Special Report: Back to the Future

Recently, I attended a special screening of Back to the Future at a fundraising benefit in Chatham, Massachusetts for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I had the distinct privilege of meeting and talking with actor Christopher Lloyd who played Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown and co-writer and producer Bob Gale.

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Still easily recognizable as the white-haired eccentric scientist in his most well-known role, Lloyd was very approachable and graciously answered my questions about Back to the Future. He, along with Gale, told me that the cast and crew members are like a family, and they still gather several times a year. Lloyd and a few other Back to the Future alums, including Gale and the director Robert Zemeckis, live in Santa Barbara, California, so it is not unusual for them to get together. Lloyd told me that he remains close to Michael J. Fox, who courageously fights Parkinson’s and tries to attend Back to the Future events despite tiring easily. In fact, Lloyd told me that he was just with Fox in Philadelphia for one of the many Comic-Cons that he attends a year. When I asked him about the possibility of another Back to the Future film, he said he does not know and that it is up to Gale.

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I also talked at length with Bob Gale who was the one that came up with the premise for the films. Much more outspoken than Christopher Lloyd and clearly passionate about filmmaking, Gale told me how he was inspired to write Back to the Future. A number of years ago, he was going through his father’s belongings and discovered a yearbook describing his father as the senior class president, a fact that he never knew. Gale remembered that his class president was quite disagreeable and wondered whether he would have been friends with his father in high school. Curious about his father’s past, he thought it would be interesting to make a movie that travels back in time to when a character’s parents were younger.

I asked Gale a more timely question: whether Donald Trump was really an inspiration for the older Biff character. He told me that Trump was not the only direct inspiration, but rather he got his ideas from other people at the time like Trump, people with large egos who wanted their name plastered all over cities like Las Vegas. More generally, I asked if there were any other inspirations for Back to the Future. He didn’t mention any filmmaker that really inspired him besides the Westerns of John Ford for the third Back to the Future film.

Finally, Gale gave me insight into the casting of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. The first half of the film was originally filmed with Eric Stoltz as Marty, but he said they were eventually fortunate enough to arrange for Fox, their first choice, to join the cast. They were not able to get him initially because Fox was on the popular show Family Ties and was not given leave for the filming of Back to the Future.

Then, I asked whether there will ever be another Back to the Future. Unlike Christopher Lloyd’s response, Gale said there will never be another film in the series without Michael J. Fox, who is unlikely to reprise his role as a result of his health condition. Finally, Bob Gale mentioned that he has two other projects in the pipeline but said he could not divulge the details due to being superstitious.

After these fascinating conversations with Lloyd and Gale, I got to see the original Back to the Future on the big screen for my first time. Even though it was made in 1985, the movie itself still stands up as a cult classic with the right blend of sci-fi and comedy. It was a truly memorable evening to be able to talk with Christopher Lloyd and Bob Gale and see the film in its proper setting, all for a worthy cause in combating Parkinson’s disease. I even got to stand in front of a replica of the famed DeLorean, complete with a flux capacitor!

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