(The following article is from contributing writer JL Watkins)
We hope you're enjoying our Back to The Future Day coverage as the present meets up with the past, culminating in the day that holds all the answers to the space time continuum. To celebrate October 21, 2015, the same day that Doc Brown and Marty visit in Back to the Future Part II, we're catching up with one of the two men responsible for creating these timeless classics. Bob Gale co-wrote all three films alongside Robert Zemeckis, and served as a producer on the complete trilogy as well. Now, with all three Back to The Future films back on the big screen tonight, and a new 30th Anniversary Blu-ray box set in stores this week, we are celebrating with the true creator of the flux capacitor.
Few films have made an impact on popular culture like the Back to The Future trilogy. The adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown have became an international phenomenon. Bob Gale takes us back through the creation of this beloved time-traveling saga. He discusses some of the ins and outs of the filmmaking process, the challenges Robert Zemeckis faced, and what the future holds for the McFly family. Hint? Don't hold your breath waiting for a sequel or a reboot. But most of the characters are returning in a new comic book. And Doc is the star of his own 8 minute short film coming along with the Bu-ray box set.
Bob Gale also talks about the recent Back to The Future Predicts 9/11 conspiracy video that made the Internet rounds earlier this week. And he teases that we will eventually get to see all of the original Back to The Future footage starring Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. But that is a special treat being saved for a future anniversary. Bob Gale is an awesome guy, and open to talking about pretty much everything. Which we did. Here is our conversation in full.
It's October, 2015...Why I am i still using a cassette player to record this interview? What happened to the future, Bob?
Bob Gale: I think there has been a disruption in the space time continuum. Somehow your phone technology did not develop along the way as it was supposed to. However, on the new Blu-ray set, there is a new featurette called Doc Brown Save the World. And he explains why the 2015 of the movie is not the 2015 we're all currently living in. So it probably has something to do with that.
Wow! That would actually explain quite a bit. So, something actually happened between 1985 and 2015 that caused our future to split off into this current timeline. Something that Doc Brown wasn't able to stop?
Bob Gale: Maybe not. But it could be that further into the future, we have a ripple effect going backwards.
I know fans are adamant about not wanting a reboot or remake. But this sounds like the perfect idea in carrying this franchise forward...
Bob Gale: Well, here's the thing about going back to the well. Everyone's anticipation for it is really high. But you can never hit that high note. I won't mention the names of any other popular franchises. But everyone is so excited to hear, 'Oh, they are doing another one of these?' Then everyone goes, running out to the theater. Then they come out two hours later, and they are like, "Oh. Yeah. I guess they couldn't really duplicate it.' It's maybe not what people are expecting. But hey, we didn't want the The Beatles to get back together either!
We're experiencing that this week. They just dropped this big Star Wars trailer, and people are losing their minds...But will it be as good or better than the original? Or will it just disappoint, like the prequel trilogy did.
Bob Gale: Yup! Well, you know...When your parents say, 'We're doing this for your own good!' They actually are.
You guys just put out this great book to celebrate the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary. And it's amazing! Every time you turn a page, something cool is falling out of it. I have to say, it might be one of the coolest coffee table books ever released.
Bob Gale: Michael Klastorin is the author, he did such a good job. Looking at the book, he was around for Parts 2 and 3. He knew everyone involved. And we had the best support from the folks at Insight Editions, who actually put the book together, even though its under the Harper Collins label. Harper has been very supportive. But yeah, if people don't know what to get somebody for Christmas, this should be under the tree.
Now, I want to talk about this video that came out, kicking off Back to the Future week on the Internet. It claims that Back to the Future predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Did you watch that yet? What is your take on some of the claims it makes?
Bob Gale: There have been about 15 of those things that have come out over the last 15 years. I may have seen the new one. I don't know. They are all pretty much the same. You know? If you look for something, you can find it. I think that you can find that E.T. predicted 9/11. There is probably one that says Ghostbusters predicted 9/11. These guys, these conspiracy theorists...There is someone who has actually proven that Biff Tannen was the guy on the grassy knoll who shot and killed JFK.
Does the idea that the movie predicted 9/11 bother you? Or do you enjoy those types of video essays. I mean, there is a whole movie about the Shinning, which has about 20 strong conspiracies swirling around it, all coming from different angles.
Bob Gale: Oh, yeah. I saw that. The fact that it has permeated popular culture in such a way that anyone can watch that, and know what it's talking about? You are not going to see Out of Africa predicts 9/11...
I don't know...Now you have thrown the challenge out there, for me or anyone else that wants to go sit and watch Out of Africa, looking for a 9/11 connection. I think you might be able to dig something out of it.
Bob Gale: (Laughs) Yeah!
Now, this book I brought up. A lot of people know that Crispin Glover was a difficult person to work with, and they've heard about some of the issues surrounding that, and why he didn't come back. But I don't think people really know how hard you and Robert Zemeckis pushed to have him return. Despite him being a nightmare on set, you guys really wanted him in the sequel. But it seems like he pushed the limits in making that happen.
Bob Gale: He did! And it's funny. Crispin blames me all the time for this. If that's what makes him sleep better at night, to say this is all Bob Gale's fault? That's fine. I'm a movie producer. I'm supposed to get blamed for all kinds of stuff. But (Laughs) if the studio wanted him in the movie that badly, they might have paid him the money. But he was asking for a lot more money than anyone ultimately thought he was worth. Especially Universal, and including Bob Zemeckis. Bob Zemeckis was the maker of the movie. he got to call most of the final shots. So, Crispin...You read the book, we did do the best we could to get him in the movie. The problem was, he criticized the ending of the first movie for being about materialism, yet he blew his chance to be in the sequels because he wanted more money. So, go figure!
That's certainly a paradox. What's not in the book is the fact that he sued...I'm not sure if he sued you guys, or the studio...But he sued somebody. The book doesn't mention that aspect of the story...I've heard him talk about it, but I haven't heard anyone else talk about it. And when he was talking loudest about it was when he was seated next door to Robert Zemeckis at a press junket for Beowulf, which they both worked together on...
Bob Gale: I know, it's crazy, isn't it? He filed a lawsuit against Universal, and it never went to court. He says he won. No, it never got into court. The insurance company that covers claims decided to offer him some money to drop the lawsuit. And he took the money. He dropped the lawsuit. That's actually how that all played out.
Now, there were a lot of challenges that went into making all the puzzle pieces in this trilogy fall into place. Without a doubt, this is one of the most intricate stories every told on film. How long, and how much physical work went into perfecting what we see on screen? Because it's like a game of Jenga, pull out the wrong piece at any given moment, and it all falls apart.
Bob Gale: (Laughs) The books covers this pretty well. The irony about so much stuff...Not only are the movies fascinating because of all the things you just said, but the story behind how the movie ended up the way it did is also fascinating. If you think about it, first of all, we ended up with the Clock Tower scene because Universal wouldn't give us enough money to make the nuclear test site scene. Luckily, Bob Zemeckis and I were creative enough to come up with something that turns out to be better than the nuclear test site scene. Then the other amazing, ironical thing is, had we not put Eric Stoltz in the movie, we would not have been able to use Michael J. Fox in the end. How crazy is that? If we had finished the movie with Eric Stoltz, and not recast, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.
You might have this conversation today. But it would be a very different conversation.
Bob Gale: No, with all due respect, I have seen all of the Eric Stoltz footage, and we would not be having this conversation!
Do you think the movie would have not been released at all?
Bob Gale: No, no...The movie would have been released. But it would not have caught on the way it did. I don't think. I don't think it would have been successful enough to make two sequels.
Maybe it would have fallen in line with My Science Project or Real Genius? Maybe it would have a strong cult following. I think it would. Maybe you don't think it would have reached any type of cult status...
Bob Gale: Those are questions that have no answers. Thankfully, I don't need to reconstruct the space time continuum in a way to find out.
So many fans want to see that Eric Stoltz footage. There's never any way you guys will ever release it?
Bob Gale: No, I'm not going to say never. We did not destroy the footage, because we expect that sometime, in some future anniversary, we may let it get out there.
I saw it listed behind only that Jerry Lewis Clown Holocaust movie in terms of how much fans want to see it, yet probably never will in terms of lost movie footage that has never been released.
Bob Gale: Well, they may see it sometime. I'm not going to say for sure, much less when. But I will say that we had the opportunity to completely destroy it. And we did not. So, it does exist in a vault somewhere.
That's crazy. Now, let's talk about the cartoon series. Everyone's worried that Universal and Spielberg will try to reboot or remake the franchise. But this Saturday Morning kids show already did that in a way. It certainly carried the story into the future. And is a continuation of the franchise. And all of the episodes are finally available on this Blu-ray set. Why did you want to continue the series on as an animated series with all the same characters?
Bob Gale: Well, back then my daughter was about 2 years old, and I was worried about what she would be watching on TV. I didn't think there were many interesting shows on Saturday morning. I thought, 'If you're going to complain about this, maybe you should do something about it.' That's when Universal asked, 'Would you consider doing this?' And I thought, 'Yeah, this is a way we can improve the quality of children's programming.' And it was a condition that I had, that we feature a science experiment in every episode. So, CBS, after the first season, they asked, 'Do we have to have those science experiments in there?' And I said, 'Yes! We have to have them!' So, (laughs) there you go!
Let's go back to this Doc Brown featurette on the Blu-ray. What are you calling that? A mini-movie? A new short film? Does it fall into the Back to the Future canon?
Bob Gale: It's an 8 minute short. Look, when you have a time machine, everything is canon. You can always change the space time continuum. So, you know! It is a movie. When you use the word canon towards a movie, it is kind of strange. We have a new Back to the Future comic book that debuts this week. I don't now if you're up on that. Back to the Future Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines. The first issue recounts how Doc and Marty first met. And it also has a shorter story on how Doc got involved with the Manhattan project. So, we've got a 5 issue commitment on that. And we're dealing with certain aspects of the characters in the movies that I think will be of interest to the fans.
With the Eric Stoltz footage, is it possible to take that footage, and reedit it, where George doesn't fall in love with Lorraine. And he marries a different woman. And that's how come there is a different Marty McFly in the future? Instead of a reboot, you could create a whole new sequel using that old footage...
Bob Gale: I think you're taking this stuff a little too seriously (laughs). Someone asked if there is a time travel explanation for why Jennifer looks different in Part 2 than she does in Part 1. Well, yeah. If you want to come up with a time travel excuse, than do it. We just couldn't get Claudia Wells to come back for personal reasons. So we recast it. Is it still James Bond when Daniel Craig plays him instead of Pierce Brosnan, instead of Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, instead of Sean Connery? No. It's a movie.
That aspect brings up something that has bothered me with a lot of the recent remakes. Take Bates Motel for instance. Norman Bates is living in 2015. In the timeline of that show, Alfred Hitchcock never made Psycho. If he never makes Psycho, that changes the whole landscape of genre filmmaking. That means those characters in Bates Motel are living in a severally fractured timeline than we currently live in...
Bob Gale: Well, maybe in that Norman Bates world, Eric Stoltz is still Marty McFly...
That sounds like this whole Back to the Future predicts 9/11 video. You could create a new conspiracy video about how Eric Stoltz stars in the Back to the Future that exists in every remake, which all take place in the same fractured timeline, which is removed from our own...
Bob Gale: I think you're the guy to put this out there! Let's get you started on this right away...
I don't know how to use a camera. I'm lousy with that! Now, as we continue to celebrate Back to the Future this week, in your opinion, is there any film that has been released this year, or any coming up in 2015, that you feel will be celebrated in the same way as Back to the Future thirty years from now? Do you think it's possible for any of these new movies to hold the same resonance?
Bob Gale: (Laughs) That's a very wood question. I was thinking about that. Other people have asked the question. Thing is, if we were to put ourselves back in 1985, we wouldn't expect at that point to say, 'Oh, yeah. In thirty years people are still going to be watching Back to the Future.' One of the reasons for Back to the Future's longevity is that it's been discovered by generations of kids that weren't around when it first came out. I liken that to thinking, when I was in high school and college there was a Humphrey Bogart revival. People weren't thinking about Humphrey Bogart. But the people of my generations suddenly discovered Casablanca, all these great films that he was in, and suddenly there was this little cottage industry based on Humphrey Bogart. His face was on all these pictures and coffee mugs, and all kinds of stuff. In 1943, I'm sure they didn't expect that people in 1973 would be watching Casablanca. But it happened.
At the end of the new book, Robert Zemeckis says that one of the reasons he's so proud of this movie trilogy is that it is all original. Sure, the idea of time travel has been around forever, but he created new characters and a new mythology. We don't get that so much here in 2015. There is nothing new, really I can't think of too much that didn't exist in some other form in terms of movies in 2015. That's what I'm wondering. What is 2015's version of Back to the Future and Humphrey Bogart?
Bob Gale: That's a good point...Bob has been saying that he doesn't think Back to the Future could get made today. I think he's right about that. Back to the Future is this amazing mash-up of all these different genres. Its science fiction, it's comedy, it's action and adventure, it's romance. It is a coming of age movie. It's all this stuff. They never knew which isle to put it in at the Blockbuster store. Studios are a lot more risk averse these days to make crazy mash-ups and do stuff like this. It is unique. And there aren't a lot of movies that mash up stuff the way we did, and make it feel effortless. We're not ever winking at the audience. You get caught up in the story and you go with it. You're having a good time. And you're not thinking about it.
Last question. Can you clarify what may be happening with a Back to the Future reboot? Zemeckis said that both you guys own the rights. And a remake will not happen until you are both dead. But then there comes this story that Spielberg is thinking about rebooting this and Jaws...
Bob Gale: No, no, no...The story didn't say that! That was the reporter from the Hollywood Reporter saying that. If you read the original article, he is surmising, saying that it would make sense for Steven Spielberg to go back to Universal. Because they have the rights to Back to the Future and Jaws. But nowhere in there is Spielberg quoted as saying, 'I want to officiate over rebooting those franchises.'
So the idea of rebooting Back to the Future is completely false?
Bob Gale: I believe it is completely false. The writer was just speculating about that. I can't imagine that Steven Spielberg would want to see a Jaws reboot. Whatever you want to think about Back to the Future, how and why would Steven Spielberg want to reboot Jaws? Besides, we've got Sharknado! Go back and look at the original version of the story as it was written in the Hollywood Reporter. This is not Steven Spielberg saying that. It's the reporter speculating himself. And with that, I have to [go Back to the Future]!
He didn't actually say that at the end, but I wish he did. He actually had to go onto his next interview. The Back to The Future 30th Anniversary trilogy box set is available now at fine retailers everywhere. And don't forget to pick up the excellent coffee table book Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History. Thanks for tuning in, and have a very happy Back to the Future day!