Back to “Back to the Future”

It’s the 25th anniversary of the science fiction comedy from Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. As you might also expect, a 3-disc Blu-Ray set is also hitting stores today featuring the original film and it’s two-sequels.

So, to go with Will Harris’s interview with Gale which includes some more interesting casting details in addition to the ones you’ve probably already heard about, Universal has made available a series of short clips from yesterday’s press conference at New York’s Waldorf Hotel featuring a lot of the cast — Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Mary Steenburgen (from “Back to the Future 3”) but not Crispin Glover — as well as Gale and Zemeckis. A lot of them are very brief and I would have been happier if they’d edited it into one clip, but you take what you can get.

We’ve got a bunch of more these after the flip for you diehard “Future” fans.

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Johnny Depp or John Cusack as Marty McFly? It could have happened…

With the release of “Back to the Future: The 25th Anniversary Trilogy” preparing to hit DVD and Blu-ray on October 26th, Bob Gale – co-writer and producer of the films – has been doing a lot of press, providing him not only with the opportunity to wax nostalgic but also the chance to dispel a few rumors, some of which are more ridiculous than others.

For instance, I can now confirm definitively that, despite what you may have read on Wikipedia, it seems very unlikely that Corey Hart, the man who made a career out of wearing his sunglasses at night, was ever really in the running to play Marty McFly.

“I don’t think so,” said Gale, chuckling. “I don’t have any memory of that. Somebody said that he was our first choice, but that’s insane. I don’t know where that one came from. C. Thomas Howell was the other finalist at the time. John Cusack was somebody we considered. Johnny Depp read for this, believe it or not. I don’t remember the screen test. I looked through the notes, and I said, ‘Geez, I don’t even remember that we read Johnny Depp!’ So whatever he did, it wasn’t all that memorable, I guess! And there was a kid called George Newbern who flew out from Chicago for an open casting call who was pretty good. I think he’s on some TV series now. I don’t remember what it is, but I remember him. But Corey Hart? Nope. Don’t think so.”

There have also been rumors that John Lithgow was in the running for the role of Doc Brown, but according to Gale, any such discussions didn’t get very far.

“That was just kind of in passing,” said Gale. “The only other guy we really seriously considered for Doc Brown was Jeff Goldblum. Jeff came in, and…I’m certain we talked about John Lithgow, but I don’t remember if he ever actually came in, or if we met him. But I vividly remember meeting Jeff and liking him.”

In regards to the long-unreleased Eric Stoltz footage that has finally emerged within one of the documentaries on the 25th anniversary set, one can’t help but notice that we never hear so much as a single line of dialogue uttered by Stoltz.

“It was Laurent Bouzereau, who directed and produced the documentaries, who really badgered us about putting that footage in,” said Gale. “So if you like seeing it, he’s the guy to give the credit to and the thanks to.”

“Look, we don’t bear any ill will to Eric at all,” Gale continued. “We don’t want to make him look bad. We don’t think this makes him look bad. We hope it doesn’t. We figured, ‘Let’s just soft-pedal it and not put a whole lot of that in there,’ because, you know, the story’s about how the movie got made, not about him. Maybe in the 35th or 45th anniversary edition, we’ll put the actual scenes in. We never destroyed that footage. We recognized at the time that there was historical significance to it, so the footage exists. But Eric’s a working actor. We don’t want him to have to answer questions about it…not unless he comes forward and says, ‘Hey, I wanted to talk about that!’”

  

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Going back to the future re: the mysteries of casting

There’s a clip from the upcoming “Back to the Future” trilogy anniversary Blu-Ray that’s been circulating that I think is revealing. It deals with the semi-legendary firing of Eric Stoltz after a shocking five weeks of principal photography (some films are finished in three or four weeks) and his replacement by Michael J. Fox back in 1985. It’s fairly self-explanatory.

I personally don’t think “Back to the Future” is remotely a “classic,” but it is 2/3 of a great screwball comedy. (I didn’t care for the science fiction portions of the film.) However, it really looks here like it wouldn’t have worked at all with Eric Stoltz. Obviously, we’re not seeing nearly enough, but these very brief clips were obviously selected because something is just clearly off and perhaps not only Stoltz’s unfortunate hairstyle — which might not have been his selection.

The irony is here that, as much as I like and admire Michael J. Fox as an accomplished comic actor and a public figure, in terms of sheer thespian ability, I’d say Stoltz is very likely the better actor — though being an actor and being a star are not the same gig. He’s certainly shown plenty in the way of versatility over the years and you can’t say he can’t be funny, especially given his brilliant turn as the world’s most relatable heroin pusher in “Pulp Fiction.” On the other hand, Fox clearly has something that Stoltz lacks in terms of being Marty McFly. It’s not just maybe knowing his way around a straight-up gag a bit better than Stoltz might have at the time, it’s an “everyman” quality, I guess. As the deformed Rocky in Peter Bogdanovich’s “Mask,” that very same year, Stoltz had that everyman quality, but I guess with his own face, it just evaporates and that slightly sarcastic demeanor of his can’t be entirely hidden without facial prosthetics.

Anyhow, just another reminder that “best actor” and the “right actor” are not the same thing.

h/t Michael Speier.

  

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An end of week movie news dump for one weird and deadly week

It was thundering and lightning today briefly, unusual in Southern California, where we like our rain nice and quiet. Actually, it barely rained at all, which made if feel weirder. Of course, the really weird thing was all the people who died that you’ve been reading about here and we actually left out a few, including the guy who said this…

Anyhow, here are a few more items from this long, strange week of movie news.

* My reaction to the planned 3-D versions of the all six “Star Wars” movies? Let’s just say at first I thought I was reading the Onion, and then the Movie Hell Times.

* As much as I complain about the way Comicon has gone, taking it out of San Diego would only make it worse and even more impersonal. I never really thought it was going to move, but I’m glad I can be sure about that now. I know this is a controversial statement, but I’m going to go out on a limb: San Diego is nice.

* Even though I admit to not knowing the property all that well, I have a hard time imaging Ron Howard pulling off something like the proposed mega movie/TV adaptation of Stephen King’s massive “The Dark Tower” series. The memoir “My Stroke of Insight” with, perhaps, Jodie Foster in the lead seems much more up his alley. I’m all for people getting out of their comfort zones, but sometimes we have comfort zones for a reason.

* Regular readers here know I’m no gorehound, but a PG-13 “Alien” prequel makes as much sense as an R-rated “Mary Poppins” reboot.

* The late Stanley Kubrick’s attempts to forever suppress his first film have, it seems, come to naught. The semi-legendary “Fear and Desire” has been found in a film lab in Puerto Rico and will be making it’s way to DVD. I’ve seen Kubrick’s little known second film, “Killer’s Kiss” and I’m here to tell you, don’t get too excited. It’s gorgeous but, in terms of storytelling, as dull as dishwater. Kubrick’s career as a film great probably started with his third film, the noir-heist classic “The Killing.”

* The foreign language category for the Oscars has been supremely screwed up for decades because the Academy allows each nation to submit one film, and just one film, for consideration. No surprise that the choices tend to be heavily politicized. It’s only October and we already have two controversies.

* I think’s it’s an enormous stretch to characterize “Cast Away” as a classic, as Mike Fleming seems to think. I also think “Back to the Future” is fun but, well, not a classic either. Robert Zemeckis returning to the world of live action and time travel, and thereby having less time for creepy motion-capture, is nevertheless probably a good thing.

* A bit of inside-baseball. Executive Bob Berney caused quite a ruckus with his sudden departure from indie Apparition earlier this year. His new gig, which seems like it’s seeking to help fill the huge gap in middle-brow low-to-mid budget films, interests me.

* A Beach Boys jukebox musical seems to be in all of our futures. I love musicals and I love about half of the Beach Boys catalogue, but the jukeboxers annoy me. I’d almost rather watch this.

  

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Met Them at the Greek — a press day chat with Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne and Nicholas Stoller of “Get Him to the Greek”

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If you saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — and I hope you have as its one of the stronger comedies to be made over the last several years — you’ll likely have noticed the strong comic chemistry between British comedy sensation Russell Brand as three-quarters insane, recovering addict rock star Aldous Snow and Jonah Hill (“Superbad“) as a resort waiter and somewhat overly devoted fan of Snow’s. Well, you’re not the only one, and so we have the somewhat slapdash, sometimes brilliant, and ultimately winning new comedy, “Get Him to the Greek,” which once again brings us Brand as Aldous Snow, who, since the events of “Sarah Marshall” has suffered a failed marriage to rocker Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), had a seven-year old son, and removed the “recovering” from his addiction — kind of impressive since “Sarah Marshall” was only two years ago.

Nevertheless, having fallen headlong off the wagon, Snow needs help arriving on-time and semi-cognizant for an important TV appearance, a sound check, and a special comeback performance at L.A.’s Greek Theater. The task falls to ambitious young record company assistant Aaron Green (Hill, playing a different character than in “Sarah Marshall”), a huge fan of Snow’s in a sweet but rocky relationship with his improbably adorable doctor girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss of “Mad Men“). Frequently vomit-stained hijinks ensue as Green and Snow barely survive a number of unfortunate events, including a nearly apocalyptic visit to the set of “The Today Show,” one of the most truly mad Las Vegas sequences in film history, and the kind of freaky three-ways that would make most porn producers blanch. It’s all wrapped up with the sort of good-hearted traditional morality which reminds us that the producer is the Walt Disney of male-centric, R-rated comedies, Judd Apatow.

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