Set Visits: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas

Seeing as Steven Spielberg produced Back to the Future, it’s no big surprise that he visited the set during filming. But I’m a Spielberg fanatic, so I’m always interested in his involvement in the projects he produces. The book features a bunch of photos of Spielberg on set. Above you can see him alongside George Lucas visiting Robert Zemeckis on the 2015 future Hill Valley set of Back to the Future Part II. Below that you can see a photo of Steven welcoming Michael J. Fox on his first day on the production. And to the right you can see Spielberg chatting with Fox during a break in shooting on the 1985 McFly family house set.

Klastorin says that Spielberg made”sporadic visits to the sets on Part II, but he was also pretty busy with the release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which opened while we were shooting. And why wouldn’t he want to share a cool set like that with his pal George?”

Sid Sheinberg's Infamous Memo

Sid Sheinberg’s Infamous Memo

Steven Spielberg has been telling this story for years. Apparently Sid Sheinberg, head of Universal, didn’t think that “Back to the Future” was a great title for the movie. He just didn’t understand the title, as Marty was returning to the present, not the future. Sid had a different idea — call the movie “Space Man From Pluto,” a reference to the comic book that old man Peabody’s son references after Marty crashes the time machine into the barn. Here is how Gale told the story to Empire:

Every single person at Universal loved the title Back to the Future except for Sid. So we went to Steven and said, “Steven, what are we going to do? He means it. He really wants to change the title. And Steven wrote a memo back to Sheinberg saying, “Dear Sid, thanks so much for your most humorous memo. We all really got a big laugh out of it.” Steven knew that Sid was too proud to admit he’d meant it seriously. And that was the end of Spaceman From Pluto.

It’s never really been clear how true this story was, as I’ve heard Sheinberg denied it over the years, but Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History actually found the memo (its real!) and printed it in full.

Casting Suggestions For Role Of Scientist

Casting Suggestions for the Role of “Scientist”

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doctor Emmet Brown now, but he was just one of many possibilities.

Above you can see a memo dated August 21st, 1984 from the casting agency of Mike Fenton and Jane Feinberg for the role of “the scientist.” The list features more than forty options for the role that would become Doc Brown. Names on the list include Jeff Goldblum, John Cleese, Gene Hackman, Harold Ramis, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid and Joe Piscopo. Apparently producer Neil Canton was the one who first suggested Lloyd alongside John Lithgow, both of whom he worked with on The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

I love seeing lists like this from the early days of a project and imagining what could have been if any of these other actors had won the role. And to make things even crazier, there was a moment when Lloyd turned down the role. He “had trouble trying to make sense” of the early screenplay draft he was sent, told his agent he wouldn’t audition for the role and chucked the screenplay in the trash. Apparently the actor was having doubts about his decision to leave New York where he had been working steadily as a theatre actor and had an offer to go back to New Haven and play Hans Christian Anderson in a play. It was Lloyd’s wife who convinced him to meet with Zemeckis. Of course, upon meeting Robert, as Lloyd admits, “that was it.”

The other great thing about this document is that the upper right hand of the page features handwritten notes for possibilities to play Marty McFly. The actors noted include Eric Stoltz (who actually got the part before being replaced by Michael J. Fox), C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, and “Kusak” which I think must be referencing John Cusack (who was 18 years old at the time). Klastorin explains:

It’s a pretty standard process when a film gets a green light for the casting directors to break down the script and put together a long list of actors including everyone they think might be right for the lead roles. That’s exactly how Mike Fenton and Jane Feinberg, along with casting associate Judy Taylor began. Not every actor on that memo was seen for the role of Doc. As I say in the book, the three main contenders were Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow and Chris Lloyd.

In another memo in the book we see that Johnny Depp came in to read for the part of George McFly. Imagine that.

Continue Reading 11 Mind-Blowing Images From Back to the Future >>

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