Today, as you probably know, is Back to The Future Day. You've more than likely heard a lot about the making of the movie over the course of the past few weeks. And you also probably know that Eric Stoltz was the original star of the sci-fi comedy classic, replaced midway through the shoot by Michael J. Fox. The new book Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History has a great account of what happened, and how the firing transpired. And it contains plenty of photos from the lost Eric Stoltz footage. But, aside from a few quick clips that have been released in the past, we haven't ever seen the bulk of this footage. Will we ever?
Yes, probably, is Bob Gale's answer. He believes that they will eventually release the footage on a future anniversary for the trilogy. But when that could be, he doesn't know. And he doesn't want to outright confirm that is happening, because Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis, who wrote the series together, could change their minds. But it sounds highly probable that fans will eventually get to see what might have been.
Back to The Future was in its forth week of shooting when Robert Zemeckis decided the movie just wasn't working with Eric Stoltz in the lead as Marty McFly. The Mask star wasn't bringing the right kind of humor to the role. And his method acting ways weren't quite jiving with others on set. They'd already shot quite a lot of footage, as you'll see in the new behind-the-scenes book, by the time Stoltz was let go. But the decision was made to fire the actor, and bring in Michael J. Fox. Robert Zemeckis had originally wanted Fox as McFly, but his Family Ties obligations were getting in the way. Once Eric Stoltz was out of the way, the filmmakers actually devised a way that Michael J. Fox could shoot both his sitcom and their movie at the same time. And the rest is history.
But what about all of that Eric Stoltz footage? As it turns out, the filmmakers were given the opportunity to destroy it. But they decided to instead preserve it. Though they still aren't quite sure what they will ever do with it. Will they recut it into a feature length movie? Who knows? But it is being reserved as a feature extra for whatever sort of movie distribution system exists in the future. When asked if the entirety of the footage would ever surface for the public to view, Bob Gale sounded pretty optimistic that it will, eventually. He stated the following.
"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. 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."
Bob Gale doesn't believe that there would be anything resembling a Back to The Future Day had Eric Stoltz remained the star of the movie. While he admits it would have been released, he seriously doubts anyone would still be talking about it today. He doesn't even think it would have reached cult status, but then again, these are all answers he claims he simply can't answer with any real truth. He explains.
"I have seen all of the Eric Stoltz footage, and we would not be having this conversation! 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."
With today's technology, we wondered if it was possible to create a Back to the Future 4 utilizing the lost Eric Stoltz footage. We proposed to the franchise co-creator that the storyline could see Marty and Doc failing in their mission. George doesn't fall in love with Lorraine. He marries another woman. And alas, a new version of Marty McFly that looks strikingly like Eric Stoltz, is born. Sadly, Bob Gale didn't like our idea too much.
"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."
We're not sure when we'll get to see all of the Eric Stoltz footage from Back to The Future. Or even how it will be presented. But it will surely be exciting for fans to see what could have been. It's certainly something to think about as we head into the future and reflect on the past on this official Back to The Future day. What do you think? Do you want to see it? Or should it stay buried? Here is some of the footage that has already been released.