM on October 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


We're so used to Fox's performance that it seems like the way it had to be done -- but that's what's so great about it. He's making subtle comic choices every moment he's on screen.

The old saying goes: Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

In fact, when it comes to the impeccable comic timing that Michael J. Fox has demonstrated ever since Family Ties, it's impossible - unless you're born with it, as he was.

Stoltz is indeed a fine actor. But stacking him up against Michael J. Fox in a comedy - as I think Back To The Future is best approached - is like Michael Jordan trying to play professional baseball. Completely different skill sets are required.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, if Eric Stoltz had ultimately played Marty McFly, the overtones of incest would have been even creepier.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 8:24 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


condour75: "shadowy figure:(in gravelly voice) I'M DARTH VADER."

[cue TAFKAP funky beat]
posted by notsnot at 8:27 AM on October 12, 2010


Here's the B2tF teaser with Stoltz, and the same teaser with Fox. Other than that YouTube doesn't have much of the super secret footage.

Fox was the first choice for the role, but he was all tied up in Family Ties. But Stoltz was so not funny I guess they eventually threw enough money at the problem to get Fox. It sounds like he was working 16+ hour days to do the movie and the sitcom.
posted by dgaicun at 8:53 AM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Now I'm trying to picture Michael J. Fox as a herion dealer.
posted by stargell at 8:57 AM on October 12, 2010


Agreed that the original tone of BTTF was likely darker, and I would imagine that all other things being equal, a much darker take on the second film would have made it much, much better. Ultimately I think the first movie was the only one that lent itself well to a comedic approach, and once they went there, how could they turn back?

Personally, I would have liked to see Christian Slater as the dad...
posted by davejay at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2010


It's quite surprising how just from those brief clips you can see that Stoltz just... didn't have it. Totally wrong for the role.

I wonder how many more of these cutting room abortions from famous films are out there?
posted by Decani at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2010


5 weeks of shooting! Geez$$$.
posted by cavalier at 9:38 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Also, didn't they use some of this footage in Fringe to show they were in the alternate universe where, among other things, Eric Stolz was never replaced?"

They did, in the Season 2 episode titled "Peter." They showed a movie theatre marquee with "Back to the Future; Starring Eric Stotz." At the time I didn't get it because I didn't know the part was recast. Clever detail to have thrown in, though.
posted by howling fantods at 9:43 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post has made my day. It's a good thing my DVD set of the movies is in storage or else it would take a lot more willpower to get things done today instead of watching them back-to-back-to-back. It's no question that Fox was perfect for the role, but I hope the new set has more Stoltz footage because it's fascinating to see what might have been.

I'm also grateful for the heads-up on the theatrical showings, even though it looks like I'll have to drive about an hour to get to one. One of my earliest and fondest memories of my grandfather is the time he took me to see Back to the Future II in the theater. I would have been five years old when the movie was released, and the small theater the next town over wouldn't have kept films around very long so it had to have been in the first couple weeks it was out.

I'm sure we must have rented the first movie a dozen times when I was young; it was one of the few non-cartoon films my parents would let me watch during my sheltered early years. Even more likely, we checked it out from the library several times a year because we couldn't afford to rent from the video store very often. I remember standing on the stool at the circulation desk of the old county library, leafing through the milk crate full of laminated sheets with xeroxed VHS covers next to the film descriptions. The movie held such a special place in my childhood that there is even a picture of my sister and I at Christmas with the clock tower scene clearly displayed on the TV in the background.

When my grandfather took me to see part II, it was the first time I'd seen a non-Disney movie on the big screen, and certainly one of the few times that I got to do something special without my sister. The special effects were mesmerizing, and I was so entranced by the vision of the future that the darkness of the alternate 1985 had little effect on me. I remember getting a set of Micro Machines based on the film, with a futuristic taxi and police car. The miniature DeLorean occupied prime positioning on my bedroom shelf for years.

People can debate the merits of each movie in the trilogy and pick apart the shortcomings all they want; to me, there are none. Some kids loved Indiana Jones or the Ghostbusters, pretended to be Jedi or Ninja Turtles with all the toys their parents would buy. But for me, Back to the Future will always occupy that special place in my memory. Robert Zemeckis deserves a lot of credit, but there's no doubt in my mind that without Michael J. Fox the movies wouldn't have seemed nearly as magical.
posted by kyleg at 9:51 AM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I bought and re-watched the trilogy last year. It wasn't until July, via this comment, that I realized there were two different Jennifers between 1 and 2, and re-shot those clips.

(Also, I now love that retcon version explaining why there's two different Jennifers).
posted by yeti at 10:30 AM on October 12, 2010


I consider Back To The Future one of the few perfect screenplays. Absolutely everything in it has a payoff.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:32 AM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


BTTF wouldn't have been as perky and peppy, that's for sure. With Fox, it was all about reaction, and I have a feeling, the Stoltz might have brought in a movie that seemed all about reflection. I don't think it would have been worse, but it might have seemed a little more dream-like and thoughtful -- a film where you had a chance to catch your breath. I am not entirely sure this would have been a horrendous thing -- in the Fox version both Marty and Doc were very much the comedians, but with Stoltz it would have been a straight man/comedian dynamic. Fox's optimistic energy made BTTF an iconic '80's film, but if it were made in the '90's, perhaps a more low-key actor would have been cast.

Fascinating at any rate, and thanks for that link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2010


Erik Stoltz as McFly is strange. Discordant.

It isn't a case of him not being a comedic actor, there are plenty of decent actors who aren't who would have been acceptable in the role. To me, he's always had this serious, melancholic sensibility. There is no lightness in him; his eyes radiate gravity. Even when he was appropriate for such roles age-wise, I had trouble buying him as someone youthful. He seems like a man that was never a child.

If Back to the Future were played as a bleak, dystopian satire, he would have been stellar. In the clips, he looks lost and alienated, which would be perfectly reasonable reactions to time travel. But I can't imagine that's ever what the project was meant to be.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:41 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I consider Back To The Future one of the few perfect screenplays. Absolutely everything in it has a payoff.

It's true. In fact, when I was a wee lad growing up in the 80s, I saw BTTF regularly on the teevee, but never because I'd planned on watching it-- it would just be there, waiting for you as you turned through the dial. I've probably seen the beginning (up to about the Twin Pines Mall scene) only a handful of times, and not until after I'd already memorized the last 80% of the film. When I finally bought the thing on DVD, it was a revelation in reverse: The first twenty minutes of the movie are filled with jokes about what happens later! Instead of experiencing the film as elegantly scripted with payoff-resolution arcs, it was like a little meta riff on itself, making jokes about the movie I'd grown up with-- jokes that were somehow magically implanted in the film all along.

On another note: I think I've said it before, but the Twin Pines Mall / Lone Pine Mall thing is probably my favorite joke in all of film.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:54 AM on October 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


And NOW I remember why my loins get a little twitchy whenever Caprica's on...mrrrrrow, Eric Stoltz! It's some kind of wonderful...in my pants.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:26 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why do they allways yell 'never seen before' ? I've seen these scenes, they're actually bonus footage on my copy of BttF.
I guess anniversary box sets don't sell themselves.
posted by charles kaapjes at 12:03 PM on October 12, 2010


Those couple of soundless clips made me think BTTF meets Donnie Darko. I bet hearing dialog would have dashed those thoughts though.
posted by cftarnas at 12:13 PM on October 12, 2010


guy he was eated by a snake
posted by Haruspex at 3:00 PM on October 12, 2010


I can't ever hear the words HEY, MAN without hearing Crispon Glover's voice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:43 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I keep expecting him to offer to sell heroin.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2010


Duh. Read ALL the links, jackass.

I get it. You're doing Biff, right?
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:06 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I get it. You're doing Biff, right?

I'll have to use this on Metafilter in the future. (The future?!)
posted by John Cohen at 6:44 PM on October 12, 2010


Brodiggitty: "I get it. You're doing Biff, right?"

Actually, Biff would have said: "Read ALL the links, butthead".

Which of course leads to the inevitable:

MetaFilter: read ALL the links, butthead
posted by bwg at 10:58 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Stoltz's Marty McFly would've tortured 1955 George McFly with Echo and the Bunnymen, as opposed to Van Halen.
posted by Neilopolis at 7:30 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess you guys aren't ready for the keytar. But your kids are gonna love it.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:33 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTTF has aged remarkably well, except for one jarring moment: Marty's family's improved 1985 circumstances, in retrospect, looks like yuppie hell.

(And I never quite bought Biff's transformation from arrogant thug to fawning lackey; Biff always seemed to me the type that would harbor that grudge.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:16 AM on October 13, 2010


And I never quite bought Biff's transformation from arrogant thug to fawning lackey; Biff always seemed to me the type that would harbor that grudge.

Yeah there's definitely a disconnect somewhere here. My guess is that George's triumph over Biff on the night of the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance gave him enough confidence to stand up to Biff again and again over the next 30 years; certainly, when Marty goes back in Part II, Biff is entirely unchanged in the moments after George lays him out, and in fact given that Biff immediately has his cronies chase after Marty in the sequel, it doesn't seem too far-fetched that in the original timeline they may have come after George instead. Biff is not the type of bully who is all swagger and no swing: Marty hits him several times only to have Biff come back angrier and meaner.

What then, should we believe, occurs in the first film's timeline while Marty and the Doc are trying to channel lightning at the clock tower? It stands to reason that after George and Lorraine share their fated kiss and Marty runs off to the future, Skinhead, Match, and 3-D beat young George McFly's ass into the ground while Biff drives home in his de-manured car. It is also reasonable to assume that Biff's gang was subsequently incarcerated for this public act of violence; the only timeline in which any of these characters is glimpsed again is in the 'bad' 1985, wherein Biff 'own[s] the police' and can apparently get off for murder. George, hospitalized after the incident, receives a large settlement when his parents sue the school: this explains his relative wealth at the end of the first film, despite not working (he plays tennis while his son goes to the office, and despite apparently becoming a writer has only just now published his first book).

Biff, meanwhile, respects only one thing: Money. He imagines that Lorraine will love him when he becomes wealthy; in 1955 he laments 'three hundred bucks damage' to his car; witness the apparent poverty he lives in with his grandmother. Thus as George McFly's financial prospects increase, Biff's desire to chum up to him increases. Biff has always been pathetic and lonely-- why else would he be using George's car in the original 1985?-- but now, with the McFlys in good economic standing, Biff is eager to become sycophantic to the man who may be the wealthiest man in Hill Valley.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've probably seen the beginning (up to about the Twin Pines Mall scene) only a handful of times, and not until after I'd already memorized the last 80% of the film.

That and Shawshank Redemption.
posted by Evilspork at 2:55 PM on October 13, 2010


Biff is eager to become sycophantic to the man who may be the wealthiest man in Hill Valley.

The real question, there, is why George has the man who tried to rape his wife coming around the house to wax the cars.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:37 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


uncleozzy writes "The real question, there, is why George has the man who tried to rape his wife coming around the house to wax the cars."

This is distressingly realistic.

Anyone know if the re-release is going to be shown in Canada?
posted by Mitheral at 6:17 PM on October 13, 2010


BTTF has aged remarkably well, except for one jarring moment: Marty's family's improved 1985 circumstances, in retrospect, looks like yuppie hell.

That's a good point. One other joke that doesn't work anymore: the store window in the future with an "antique computer." Watch it today, and you're like: "yep, that does look like an antique computer."
posted by John Cohen at 10:56 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


A whole bunch of Back to the Future props are being auctioned off (BTTF stuff starts on that page and continues on other pages) with proceeds to go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

For example, perhaps you would like a copy of Gray's Sports Almanac? Or the resizing jacket? Or, apropos of this thread, this set of 5 photographs showing Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly 'vanishing' from history?
posted by jedicus at 2:26 PM on October 15, 2010


And here's a remake of the teaser trailer for the 2010 Scream Awards.
posted by jedicus at 5:11 PM on October 15, 2010


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