In honor of the 25th anniversary of this iconic film, Cinematical sat down with 'Back to the Future' co-creator Bob Gale, and spoke to him about the newly released Eric Stoltz footage, as well as all sorts of other things like his planned 'Back to the Future 4', whether or not they'd ever convert the series to 3D, and why he thinks some fans aren't so crazy about part three.
You've always been against showing the footage of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly before he was replaced by Michael J. Fox. Why did you choose to finally put some of it out there?
Bob Gale: When we were putting together the documentaries for this last one, they thought the story would be better if we just showed something. Bob [Zemeckis] and I weren't too sure about it, but they showed us what they had done and I thought it was fine, and Bob thought it was fine, and we said okay, let's do it.
Do you ever plan to release the full Eric Stoltz scenes with audio, or is the most we're ever going to get?
BG: Well, ya know, we may have to wait till the 35th anniversary for that. We didn't destroy the footage because we recognized that there could be something historically important about that. It's amazing how it spread all over the internet like wildfire.
What's your favorite part of this new Blu-ray?
BG: I gotta tell you that what the technical guys did with cleaning the movies; getting all the dirt off of it, and all the scratches. The movies have never looked as beautiful as they do in this new set. That, to me, is the greatest -- just seeing the movies this pristine and beautiful ... it's great.
Do you think they could ever remake this film today, especially considering the influx of '80s remakes as of late?
BG: I wouldn't support it. We don't want to do a remake, and we don't want to do a part four. We've seen franchises that go back too many times; they do one too many sequels, or remake something that should not have been remade. Bob [Zemeckis] and I are real happy with the way the movies are as they now exist, and we will do the opposite of what everyone else does and say leave well enough alone -- let's not tamper with the past.
So you wouldn't even support something like a torch-passing, similar to what they plan to do with the Ghostbusters franchise?
BG: No, the only time I ever saw that work was with the Antonio Banderas 'Zorro' movies, and the previous 'Zorro' movie had been like 44 years earlier. [laughs]
Did you ever talk about a part four? Ever throw around ideas back in the day?
BG: Bob [Zemeckis] and I had had a couple conversations about it in the early '90s, but then once Michael J. Fox came out and said he had Parkinson's disease, we said there was no reason to talk about that anymore because why would we ever make another 'Back to the Future' without Michael J. Fox.
Speaking of the sequels, how come it took almost five years between 'Back to the Future' and 'Back to the Future II'?
BG: Yeah, two reasons. One of them was because Bob was making 'Roger Rabbit', which was a hugely time consuming movie. It took a lot longer than he expected it to. And then also the 1988 writer's strike.
Did you and Bob Zemeckis always know that you wanted to do two sequels? Did you have them mapped out early on?
BG: No, we had no idea. If you saw the first film in theaters, we never had that "To Be Continued" on there at the end. We added that to the VHS tape once we knew we were going to make a sequel. We didn't know if anyone was even going to go see the first one. Bob has said many times before, if we knew we were going to make a part two, we would've never put Jennifer in the car at the end. When it came time for us to write part two, we didn't know what we were gonna do with Jennifer. She wasn't a very well-defined character, so we had no idea what to do with her. So, what do we do? Well, she's sub-conscious for most of the film. [laughs]
How do you feel about part two and three? Some fans feel the sequels felt a bit rushed, or that they could never live up to the original. Are you happy with the way they came out?
BG: Well, they're perfect enough. I don't know why anybody would think part three was a bit rushed. If anything was a bit rushed it was part two because we had to finish it while we were making part three. Look, if I could back in time and change one thing, what I would change is the advertising campaign for part two. We should have never let the audience know that there was going to be a part three. It made it seem as if the movie itself didn't have a satisfying enough ending, and at the time I kind of lobbied and Universal didn't want to hear any of that. I think that would've been a good thing to do. Today that could've never happened because of the internet, and everyone would've already known we were making a part three. Back in 1989 they didn't know that. There were people who were pissed off that the movie ended with a cliffhanger, but what are you gonna do.
Did you ever have any other time periods that you wanted to travel to, but you couldn't because of either budget or because it didn't work for the story?
BG: Well, in the original draft of 'Back to the Future II', instead of going back to 1955, they went back to 1967. This was a draft I wrote on my own while Bob was doing 'Roger Rabbit'. The problem (in 1967) was that Marty needed to make sure that Lorraine and George got into a hotel room in San Francisco on the night that he's conceived. So we had a whole '60s thing, and that was fun, but, as Bob said, we had already done this story, and wouldn't it be cool if we attempted something that no one had ever done and that was to actually go back into the first movie for the last part, and see the first movie from a different point of view.
You and Bob [Zemeckis] didn't work on much following the 'Back to the Future' movies. Was there a reason for that? Do you two plan to get together and work on something again soon?
BG: Well, we have worked on a couple different projects together since then but they just haven't been made. There were some things Bob wanted to do. Ya know, once you're a successful director, you get your choice of any script. He's always said that writing was more painful for him than it was for me, so the chance for him to just get his hands on any script and go do it was very tempting.
What do you think of Bob Zemeckis' motion capture films that he's been making as of late?
BG: I think Bob is always pushing the envelope, and I think some of the stuff that he's done is great. 'Beowulf', in 3D, I thought was absolutely amazing. In my opinion, he does 3D better than anybody.
Would you ever support the Back to the Future trilogy being converted to 3D?
BG: No. The movies were made the way they were made, and that's the way they should be seen. Let's colorize 'Citizen Kane'! Um, no, let's not.
You're working on this new Back to the Future video game. What's the most exciting aspect of this game for fans of the movie franchise?
BG: The coolest thing about the game is that it's being made by fans. 'Back to the Future' has had some of the shittiest video games ever. The old 8-bit Nintendo cartridge - go on YouTube and look that up. It's so bad I actually gave interviews telling people not to buy it.
BG [continued]: So they want to get it right. I'm a consultant. They've figured out the storyline, and I've helped guide them on that. They were going down some roads that weren't exactly right. So it's not 'Back to the Future 4'. It's 'Back to the Future' re-imagined for this other medium, and so far it looks like they're really going to capture the essence of what Back to the Future is, much like our cartoon show back in the '90s. It's a different medium, and for the fans who wonder whether it's canon or not canon, I would say no -- let's not call it canon. Let's just say it's like taking an existing melody and doing our own riff on it.