How Back To The Future Almost Nuked The Fridge

bttf nuke the fridge
After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released, a new pop culture term was coined. Nuke The Fridge is a reference to the film’s opening scene (possible spoilers if you haven’t seen it) where Indiana Jones finds himself on a Nuclear test site and hides in a refrigerator to survive the atomic blast. The phrase Nuke The Fridge was joined as an alternative to Jump The Shark, another pop culture term based on a scene in an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing. The scene was considered so preposterous, and is considered by many to signify the moment in time when the show became unappealing to its core audience.

But did you know that Back to the Future almost Nuked The Fridge almost 25 years earlier?

In the original draft of Back To The Future, Marty McFly worked for Professor Brown, who was a movie bootlegger and the time machine was a laser device that was housed in a room. In the story’s climax, the device was attached to a refrigerator, and taken to the Nevada desert test site for the atomic bomb, where it was strapped into the back of a truck and driven into the atomic explosion in order to harness the power from the nuclear explosion. Marty had to climb into the fridge as the truck barreled towards ground zero.

Why was the idea scrapped? Director Robert Zemeckis has said in interviews that producer Steven Spielberg was afraid that children would start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside, after replicating the scene in the film. Who would have thought that he would have made a film where the hero climbs into a fridge at a nuclear test site almost 25 years later.

Zemeckis still believed that the time machine should move, and they came up with the idea of using a retrofitted DeLorean because it could lead to the gag of farmer Peabody thinking it was a UFO/Aliens. The concept of the Hill Valley courthouse didn’t come until much later. Even the third draft of the screenplay involved taking the DeLorean time machine to the atomic bomb test site. The idea was scrapped because it was deemed too expensive for the budget. ILM wanted one million dollars to create the bomb effect, and at that time, that was a lot of money. The power source was changed to lightening and the location was changed to the Hill Valley courthouse, which they filmed on the Universal Backlot.

Art director Andrew Probert was hired onto the project, and actually storyboarded the Nevada Atomic Bomb Test Site sequence from the third draft before the idea was scrapped. Probert presented the storyboarded sequence at DMC event, and you can watch the film’s original third-draft ending embedded below.

The film dodged another bullet as it was almost released under the titled “Spaceman From Pluto.” Universal president Sidney Sheinberg was convinced that no movie with “Future” in the title had ever been successful. Coming off the hugely successful E.T., Sheinberg loved the idea of Marty being mistaken as an Alien, and sent a memo suggested the “Spaceman From Pluto” title, and included a bunch of suggestions on how to incorporate the idea better into the story. Zemeckis was freaked out, and everyone was afraid to argue with Sheinberg about his new idea. Spielberg eventually dictated a memo back to Sheinberg saying “Dear Sid, Thank you for your most humorous memo. We got a big laugh out of it. Keep ‘em coming.” Spielberg said that Sheinberg would be so embarrassed to tell them that he was actually serious, and that they’d probably never hear from him again. And Spielberg was right.

Thanks to Luis R for the tip on the video.

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