Why Christopher Lloyd Was Nervous About Recasting Marty McFly In Back To The Future

There are few movies that will ever be as roundly beloved as "Back to the Future." Director Robert Zemeckis brought to life one of the all-time great blockbusters, which paved the way for an entire trilogy that has endured for decades, and will certainly continue to endure for decades to come. An enormous part of that is owed to Christopher Lloyd's pitch-perfect performance as Doc Brown, and much of that success comes down to his chemistry with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. But as many film fans know, it was originally Eric Stoltz in the role before he was recast well into production.

Virtually anyone would tell you, in hindsight, this was an outstanding decision. This is particularly true for Lloyd, who gained his most iconic role by working alongside Fox, not Stoltz. However, Lloyd had some concerns about the change when it happened initially, and it all had to do with how the recasting was going to influence his performance.

Christopher Lloyd's Concern

Christopher Lloyd recently discussed the recasting decision in a career retrospective for GQ. During the nearly 20-minute video, the actor naturally discusses his role in "Back to the Future." On the subject of bringing in Fox to replace Stoltz, Lloyd explained that he didn't know about the change ahead of time. What's more, they had already been filming for about six weeks, which is a very long time on a big movie. That is where the issue arose for him, as he was concerned about being able to get his performance back up to the level where it needed to be all over again:

"They just decided that they needed somebody with a comic flair. Stoltz is a wonderful actor. I had no idea the change was coming. My biggest fear, because I was really working to get Doc right, I thought, 'I don't know if I can get it up to do that again.' So I was worried about it. But, it all worked out."

As Lloyd says, it did indeed all work out. Fox absolutely had the comic flair and his playing off Doc Brown's over-the-top nature is the engine that truly helps drive the movie. That dynamic is difficult to imagine any other way, especially with an actor who is perhaps taking the role of Marty McFly a bit too seriously. Such was the case with Stoltz, and it's not just the filmmakers who thought so.

The Problem With Stoltz

While it has been known for many, many years that Eric Stoltz was not only cast as Marty but had filmed on the movie for weeks before being fired, the problems with the actor run a little deeper than him not just being right for the part in the eyes of the studio. Tom Wilson, who plays Biff in the "Back to the Future" trilogy, once talked about the issue at length on the Nerdist podcast. Wilson explained that Stoltz was very much into not breaking character and needed to be referred to as Marty on set. During a confrontation scene between Biff and Marty, Wilson explained that Stoltz was committing a bit too much to the role:

"Eric got fired a couple of days before he was just going to get his head pounded in because in the scene in the cafeteria... he was driving the heels of his hands hard into my collarbones, I mean really pushing me."

To Lloyd's point, the comic flare seemingly wasn't there with Stoltz. This kept going until the scene in question was finished and Wilson says that he had huge bruises on his chest and collarbone from the confrontation. His account is not pretty, and that is certainly not the Marty McFly many of us know and love. In putting the whole picture together, the change seems to make sense.

Everything Worked Out

Despite the hurdles and concerns, everything worked out perfectly in the end. "Back to the Future" was released in theaters in the summer of 1985 and went on to become a global smash hit. Against a budget of just $19 million, it grossed $385 million worldwide according to The Numbers, paving the way for "Back to the Future Part II" and "Back to the Future Part III" to have similar success in 1989 and 1990. It remains one of the most successful and beloved trilogies in Hollywood history.

There have been whispers at various points of remakes or sequels, but nothing ever comes to pass. A huge part of that has to do with the fact that it would be nearly impossible to imagine anyone else doing these roles, or matching what came before. This is one of the few truly sacred cows in all of movie history that won't be messed with — at least not any time soon. Would it have been nearly as successful without the change? It's not easy to predict would-be scenarios, but removing any element of the magic that exists would certainly risk upsetting the balance. Despite Lloyd's initial concerns, this was a legendarily good move to make.