WHAT I LEARNED FROM BOB GALE
I was 5 when Back to the Future premiered, so my understanding of the world coalesced through the 3 films. You know I own a DeLorean, but the trilogy also galvanized my obsession with time, skating, and consequences. Creator Bob Gale is an old family friend of mine; we've been working together on a BTTF collaboration. This is what he told me today.
- •If you've never met or seen Bob Gale...He's delightful. Over time, he’s metamorphosized towards a more affable, happier Doc Brown. He wears Hawaiian shirts regularly, wiggles his hands when he talks, throws his head back and laughs in spirited bubbles, and loves talking about Back to the Future.
- •No one foresaw a sequel.Not even him. Co-writer Bob Zemeckis says that if they’d known there was gonna be a sequel, they wouldn’t have thrown Jennifer in the car at the end of BTTF1. This led to the “Jennifer problem” for the following chapters. Since she wasn’t integral to the storyline, they had to literally knock her out and have her unconscious for the entire BTTF2. // @miggles36
- •There will never be a IV...You've probably already heard this. Every so often, another rumor surfaces of a fourth chapter, but Bob has remained unequivocal. There just can't be a IV, because MJFox has Parkinson's (and what's BTTF without MJFox) and remakes tend to ruin franchises. "I was never the guy who wanted to see the Beatles reunite.”
- •...but if there was...@jennifwah He hasn’t fantasized about the plot (as much as I have), but he recalled aborted storylines for the original films. Like Marty traveling to 1967 where he interferes with his parents’ second anniversary, the night of his conception. And Doc Brown meeting his mom, who’s also played by Chris Lloyd.
- •"You're looking at him!"No time-space experts or NASA consultants to flatten out all the paradoxical kinks. They just kinda made it all up themselves. // @ChrisK
- •This opens staggering plotholesBut Bob reminded me of movie logic. As long as you stay inside the borders of the film’s reality, the audience will accept it. He suggests the vanishing photograph as an example. The very notion of it is a paradox. The photo paper itself should disintegrate, as should the photographer who is shooting the scene. But we let it slide.
- •Eric StoltzAlthough Bob always imagined Michael J. Fox as Marty, Family Ties was conflicting with the production schedule. So, the first six weeks of filming had Eric Stoltz cast as McFly. He was so awful in the role though, that they went back to Fox. @PaulScheer The reason why we haven’t seen any of that footage with dialogue is because the Bobs (Gale and Z) don't want to embarrass Stoltz. I guess it really is that bad.
- •Michael J. Foxwas ecstatic. Family Ties conceded to his being in BTTF as long as they worked around their schedule. So the Bobs only had him for a few hours every night, which was torturous for production. But Michael was so happy to be onset everyday, his enthusiasm was infectious, and everyone wanted to be his friend. TV stars rarely crossed over to movies at the time, and he appreciated it. Bob said he knew the movie was gonna be big when throngs of girls showed up, throwing themselves at the young actor.
- •BTTF2 had to be darker.@QuinnBeswick this one’s for you. There wasn’t anything depressing going on in Bob’s life. There were just actions that had to take place to prove consequences later, one of the most poignant lessons the trilogy left us with. BTTF 2 was the dramatic arc.
- •BTTF3 didn't suck."People just don’t appreciate westerns anymore."
- •Crispin Glover did.He was a total bummer and he kept missing his marks. Crispin also didn’t continue on in the trilogy because he thought he was worth more money than he deserved. I asked Bob how he felt about “Hot Tub Time Machine” as a ratchet-ass BTTF and he laughed it off. He did find it funny, however, that Crispin decided to do the Hot Tub sequel and not Back to the Future’s...
- •Nothing like the first time.To answer your question @bjnovak , Bob deferred to King Lear’s downfall in choosing between daughters. He did acknowledge that the first film is the best though.
- •Hey @johnHe loves you. And that you were inspired to become a musician because of Marty's rousing rendition of "Johnny B. Goode."
- •Although they nailed many a prediction in BTTF2...(3-D movies, photographing drones, hands-free videogames), he blew it with faxes and he never foresaw the prevalence of mobile phones. They knew flying cars would never happen but “it’s what was promised,” so they included them. // @fisackerly
- •Are there anymore secrets left?Plenty. There’s even a book coming out this fall with more of these factoids. My favorite one from today was that he envisioned Marty Jr. as being six feet tall, but there was no way to pull the special effects off in the '80s. Also, a futuristic sport called Slamball, like roller derby in a Globe of Death, but they didn't have the budget. // @LevNovak
- •Back to the Future lasts because...It’s a human story. And the enduring life lessons about choices and ramifications. I asked Bob why they got right what so many future-based films get wrong. He said most of those movies are dystopian and they eliminate everything familiar. The truth is that if you took someone from 1935 and brought him to 2015, he’d still largely recognize the world.
- •As we were saying our goodbyes,I called out, “Hey, I gotta email you about some stuff,” and he chuckled, “To be continued." He’s the only one who’s allowed to do that.