Tribunal: Stoltz as Marty McFly

This article consists of leftovers from my other articles. Tim Burchett (a director of commercials) had this to say about the year that marked the first glimpse of the much sought-after Stoltz footage in Back to the Future (all shot in 1984): I was searching the Universal vault for archive footage to be used for a documentary that I was working on. I had a meeting with the lady in charge of Universal’s vault. You can bet that I asked about the Stoltz footage. This was a month after the Blu-Rays were announced. She wouldn’t directly give me an answer but implied they were waiting to see if Stoltz had some kind of career resurgence or perhaps passes away, before they allow that full footage released to the public.

Caprica (a 2010 Universal TV series) was meant to be that resurgence. It’s worth pointing out Eric’s rise through the ranks in Universal from 1981 to 1984. From a documentary perspective, they could’ve advertised him as starting in a small role (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) then having a supporting role (The Wild Life) prior to being a co-lead (Mask) before being the star of BTTF. David Buckley, who resided in one of the cities that BTTF was filmed in, had a friend who was one of the special effects technicians. Dave didn’t want to reveal the guy’s name but was okay with typing: “I remember being told that the film had basically been completely shot with Stoltz. The only sequence used from the original shoot that was easy to edit was Doc Brown and the clock tower, because it was filmed while they were waiting for Fox to step in.

When taking into account that Crispin Glover and the artist formerly known as Michael Andrew Fox have implied that Eric was fired days before Christmas, I don’t believe the status of shooting days on the publicized call sheets. I actually edited the below call sheet because the date was too late. Eric began filming on Monday, November 5, 1984. He was fired on Sunday, December 23. That’s 7 weeks! Michael A. Fox began filming on Friday, January 11, 1985. In the mid-eighties, it was never publicized that footage was reused. That’s because the main creative team were hoping for the film to be taken seriously enough to win Oscars for best film, best editing and best director.

Eric was so shamed by his firing that he attended acting classes shortly thereafter. When he found out that he was replaced by a sitcom star, he was so humiliated that he moved to France after The New Kids was released on Friday, January 18. The release date was the day after the announcement of his firing in Daily Variety. Columbia (the distributor) wanted to salvage his career. The teen revenge thriller (which was made before The Wild Life) was a huge flop. In a way, it shouldn’t have come off as a surprise since it had been shelved. The film was originally meant to be released on Friday, July 13, 1984 because the director was Sean Cunningham (who conceived and directed Friday the 13th). Back to Back to the Future, Bob Gale must have seen The New Kids because he would later write a 2013 novel titled Retribution High.

Ironically, he still preferred C. Thomas Howell as Marty. Before they got involved with casting BTTF, Mike Fenton and Jane Feinberg were involved in casting a movie that was shot in the summer of 1984 – Secret Admirer. It had Howell, Casey Siemaszko, Courtney Gains and J.J. Cohen. Casting Howell in BTTF would’ve drawn attention to the other movie because those other actors played bullies in BTTF. Coincidentally, Secret Admirer co-starred an actress who previously starred in The New Kids – Lori Loughlin. She should’ve been cast as Marty’s girlfriend, since we wouldn’t have got a different actress in the next parts. Howell and herself had more chemistry than the people who followed. Then again, Gale didn’t want to give free publicity to Secret Admirer.

Both Bobs (Gale and Zemeckis) don’t have artistic integrity e.g. the first draft of BTTF had Coca-Cola being the mystifying component which made the time machine work. The project was commissioned for a development deal at Columbia Pictures, who would end up being bought by Coca-Cola in 1982. It was the second movie (after E.T.) where Columbia missed out on reaping the rewards of being attached to Spielberg. Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Miller became the new product placements. Although, things went awry when a deal fell through. The idea was for M.A. Fox to consume California Raisins instead of having a beggar sleep on a bench whose backrest displays the logo.

The California Raisin Advisory Board members had threatened to sue. I wonder what the producers felt inclined to plug when Eric was on board before being thrown overboard. The Raisin committee were appeased, if not pleased, when a $25,000 refund check arrived and decided to let things stand. After all, the movie still advertises California Raisins instead of showing them in a prom glass bowl where the brand can’t really be named. Still, being given the shortest straw had to sting since the raisin board paid $50,000 for that scene and a plugging for a BTTF sweepstakes. This is just another example of the producers being misers instead of meisters.

Eric chose Paris because, prior to BTTF, he acted in Code Name: Emerald a.k.a. The Emerald. It was produced by the same producer of Mask – Martin Starger. The political intrigue is convoluted by the fact that the World War II film was released by MGM but was the first theatrical film produced by NBC, which was owned by Universal. It was released on September 27 of 1985. BTTF was still in cinemas. If Eric hadn’t been fired, and if Emerald had been released in the spring of ’85, BTTF would’ve benefited with Eric in it because people would recognize his face. It could be surmised that Universal and MGM disagreed about what should be released first (i.e. using one film to increase the value of the ensuing one e.g. “He’s from that Ed Harris movie!”).

Finally, I need to address the mythos about Fox being the first choice. I’ve often found there to be some astroturfing online in that there are studio executives who will go out of their way to create accounts, with no proof of who they are, so as to type confirmation bias (in a bid to counteract any people trying to leak the truth). Yes, Marty has the same initial as Michael. Yes, himself alongside Christopher Lloyd reflects the TV odd couple in Romancing the Stone. You could even say there’s a formula: find a TV actor named Michael and hook him up with an actor from Taxi. However, the script that Fox was working with shares the fourth draft label as the one that Eric was working with. If Fox was first, his comedy version would not have a later date on the script.