While Robert Zemeckis is a commercially successful director, he is a financial failure. Three separate movies point to this. First, there’s Back to the Future. In late 2017, someone had commented on this video* where Christopher Lloyd is sitting next to Bob Gale (the main producer) for a Q&A session with an audience. Given that I have received a lot of attention because of my BTTF articles about Stoltz, it’s important to reproduce a person’s comment because it was influenced by the way that I put my research together. This person’s comment is as follows…
“The body language from Lloyd is very interesting in this. He’s clearly not comfortable about what’s been said. Reading between the lines of what has been said, it sounds like they were running out of time and money to make the movie, so needed an excuse to get more time and money. It also sounds like THEY made the movie too serious…perhaps too dark, and because they didn’t have time or money to finish it right, they realised the only way to get the movie done was to reshoot a load of scenes with a more comedic vibe. The only way to get permission from the studio was to say Eric Stoltz wasn’t working in the role.”
For those who don’t know which lines to read between, the budget had been cut in the pre-production stage. Officially, it meant that they had to change the finale. However, another anecdote revealed that Eric’s final (seventh) week resulted in the producers cutting costs by not filming any of his close-up shots despite the fact that they supposedly wanted to fire him after the previous week. On July 9 of 1985, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a rumour had been floating around about Stoltz being a scapegoat because several key shots were bungled early on in the shooting. I, myself, have a theory about what was going on financially. The basis of my theory is Crispin Glover claiming that the last scene which he had filmed with Eric was when Marty McFly sees his new family in 1985. This is fascinating since there weren’t any stills of this in the visual history book.
Going by the accounts of what people have said about filmed scenes, it seems like that prom scene wasn’t filmed because the number of extras would make it too costly. One of the black musicians (Granville Young) has a widow who told me that her husband didn’t film the scene with Stoltz, yet Joel Silver claimed that Stoltz was fired after BTTF was entirely filmed. In an interview with Robert Rodriguez for a talk show called The Director’s Chair, Zemeckis told him that they were already getting prepared to change the fifties sets to the eighties sets before they thought about firing Eric. What corroborates this is that Thomas F. Wilson claimed that the film was nearly done. Finally, a man in the SFX department had described the status of the Stoltz shoot as “basically” completed. This term generally means that it’s not really completed but you can just about wing it.
For example, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Steven Spielberg had to scrap a few action scenes from the script due to financial constraints. The consolation was that they could be used for the sequel. In the case of BTTF, Crispin told IGN that the script was constantly being rewritten during filming. One example is that the skateboard chase was originally going to end with Biff’s car being hit by a train. It would appear that the only way for BTTF to be finished in its then-current form would be to have Marty succeed in being a matchmaker after seeing George punch Biff and reunite with Lorraine. This would mean that a financial restriction might have forced Rob Zemeckis to rewrite the prom night scene so that Marty pulls out his photo and sees that his siblings are completely visible.
This would explain why Courtney Gains was surprised about still being on their payroll. In the April 19, 1986 issue of a Scottish newspaper called Evening Times, there is an article by Alasdair Marshall where he reported that BTTF was “more or less finished” when Spielberg was viewing the rushes and decided to get rid of Eric. This sheds light on an anecdote in Tom Wilson’s 2012 autobiography (The Masked Man) about how, during the final week, he had seen Zemeckis take Eric aside in between takes so that they could have long discussions. Getting fired requires one long chat, but saving money requires many of them.
The other two times that Zemeckis had bitten off more than he could chew with either time or money were Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Forrest Gump (1994). The former was always in danger of being cancelled because he kept on missing the deadline (imagine how Chris Lloyd must have felt about history repeating itself). The latter was a worse situation because he ran out of money, and needed Tom Hanks to be his piggy bank. The above photos are from the première of the animated Beauty and the Beast in November 10, 1991. Rob’s wife is an actress named Mary Ellen Trainor. He married her a few weeks after the release of his second flop – Used Cars.
Mary wasn’t in the movie but she would later appear in some of his other movies – Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future Part II, Death Becomes Her and Forrest Gump. She was in Spielberg’s The Goonies, which was referenced in Wilson’s memoir as being expected to be bigger than BTTF. As for the other photo, Eric is with Bridget Fonda. She was his girlfriend at the time. She had just completed a starring role in a movie with his ex-girlfriend. The movie was Single White Female. The ex was Jennifer Jason Leigh. Bridget’s relationship with Eric began in 1990 and ended in 1998, which he had alluded to in his article about being a director (where he claimed that the number of `80s directors who properly directed him could be counted on one hand).
Speaking of which, I asked Jeffrey Weissman if Eric (who he has met) ever told him about how he could have been funny if Zemeckis had actually put him in that direction. I should note that he was referring to Ally Sheedy when he said: “No. I only spoke once with Eric about him living with Ally when we were both testing for the lead in War Games (I couldn’t understand why she was not connecting to me and watching him during my test). Bob Z usually didn’t give a lot of direction. He casts capable talent and then trusts them to do their thing. It’s too bad if he didn’t communicate that it needed more comedy.”
In this interview for Amblin Road, Bob Gale tried to play down the hype that was surrounding Eric’s performance in Mask by claiming that nobody had heard of BTTF when it was first being made. However, a passage in Robert Clouse’s 1988 biography of Bruce Lee makes me think otherwise: “No matter where a film is being made, information about a project can be rapidly transmitted. The easy flow of conversation between artists and executives by transcontinental telephone, and through a million daily lunches, late-night parties and bar talk, starts the process toward a consensus of any given production. When a film is in trouble or going over budget, or if a particular picture has the potential of “flying,” it is soon known. The word of winners and losers seeps through the cracks of editorial rooms, music sessions and sound-mixing studios. A collective knowledge builds until an opinion has been gained. People will nod when a certain name or title is mentioned, though it may be unknown to the public for the moment. Future deals are proposed based on what will surely be, and no one wants to miss the boat.”
* As of 2019, that video was taken down. It was probably because the uploader was a bit self-conscious in how he positioned the camera, as if he was afraid of being caught. Also, there was some blurriness that resulted in some unkind comments. The Q&A session took place at the Chatham Orpheum Theater in Massachusetts on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Lloyd’s body language was as follows…
- When Gale started to give his usual speech of Fox being the unavailable first choice, Chris leaned back, crossed his arms and his upper torso visibly expanded in a way that can be described as someone impatiently suspending their disbelief by taking a big breath.
- When Gale talked about Eric not being right for the role, Chris turned his head away from Bob and lowered it so that he was facing the floor in front of him.
- Unlike the audience, Chris did not laugh nor smile when Gale did a churlish impersonation of what someone might tell Eric if they saw all of the footage: “Oh, man, were you bad!”
I think Chris Lloyd reaction is kind of the same in this video where Matt Ryan interviews Christopher Lloyd (actor) and Bob Gale (screenwriter) at the UC Santa Barbara Pollock Theater. Take a look at Lloyd starting at minute 15 and u can see that his body language is against of what Gale is saying about Stotz version shooting process. Who is the liar here ? Here is the vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyUYYqDQpOA
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I noticed that Lloyd shook his head at 16:09 after Gale quotes Zemeckis about approaching him about the problem with Eric. He then shakes his head a moment later.
yea, Chris shook his head to the left and right showing his disagreement with Gale. He was checking his nails, touching his head, cough everything was bothering Lloyd when Gale was speaking about Stoltz..Aren’t they tired of this game already, stating this fairy tales for years ? Zemeckis is not commenting this situation that often, having many other notable movies in his collection, but Gale is like a nutcracker , the same story hundred times per years in different podcasts.. I wonder why nobody from the main cast doesn’t talk about alternate ending shot with Stoltz ? Only Crispin Glover said that several times in his interviews. I was always wondering how old he looked on the back cover of his book (portray from Stoltz alternate ending) and like a playboy in Fox version…I think this is because Crispin doesn’t attend this comic conventions with the rest of the cast and he doesn’t play Gale’s game because of his lawsuit.
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Good observation about the change in looks for the ending. Crispin never liked the materialistic nature of the ending was, so maybe Zemeckis and Gale changed George’s image to make a point.
I think part of the reason why the original ending doesn’t get mentioned is because the actress who played the maid lost her job once the ending had been changed. Having to talk about her would involve having to mention her name, and then there would be articles referencing her as having missed out on being in a classic like Stoltz. Unlike him, she didn’t have much of a career or we would have heard about her by now.
In the below interview with Crispin, the interviewer wrote: “When I interviewed Thompson about the film last year for a book I was writing about 80s films, she recalled how horrified Glover and Eric Stoltz were by the inference that money equals happiness. When I mention this to Glover, he bristles at the idea that Stoltz raised objections: “I never saw him say anything about it, I tend to think that may not be accurate.” But he quickly focuses on the source of his real ire: the film’s writer and producer, Bob Gale.”
Perhaps talking about the ending would suggest that Stoltz was replaced for this very reason. In another interview, Crispin mentioned that the ending was the last scene which he filmed with Stoltz. Crispin remembers this because the first scene that he filmed with Fox was the same scene. From his point of view, his impression was that this was their way of dropping hints about how he should be careful.
A very interesting info i found in this video about alternate ending shot with Stoltz. I was kind of confused when they mentioned Biff in this ending. It looks like he was absent in original ending and his last scene in the movie should be that fateful fist at the prom.. Biff character is very interesting to me in Stoltz Cut – he is more an episodic character, but more dangerous. In Fox version Biff became the comic character in the entire trilogy responsible for McFly family troubles in life.. Replacement of Stoltz gave Tom Wilson a career and fame for his life because they made Biff the comic features. If u count his screen time in BTTF u can see that he is only for 12-15 minutes in the movie. here is the vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcG61w474zY .Watch it at 8:20 minute.
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It’s possible that they realized Tom Wilson had the potential to be a big star so they made his part bigger*, but also because he probably wanted financial compensation after being bruised by Stoltz during the school cafeteria scene.
* It’s kind of like what happened with Bruce Lee during the making of The Big Boss. Originally, James Tien was the star and Bruce was to have a limited role. During the course of filming, it became apparent that Bruce had more to offer so their fates were switched.
Even Wilson said he wasn’t sure about his acting because this was his 2 acting movie. Stoltz (rumors says) wasn’t pleased with Tom’s acting in more serious genre and that why they kind of clashed between takes. As comedic actor Wilson in BTTF he worked fine, but for a more serious portrayal of Biff in Stoltz Cut not that much .Maybe originally they wanted Biff to be like one of the “grease” from Outsiders or any other movie from the same thematic.. But with time it came more into a spoof genre.
In my opinion Doc Brown also was more a serious character in Stoltz Cut, not this so called screaming pipe clown type.. It is very evident when they are watching the tape on black and white TV from 1955 showing the footage from the first time travel experiment because it is from Stoltz Cut … In my opinion the footage when he showed the bulletproof vest from the end with Doc was kept from Stoltz Cut because Doc is more serious speaking his lines (not goofy as regular and as it should be for a comedy).
George McFly played by Crispin Glover wasn’t so scared of his own shadow in Stoltz Cut.. He was more enthusiastic during Stoltz time as the lead. After Fox came on board he was so afraid to be fired as Stoltz that he was afraid of everything he was touching.
Only Lea Thompson character remained the same in my opinion because the switch of the genres from teen drama to a comedy didn’t required that from her. It worked fine in both cuts.
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About Zemeckis taking Stoltz aside in between takes during that final week, Wilson assumed that they were talking about him, which makes me think that they must have been looking at him while they talked. Maybe they were talking about something else like Wilson getting angry about Eric bruising him in the cafeteria.
Your reference to The Outsiders made me think that C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio were wanted for the role of Marty so that people would make the connection between the two films. We might have got more in-jokes with one of those guys as Marty.
After the success of Happy Days and Grease, I’m surprised that Zemeckis and Gale had a hard time finding interest from studios.
I think that Crispin enjoyed working on the Stoltz version more because they attended the same drama class, and even appeared in a TV advert where they played brothers.
You are right, they filmed at parking lot with Eric, the masters (shots where he is pulling the car), but the interior of the scene was filmed on stage. Gale said that when they filmed with Fox after that kiss with Thompson her reaction was filmed later on in studio not at location.
Basically what we never heard from cast and filmmakers, are the following scenes:
1. Battle of the bands scene.
2. Melora Hardin scenes as Jen (SHE CONFIRMED THAT SHE NEVER FILMED ANY SCENES WITH ERIC, except pics for his wallet and it was in December in the day when Marty is arranging George’s hair before entering into café before that fist). Who knows, maybe Eric filmed with a different actress like Kyra Sedgwick secretly.
3. Marty arriving home in the beginning where he sees George talking with Biff about his crashed car. I think in Stoltz cut the scene was different, Fox version is just a re-write of this scene and an introduction of Biff. I am sensing originally Biff was presented just in 1955. Maybe I am wrong.
4. Prom scene when Biff pulls Marty from the car – Tom said that he never got the chance to avenge his bruises after school cafeteria scene. Rumors say they might have filmed the scene with a stunt double because Eric and Tom couldn’t get along.
5. M. Berry scenes and Marty in the Trunk.
6. Johnny B. Goode scene. For me the movie could work without this scene. And after George hits Biff down, Marty goes directly to the clock tower. Even Zemeckis thought it slows the movie down in pacing.
7. Marty in detention wasn’t filmed entirely. We know that the scene where Tolkan smashes his Sony Walkman in vise was filmed (we have 2 stills) but detention scene itself wasn’t at Whittier but on stage. Gale said classroom was built for Fox version but it was complicated to film. They chose an easier scene in the Fox version with Strickland.
What makes me curious is that the Eric Stoltz Futurepedia Fandom page says that Strickland overhears phone conversation between Marty and Doc at school. In the script posted online we do not have this scene in the draft. I know there are some some stills where Strickland in listening someone’s conversation on the phone in his office and again maybe someone get to this conclusion. In the draft posted online, Doc is first introduced at the clock tower scene with Jen from the beginning of the movie.
Anyway what we never heard of are about 25-30 minutes from the movie. Everything else is known over the years.
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I think the battle of the bands scene wasn’t filmed because they couldn’t find a rock star who was willing enough to do a cameo for a film starring a non-star.
It would be interesting if Kyra Sedgwick acted with Stoltz since they later appeared in Cameron Crowe’s Singles.
The 1984 script online has Biff first appear in 1985.
When Zemeckis took Eric aside in between takes, it’s possible that they were planning on how to film the scene without Tom.
I know that in 1984 script Biff first appears in 1985 with George at McFly house. What makes me confused is that Biff make up test on Blu-ray is dated March 1985, everyone else make up test is from November 1984. I come to the conclusion that Biff originally was presented only in 1955. When Eric was replaced they decided to expand his role and make Biff responsible for all McFly troubles in the entire trilogy. As I said the script from 1985 doesn’t match everything 100 percent how it was filmed. For example chase ends at the railroad, Marty calls George home after school cafeteria scene (in Fox version Marty is chasing George outside and they have a conversation in front of his house). Again as I said, that scene where Strickland overhears between Marty and Doc is not presented there.
In C. Gaines book We Don’t Need Roads, it’s mentioned that Eric took classes for about a month to learn how to play guitar. Very interesting to hear from Sid Sheinberg. He says something like Eric Stoltz BTTF was never tested to the audience that’s why it is hard to say if it was bad or not. It was purely filmmakers decision to do the change. He debunked the rumor that he ever watched the workprint cut of Stoltz Cut.
Again speculation of how much footage was filmed with Stoltz is very controversial. Gale is saying 40 minutes worth of the footage, Spielberg and Visual book – 45 minutes. If I understand that correctly, 40-45 minutes are only those 5 weeks. Where are the rest 2 weeks after December 1984? When you count according to all call sheets stills and lobby cards, interviews with cast, it should be around 85 minutes. Maybe during their assembled cut, many second unit footage and stunts weren’t ready yet and this is another explanation why they are saying it was that short (40-45 minutes).
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It’s possible that Wilson’s make-up test was to make him look funnier instead of scarier than what he would have looked like in the Stoltz version.
They should have tested his version to an audience but they were so desperate to get a hit with Michael J. Fox that they only heard what they wanted to hear. Sid should have been allowed to see everything.
They lied about how many minutes because they’ve tried to downplay how many weeks that they spent on it, and how much footage. Spielberg was interviewed by British film critic Barry Norman in 1985, and he told Barry that Eric only spent 4 weeks on it.
You are right. Talking about Stoltz BTTF, they started with 2 weeks and over the years went to 8 weeks according to Chris Lloyd. Visual book officially says it is 7 weeks. It is like a broken phone, TMZ News and Today are shrinking the genius mind. And they keep making money because of Stoltz today. Every 5 years of new BD edition of BTTF, audience is thinking maybe this time finally they are going to show it to us. But no, this not the case, let’s put some weird test screen of different guys who wanted the role of Marty and other cast members, intentionally go around Stoltz test or even some scenes. Maybe just a hint or a new still. Gale said that John Cusack and James Spader didn’t allow to include their test screen on the new Blu-Ray. Bravo guys. Games and tricks… Shame on you Gale and all the producers and studio altogether. Just do not buy these editions anymore if they are not going to include what people are expecting.
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Coincidentally, James Spader is one of Eric’s friends and they have acted in a few films together.
Maybe Spader and Cusack will change their minds after seeing the screen tests of the other guys.
Do we need all these test screens of actors? I understand they become famous as well later on, but come on if everyone is going to show every step in casting it is ridiculous. They make money on the others fame today. I am sensing the next test screen is going to be Karate Kid. Ralph M. Too many games, documentaries (Back in Time), movies on Netflix, Discovery expedition, BTTF too much; they retell the same stories 1000 times. People just get tired of it, when you push hard and try to attract more, you do 180 degree opposite and they hate it. After 2008-2009 when these Comic Cons started from city to city to do the same thing for 15 years became very boring. Same jokes, same stories…. Now this Cameo thing from celebrities… I think even the cast is tired already. But the money is the force here….
Regarding Spader and Stoltz, everybody knows that they starred together in A Killer in the Family (1983) and The New Kids (1985). But even if they are friends, he didn’t get the role, he wasn’t in short lists. It is more about ethic. Studio simply capitalize on their own fame today. Why they are not showing any kind of unknown John Doe test?
Universal can include Stoltz test and people can decide was he bad or not. I am guessing not that bad. Even in that short clips he clearly was more experienced actor, interior thinking, facial express. Someone can say he was looking at the ceiling when looking at George in the Cafe, or very stunned crossing the street. The problem wasn’t in Eric but in the tone of the movie. Here is more disagreement of director in my opinion. It is hard to understand that after 7 weeks of shooting…all the team recognized the problem. They should say from the beginning that Stoltz movie wasn’t a comedy and we shift the gears into a comedy with Fox. Because today they are blaming Eric because he wasn’t comic. There is a test screen of Glover with dif. actor as Marty with completely diff. dialogue from the movie and he wasn’t funny at all. Just unhappy poor man. It is on YouTube.
Glover’s acting fits Eric performance as Marty.
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It’s important to show all the screen tests of famous actors because it puts Eric in good company as a victim of rejection.
Having Back to the Future as a drama would have been better because there would have been more contrast between the family in dirt straits before the time travel and being in good spirits after the time travel. With the film being a comedy, the audience has as much fun seeing the family being miserable as they do with the family being successful…so the effect is diluted somewhat.
Also, there’s a certain kind of innocent charm that comes from seeing a young person act older in a drama which doesn’t really come through if you’re making a comedy where the previous star was fired for not being youthful enough. If a young person pretends to be much older in a drama, they have to act with a sense of sincere conviction so that they can be taken seriously.
In a comedy that requires the main star to be energetic, the “older” relatives have to be literally up to speed. Changing the film from drama to comedy meant that a few actors were robbed of “Best supporting” acting awards. Crispin Glover probably has the maturity to realize this, but Lea Thompson is too vacuous and celebrity-obsessed to appreciate that. As for Tom Wilson, he was too self-deprecating and facetious to take stock of this since he was an aspiring comedian.
As I said before Wilson as a comedy actor was very fine in BTTF, but for more serious Biff in Stoltz version not that much because he was at the beginning of his career. I watched Let’s Get Harry (1986), an action movie but somehow more serious in tone and Tom was looking still fresh in the industry. Certainly Biff played by Tom in Stoltz version was not a William Defoe performance in Streets on Fire. Why I mention Defoe in this case? It is because Biff in Stoltz Cut was somehow a guy with bigger authority, not that criminal-oriented but still a big fish in his district and school.
Lea Thompson was the actress who actually shouldn’t do anything new when they switched the genres. Role and portrayal works fine and the same in both genres – comedy and drama. It is a role of naïve girl who is young and horny. Doc Brown was an intellectual, more real scientist in SC and a clown in Fox version. George was a teenager with his problems who can’t fit in at school, but not that desperate like in Fox version. THIS IS PURELY MY INTUITION so please don’t get me wrong.
In Stoltz cut, I think one major role should play correctly arranged music especially when Lorraine is talking at the dinner table scene about unhappy marriage, longer shots of thinking Marty and stuff. In Fox version, editing is very choppy somehow and incoherent some times. Also deleting the part with cassette in envelope into the trash in his bedroom and waking up in the morning – was it all a dream? – works very good in drama version with Stoltz. Silvestri cues can be used somehow but arrangement much softer in parts. I know Intrada used to release a Special Edition of score from Silvestri with some bonus early unused cues. Many are stating that this cues are from Stoltz cut, but what I heard from Silvestri is that Zemeckis approached him only in February 1985 during filming the prom scene at the church. Eric was replaced in mid-January 1985.
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Given their work history, you would think that Zemeckis would have contacted Alan Silvestri a lot sooner. Bearing in mind that films begin with storyboards as well as scripts, so it would have been easier to give the composer an idea of how the musical beats can play off the visual beats. Since Gale claimed that the film was being edited as they were filming, they could have got Alan to sit in with the editorial sessions so as to get a feel for the film’s rhythm.
Had the Stoltz version been scored before his firing, maybe Sheinberg wouldn’t have gone through with the decision to replace him with Fox. Music is a powerful motivator. Such is its power that Spielberg has often been accused of manipulating audience’s feelings with his use of music. Watching a film without music is like watching a sitcom without a laugh track.
The timing of Alan’s hiring is suspicious. He was hired after the Stoltz version was almost completed, but he was hired after Fox was cast. Perhaps Alan initially didn’t want to compose because Stoltz wasn’t a big name. Ironically, watching two versions of the same film probably gave Alan some inspiration and more breathing room to extend cues. From a musical perspective, the difference between the two productions is the difference between music being played in minor key and major key.
Maybe they used temporary music in Stoltz BTTF from different movies like many directors do. You are right, music plays 70-80 percent of success when the movie is released. Good music arrangement can hide bad directing, editing and acting many times. At the same time, wrong arranged music can kill the genius directing, editing and the best acting in the world. It is very tricky and hard job to match it right.
Very interesting was to hear from editor Keramidas that shots arrangements and angles in both cuts were pretty much the same. Taking in consideration that they were deleting Eric shots and replace them with the new ones with Fox in the center. it was a very hard and tricky job to do. Like Crispin said, he was playing with Stoltz in the scene but his reaction was switched with MJF. Only masters were completely new (when all actors with Fox are in the same shots). Very weird experience.
Also as scripted on the town square when Marty arrives in 1955 is played a different song Papa Plays Mambo (they re-used it in BTTF 2 for 1955 scenes), not Mr. Sandman. What was always bothering me in the Fox version is the fact that the song from Lou’s Café during You Are My Density scene is not matching the movements of the customers who are at the café. You can not dance and move like Goldie is when playing that song. When I heard music from Intrada Special Edition, I came to conclusion that unused song Ling Ting Ring was the one used initially. This song matches more with what was going on in the café. Maybe it was too loud or something was wrong when Crispin was telling his dialogue about his density.
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I can’t imagine the angles being the same with Stoltz being taller than Fox.
I’m starting to think that they used bad music on purpose when putting together the rough cut of the Stoltz version. Papa Loves Mambo doesn’t fit the mood of the scene.
I was thinking the same thing. In Fox version, they simplified everything just to finish the film and go to the next project (if they will have one after all their box office failures in the past). I really do like detention scene in the script because Strickland has better development, more screen time, not like an episodic role (like in Fox cut). Detention scene was complicated but it was a good opening action sequence. Tolkan filmed all his scenes in a few days for Fox version. In Stoltz cut, it should take much longer and character more central and motivational for Marty. Tolkan said in one interview that re-writes for his character were better for Fox version. I really doubt that because you are losing the whole opening with you (Tolkan) as one of the leads and replaced just with a 40 second dialogue. It is not sincere.
The second scene that was simplified is the preparing for the fake fight. For the Stoltz version, they have a bag that George was pushing learning how to hit right. They filmed it with Stoltz and Glover. When they replaced Eric, Fox came in and that construction with the bag was kind of too high for Fox stature and they abandoned that scene again. The third scene abandoned in Fox version was hiding DeLorean in his own brand new house in 1955. Marty locks it in his garage with the same garage key from 1985. Gale explained that they couldn’t find a construction area suitable for shooting. They used just Lion Estate sign and an empty space for that. I guess they were in real trouble and lack of money, so made the things easier and not that impressive.
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Tolkan got a raw deal with BTTF. He’s smaller than Stoltz but taller than Fox, so should have been more of an antagonist the second time round.
It’s kind of ironic that they rushed things with Fox but took so many short cuts in doing so. You would think that casting a bigger star would allow for a higher budget and more time. They should have spent more time on the movie, and delayed the release date till August where there would have been less box office competition.
Agree. Tolkan has a better role in the BTTF 2 in the entire trilogy. It is somehow a development of his character, but in the first movie you could really miss him on screen. The short dialogue about being a slacker is nothing more than 40 seconds. Universal gave additional 3-4 million dollars for the reshoots and they even didn’t prepare and get things right before shooting a certain scene. Sometimes when I am watching BTTF 1, I have a feeling that it is more a TV movie than a theatrical film. Again editing is the problem here, Fox was absent many times from the set and his stand alone shots, just few masters are bothering me. It looks like the scenes weren’t right choreographed.
The ending clock tower scenes when we certainly need longer shots with Marty looking at Doc on the top of the tower are missing. They inserted him screaming in some separate shots and so on. Really catches today your unprofessional eye. When Doc sends Marty to the future for a second time before lightning, you can clearly see a guy in the car dressed like Stoltz in black jacket and white T-shirt. Really poorly edited for so-called summer teen movie hit. I would show some more wider angles showing the streets from 1955 where George and Lorraine lives. More atmosphere of 1955 like in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). The sequels are much better in this aspect even if they are least successful.
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Spielberg should have supervised Zemeckis for the reshoots like he did with Tobe Hooper during the making of Poltergeist. E.T. was less ambitious but more epic. Even Gremlins is more cinematic than BTTF.
It makes me wonder if the studio only allowed the reshoots to take place if Zemeckis agreed to keep a lot of the footage from the non-Stoltz version.
Yes, cinematic aspect is a big problem here. Even Teen Wolf with Fox that was shot on the same time on the same street offers more details of the background neighbourhood. Teen Wolf house was Lorraine’s house in 1955 and has a budget of 1.2 million only. I think the creators of BTTF saw Fox for the first time. The fairy tales about approaching Gary Goldberg in September of 1984 before casting Stoltz is very hard to believe today. As I said, Alan Silvestri’s score saved the movie and all the creators should thank him for that…
I think back then studios weren’t that protective about budget and control. Today in indies, low budget studio look at every detail, strict schedule 20 days, few takes, move on forward even if they are not satisfied. It became a real fast-paced environment… 80s/early 90s was a different era. That’s why many studios lost a lot of money and even filed for bankruptcy. Today, no one wants to make the same mistakes… Golden era of film-making was 80s to early 00s..
I don’t think someone forbade Cundey to shoot some more background shots just in case to make a connection to another scene. Look how Zemeckis and Cundey shot Romancing the Stone the previous year, or any other their work. In BTTF, they are so limited… When Marty saves George life and got hit by his grandfather, I wanted a wider angle to see the street and houses there… Or even develop a scene where Marty is spying on Lorraine at home in 1955 (Doc forbid Marty to interact directly with his relatives), you know everyone is curious to see his younger relatives in the past… Maybe they did that in Stoltz Cut?
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Going by the televisual style of the film, maybe the film-makers were expecting to make a movie that would do better on TV and video than in the cinema.
There’s a 2001 episode of Futurama (“Roswell that Ends Well”) which seems to be a reference to the Stoltz version because Fry is a ginger-haired young man who accidentally goes back in time and sleeps with his grandmother. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence because there are two other episodes referencing him – The Butterjunk Effect where Fry becomes a butterfly (a reference to The Fly II and Stoltz’s The Butterfly Effect) and A Head in the Polls (where Eric’s head is among other movie star heads).
Oh man, so many references of Eric Stoltz being Marty McFly in BTTF in different shows during the years that he feels uncomfortable every day. Please let him hide behind closed doors…. Did he become a synonym of joke in someone’s eyes? The reality is that he was really good in BTTF. It is like an urban legend already. I am wondering – Did Eric ever meet Michael J. Fox? What did they say to each other?
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I don’t think that Eric ever met him, or the latter would have mentioned it in his memoir: Lucky Man. Michael, however, did meet one of Eric’s girlfriends – Cher. In Lucky Man, MJF wrote…
At that year’s Oscars, I presented an award and backstage afterwards I passed Cher, in full diva regalia, waiting by an elevator.
“Hi,” I said, extending my hand.
“I’m Mike Fox.”
Maybe it had something to do with my being roughly the same height as Sonny, or the fact that she had starred in Mask with Eric Stoltz, the actor whom I’d replaced in Back to the Future, but Cher seemed less than thrilled to me.
“I know who you are,” she said flatly across an imaginary velvet rope, and without stopping to shake my hand, turned and stepped into the elevator.
I think Eric still talks with Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson. Everyone else is just a memory, good or bad it depends… If BTTF would have been failed after his replacement, everyone would say lucky you Eric, you skipped this crap. But after being the highest grossing film of the year 1985, everyone is like you lost the pure gold from your hand…. What was in your head dude ? You did it with your own hands arguing with director…
Eric claimed that there was no argument with the director since he wasn’t being told that he should be funny. Zemeckis, himself, has never said that Eric was being rebellious during filming. It was usually Crispin who did that.
Cundey stated that Stoltz argued with Zemeckis during filming. After prom scene when Marty arrives to the clock tower Bob wanted Eric to run crossing the street, but Eric refused saying that his character wouldn’t do that…. It is descried in the Visual Book.
Or Cundey said this in one interview last year
Did you agree with the recasting choice of Marty McFly?
Yeah. I think so. The Back to the Future script was good and it was evident how it needed to be seen. Everyone got that. Anybody who read it got that. Some scripts or films are very evident about what they need to be. Some film situations have a script that I will read, and it is evident what it needs to be. But you might get a young director who wants to make his mark and he will say, ‘we should do this dude.’ You try and talk him into ideas that fulfil what he wants to do but aren’t too radical. But sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Here is the link http://amblinroad.com/2021/07/13/an-interview-with-cinematographer-dean-cundey/
I don’t trust Cundey. Spielberg telling him to do the exact same thing as before is dubious because the Fox version wasn’t entirely filmed the same way as the Stoltz version. If Spielberg had the final word on recasting and reshooting then that would mean Sidney Sheinberg was less powerful than him.
I also observed that Cundey is tricky in his interviews about Stoltz. Once he told they shot the entire movie, later half of it. Asking him at Comic Con when SC is going to be release, he answered that he really doubt about that.
Conspiracy theories all over this mysterious Stoltz BTTF. I am very happy that we together analysed the production of this movie. People become even more curious to see the original movie with Eric. I think our dream will become truth in less than 10 years. I wish Eric Stoltz the best and hope that he can shine on the big screen as the legendary time travel teen Marty McFly.
P.S. I am very happy to read your articles about famous movies from the last century. It is our childhood, the best time in life.. Really new and detailed stories about famous productions. I learned a lot about Knock Off production. Info is very rare and you can’t find it anywhere else.
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It seems like Cundey was told to scale back on the answer. It’s like Tom Wilson and Christopher Lloyd being allowed to only imply how much was shot instead of dishing out specifics. Many years ago, Tom was more than happy to say that the movie was nearly done with Stoltz. Now, not so much.
In the above video, Lloyd saying that he didn’t sense anything was wrong could be interpreted as a subtle way of saying that there was nothing wrong with what Eric was doing.
One thing that’s never been addressed is how the reshoots may have stopped the cast from doing what they were originally planning to do in early 1985 unless the Amblin team deliberately cast actors who had nothing planned in particular.
Back then, Tom wasn’t a part of this Comic Con BTTF reunion. He was more sincere because he wasn’t involved in conventions. He joined the rest of the cast later on. After this he started to play Bob Gale game. Anyway, we have that radio conversation from 2011 on YouTube where he says as it is – SC almost done movie. Lloyd is also not very happy how it turned out the story about Stoltz over the years. I was listening to a Crispin Glover interview recently and he said that he talked with Eric a while ago. Eric told him he’s absolutely fine with BTTF situation today. Crispin also called Tom Wilson who told him that he is not very happy about all these BTTF stories and career turn. Something was bothering him.
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I can’t imagine how Eric would be fine with the BTTF situation unless it gives people more reason to check out his filmography and hire him.
Maybe Tom Wilson wishes that he was in Pulp Fiction.
Maybe after BTTF trilogy, Tom Wilson hoped to get more roles in mainstream movies or the same range movies as BTTF. Unfortunately it never happened again. He has mostly episodic and co-starring roles and never leads where he can carry the entire movie on him. What a pity.
Regarding Pulp Fiction rumour says that Fox was in the list of candidates to play Lance. This time, Eric Stoltz was the one who shines on the screen. Anyway, Fox played almost the same role his entire life career: family-oriented, and more childish movies. He succeed, he got Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy awards, etc.
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It’s weird that Billy Zane had a smaller role but greater career than Tom, but that’s probably because he looks like Marlon Brando.
Casey Siemazsko, who played one of the bullies, probably had a better career than Tom. Casey was in Stand by Me, he was the star of Three O’ Clock High, and he co-starred in a movie with Burt Reynolds (Breaking In). He was in Biloxi Blues (starring Matthew Broderick), he was one of the Young Guns, and he was in Of Mice and Men (starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise).
Even weirder is that Casey had reunited with Billy in The Phantom, but the other guys never reunited with each other on screen. What Tom has in common with J.J. Cohen is that they have acted in erotic thrillers. J.J. was in Object of Obsession (1994) whereas Tom was in Caroline at Midnight (1993).
You are right, Billy Zane capitalize after BTTF and Tom stuck as Biff. Billy was too big after Titanic, he never talked that much about his early roles. Only few years ago, during pandemic, he started to join BTTF conventions, interviews on YouTube. His career now is also not that great, as many other famous actors in the 90s. They stuck in primitive DTV stuff. I heard Billy saying something like – I started in BTTF when Eric Stoltz was famously replaced. He never commented about Eric performance’s in BTTF. He was careful in words… you can see that on his face. But even Billy after success of Titanic also didn’t get any other major role. Cleopatra TV movie was huge, even bigger in decorations, but it’s not mainstream. Early 00s cut the careers of most actors after Spider Man success. Studios wanted only comic adaptations, actors in suit and not serious filmmaking anymore.
Regarding Casey Siemazsko, I think he is great. He starred in the most famous teen movies in the 80s in the supporting roles. His family is already a dynasty of actors. His sister, Nina is also an actress, most known for License to Drive (1988) with the 2 Coreys. I like his acting. Three O’ Clock High was a big video success (not a theater money maker) and is always included in the list of the best teen movies made in the 80s. Even Spielberg directed him in parts (uncredited) going by rumors.
J.J Cohen, to me, doesn’t have that recognizable face of an actor when you look at him and remember forever. I saw him with longer hair, in BTTF he has short cut I couldn’t recognize him. Stoltz, Lloyd, Fox, Thompson (even if she looked in a way like J. J . Leigh), Wilson, Siemazsko, Billy Zane (even if he looks the same like Arnold Vosloo – both bald) you can say in one sec who they are, but Cohen is hard to recognize. Maybe it is because he never had a prime lead role?!
One thing is for sure, if they released Stoltz BTTF in 1985 his career turn would be very different from today. Another life. But even today when I look at his filmography and all his co-stars, he worked with the most famous people in the industry. Usually when you are a super star, producers almost never allow co-stars bigger than the lead. In this case, Eric was lucky – he work with many masters and people from his own camp. It is mutual sharing…
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It’s sad that Zane hasn’t been interviewed about working with Eric since they did two movies together, including Memphis Belle.
Had Eric been an A-list film star, we could have seen him be the star of his own comic book movie. He actually looks like the character Matt Murdock in Daredevil.
Spielberg directed Siemazsko in an episode of Amazing Stories called The Mission. It had Kevin Costner and Kiefer Sutherland in it. This episode also had two actors from BTTF: Gary Riley and J.J. Cohen.
I sometimes have a hard time picturing Siemazsko in my mind because he looks like Eddie Marsan.
Stoltz’s popularity amazes me. He gets fired from a high profile film after so many weeks of footage, and he never becomes an A-lister because of appearing in box office bombs…yet somehow he has been in not only so many productions (films, TV, plays) but he also been lucky enough to be photographed with big stars who he has not even worked with like Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, Danny DeVito and Nicole Kidman.
As I said, he attracted so many young actresses that became really famous later on. Today I think he is a real family man, but in the 90s Bridget Fonda should put him on a leash. Jesus, I saw her paparazzi pics this winter. Was that really her? Unrecognizable, pretty and seductive girl from Jackie Brown movie. Who knows how much money did Spielberg and the rest paid him for his silence over the years. I was wondering could he sue studio and BTTF team for being replaced at the end of the production? Many say this incident destroyed his career and professional path to A-list actor. What was their agreement after replacement? Non-disclosure doc or what?
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It’s hard to believe it was her but actresses who no longer work tend to let themselves go, which is why Kelly McGillis wasn’t considered for Top Gun: Maverick.
Eric’s agent, Helen Sugland, mentioned in a 1985 article that a settlement had been reached…but she refused to go into any specifics.
I can’t imagine there being a non-disclosure being signed, because Eric gave away a motive in the March 1989 issue of Starlog: “The sequel will all make it clear as to why I wasn’t in the original film. The professor and the kid go back to the period when I was in the cast!”
There’s a May 1986 episode of a documentary series called Frontline where BTTF casting director Mike Fenton is shown having a phone call about Eric with one of the producers for a film called Lionheart. At one point, Mike says: “Look, some of his magic is internal, but I promise you he is Robert. The other thing is he is more than willing to change his hair color; he’ll do whatever has to be done.”
Reading between the lines, it seems like Lionheart was a consolation prize for Eric. The movie was originally going to be a trilogy of films but that plan was scrapped when the film was shelved and only released in Canadian cinemas two years later.
Well, with Eric Stoltz BTTF would never have any sequels. I think one of the reasons why they made the change in casting and genres it is because they wanted an adventure franchise. With Stoltz drama, I do not think it would have work 3 times in a row. They wanted a theatrical TV series with Fox as the lead.
Any other rare stills with Eric in BTTF coming from you soon? I think many people noticed Eric Stoltz hand in phone book searching Doc Brown address at café in 1955. It has freckles and long dirty nails as Eric’s thought rock guitar players have. I debunk this – guitar players have short nails, it is easier to play and they are clean. But maybe Marty was a rebel with no cause in the movie. Lea Thompson said that in one interview. Watch on minute 1:58. Here is the link.
Very interesting and sincere (from 2008) interview before Comic Cons started. Today as you said cast keeps silence and play around.
The funny thing is that in deleted scene from Fox version BTTF Marty is looking at the fading photo of Eric Stolz. Again rushed and unprepared production after Stoltz replacement. Watch and pause on 11:38 minute – you will be really amused. Maybe this is the reason why it was deleted. Here is the link.
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No more photos from me. I’ve found all that there is to be found.
I think that Stoltz had a valid concern about the ending, and it’s something that the writers should have put more thought into showing on screen. It would have made for a bittersweet ending. Ironically, Lea undermines her argument by going on to talk about the sad contrast of the parents in the `50s and the `80s.
I also don’t buy that Stoltz was too method for BTTF, because Crispin was method too…and he wasn’t fired from the first film (although Crispin didn’t punch Tom for real but then neither did Stoltz).
That image of Fox holding the photo of Stoltz was something that I had already incorporated into an article called Proceed and Recede.
I was thinking what Lea Thompson is thinking when Wilson said in that radio interview that Eric Stoltz was flirting with her her on of BTTF? Tom said in that interview that Eric WAS VERY METHOD – EVERYONE PLEASE CALL ME MARTY, EXCEPT LEA, …. blal, bla, bla, method, METHOD, HOT CHICK NO METHOD. Today Lea and Tom see each other every day at conventions, face to face. Lea should say you should keep your mouth shut talking about me and Eric.
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Tom likes talking about that but he never stopped to think if it was consensual. Eric and Lea went on to do Some Kind of Wonderful together, but then he wasn’t invited to appear in her mid-to-late `90s sitcom Caroline in the City.
It’s really strange because Eric had acted in other sitcoms: Frasier (in 1993), Partners (in 1995) and Will & Grace (2005). However, most of his sitcom appearances were in Mad About You (in 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998).
Maybe after her marriage with Howard Deutch, Lea and Eric aren’t friends anymore. She usually is saying that they were friends about that period of time, not today. It happens. You have friends when you are young, in school, university and after you got married, because of the new husband, your ex are gone (especially when you have a jealous husband). Howard directed them both in Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), Eric proposed her the role in SKOW, drive his bicycle to give the script to her personal. It means something…
Taking in consideration Howard is much older than them both, experienced wolf, he said to her – “Honey leave Eric alone. We do not need a triangle here”. On the other hand Eric was with Jennifer Jason Leigh at that time. Look how lovely they are in those BTS BTTF photos – like 2 doves, liking to touch each other. Even Lea said “I was 26 already and still playing teenagers in movies.” It was a real problem at that time for a 26 y.o. lady and her parents (old bride).
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They were definitely pretty close. The below photo was taken in a period that existed between Eric’s firing and Some Kind of Wonderful.
Anyway Howard appeared after BTTF event. But what is Dennis Quaid thinking today? He was her “almost” husband during BTTF 1. They were engaged. Lea said it was a 4 year sad and traumatized story. I understand if we look at Dennis Quaid’s personal life, it is even worse. Changing wives and girlfriends as gloves. Maybe all these actors were swingers during the `80s, studio 54 and stuff, pre-AIDS period. Talking about relationship between Eric, Lea and their own partners someone can make a parallel of today Depp-Heard-Franco case. Not so degraded relation, but with some similarities. Many will say like Chris Penn in THE WILD LIFE (1984) again starring with Eric and Lea, it is “CASUAL” especially in artistic families….
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I remember reading a topic about Eric on a celebrity gossip site called Data Lounge where someone described him in his younger years as a pussy hound.
Someone typed: “I knew Stoltz on and off for a decade in the `90’s, worked in the same circumstances, and know people who were and in two cases still are friends of his. He is definitely not gay. He went through a period of being something of a pussy hound when I knew him. But from what I hear has settled down and indeed is happily married (to a woman). Anyone, including the current Pope or Donald Rumsfeld might have “dabbled”, but I have never heard that he did, not did I get the vibe that he was perhaps available in that way. I didn’t think he was as sweet natured as others in this thread but that’s simply my impression and I could be wrong.”
Definitely he was a pussy hound. At the same time, rumors says he lost his virginity pretty late with Ally Sheedy. But at the same time some of his movies were really strange. Naked in New York – Ralph Macchio kissed Eric Stoltz pretending he was gay. I think this was one of Ralph’s biggest mistakes in his career. Being a child star in Karate Kid, this movie ended his career. Or Sleep with Me (1994), where I was always guessing what the hell was Craig Sheffer doing with Eric and Meg Tilly in the intro on that trip – was it a threesome? Eric likes this kind of complicated characters with love problems during the movie. Again in Killing Zoe, girl saved his life only because he has big mojo. Maybe his real life with girls went on screen in his roles… Again the logical question why he divorced with Bridget Fonda? They looked so happy during interviews. Or it was just on screen at work.
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I’m surprised that Spielberg never made a movie with Ralph. Due to Spielberg’s obsession with children, Ralph would have been perfect for the role of Peter Pan – he was the eternal teenager for a long time because of how young he looked.
Eric played a gay guy in Roommates, and he wanted to play the character that Tom Hanks played in Philadelphia. Eric even wrote about gay rights for the New York Times…
I’m also surprised that Craig Sheffer agreed to work with Stoltz again after SKOW since Stoltz is a method actor and can’t have made things easy for Sheffer in the `80s.
As for Bridget Fonda, perhaps it was awkward for them to still be together when he failed to join her in the A-list.
Well, Craig Sheffer also have strange career after early 90s like Eric. I was thinking that after A River Runs Through It (1992) directed by Redford and co-starring Brad Pitt will bring Craig to the new level. Taking in consideration that Craig was a bigger name than Pitt at the time (the most known for his small role in Thelma and Louise) but it never happened. He went to indies, small budget movies like Eric. Fire with Fire (1985) made him somehow a teen idol. This movie is not that bad re-watching it today. He is very good in villain parts like Some Kind of Wonderful. Eric, Craig and James Spader were always in my mind as good teen actors in teenage movies from the 80s that do not belong to Brat Pack. I think they are still in good relationship today. To be honest, most of these teen actors after early 90s careers went down. Their fame was from 1985 to 1990. Sad but truth. Was a pity that today nobody makes this type of teen movies. Anyway, era of HOLLYWOOD with big letters is over. Once in a lifetime.
Talking about Macchio, many were reluctant of casting him because of very similar Spanish-looking. Even if he is Italian and Greek descent, he is very Spanish type. It was a stereotype, maybe a bit racial at that time (even today). These guys are good just in characters with criminal content in movies. The hero should be a white dude who is fighting against them. Avildsen played on that thing hiring Ralph in KK showing the opposite, the white guys are bad and Latinos are suffering. Spanish community went to cinemas and bought tickets in bulk. It is the same as with Rocky (1976). It plays with feelings and people are buying. I do not think Spielberg could hire Ralph as Peter Pan for the same reason. I never saw a Spanish-looking actor as one of the leads in his movies. Fortunately today this stereotype is changing (as Asian actors had the same problems during that period). Who could think in the 80s that Danny Trejo could play the lead? No one. Only Robert Rodriguez with Tarantino broke the rule. At the same time, sometimes industry is going too far like with Rambo: Last Blood or even Terminator: Dark Fate – both iconic movies released almost at the same time.
Eric Stoltz is a real “clay” actor. He can play everything and very believable. Because of this I do not think he was a bad Marty McFly. I watched Inside (1996) TV movie recently with Eric and Gossett Jr. Jesus I had nightmares after his role especially last 10-15 minutes. Professional is this guy Eric Stoltz. Regarding Fonda if you love the person you will be with him even if he was less successful in some way than you.
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Craig Sheffer almost became a big star with Nightbreed, but that movie was changed too much and suffered at the box office as a result.
Weirdly, Eric had auditioned to be The Karate Kid but was criticized for having “not enough dynamics.”
I like him because he’s sort of like the thinking man’s Michael J. Fox. He can play any kind of role, even bad guy roles, whereas Fox can’t be sinister.