Back to the Future debuted on July 3, 1985. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. The film was a smash success, making $338 million on a budget of only $19 million. It spawned two sequels, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a ride at Universal Studios.
The film’s production was a little chaotic. Around six weeks after filming began, the original star of the film, Eric Stoltz, was replaced by Michael J. Fox. Most scenes with Stoltz were reshot as part of a whirlwind shooting schedule for Fox, who was not only filming BTTF, but also his starring role on Family Ties. However, some scenes with Stoltz weren’t reshot, they were simply cut for various reasons.
It’s not unusual for the novelization of a film to be written based on an early version of the script, so there are often changes between the book and final film. The BTTF novel by George Gipe is no exception. In fact, the book has quite a few differences, adding new characters, new pop culture and historical references, and even entire scenes that weren’t in the film. Some of these scenes were originally shot by Stoltz, but eventually cut for the final film.
For example, Marty is in detention when his band is supposed to audition to play for a Battle of the Bands competition. To get out, he puts chewed bubble gum on a matchbook, sticks it to the ceiling next to a smoke alarm, and then takes the lens from a projector and reflects the sunlight coming in the window to catch the matchbook on fire, setting off the alarm.
It’s a pretty wild book with a lot more changes, so if you find a copy, it’s worth checking out. You might find a different cover featuring the iconic movie poster instead. I think my version is an early printing, done before all the marketing was in place.
BTTF was a huge movie for me as a kid. Like so many people, I got wrapped up in 1950s fever and started listening to old rock and roll, wanted a black leather motorcycle jacket, and incessantly asked my parents about life when they were teenagers.
That being said, I don’t have a lot of BTTF stuff. I really only have this novelization, the sequel novelizations, and a German VHS tape that I bought through a high school overstock sale, presumably used as part of German language classes.
If you want to hear more about the Back to the Future novelization, check out the podcast, I Read Movies, created by my buddy, Paxton Holley! He’ll give you a good summary of the book, including all the differences between the book and the final film.