Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

Back to the Future

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Little Bit of History: Produced by Steven Spielberg written by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Back to the Future is a time traveling adventure that mixes action/comedy and even romance into one great package. Released on July 3rd 1985.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Marty McFly is accidentally sent to 1955 via his friend, Doc Brown’s time machine. While in 1955 Marty inadvertently prevents his own mother and father form ever meeting, putting his own existence into jeopardy. Marty then spends a week in 1955 trying to get his mother and father back together so he can exist in the future.

Little Bit of Character: Along with Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox there is also Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson in the roles of Marty’s Father (George) and Mother (Lorraine) as well as all round bad guy Biff Tannen played by Thomas F. Wilson.

Little Bit of Influence: The film went on to spawn 2 sequels, various video games, an animated TV show and even it’s own motion based ride at Universal Theme Parks (since sadly replaced). Back to the Future has also been copied and parodied countless times over the years.

Little Bit of Memories: The first time I ever saw this was one Christmas on TV in the 80’s before the release of the first sequel. I recall being blown away by the film, the plot was amazing, the characters were lively and of course there was that kick-ass car.

Little Bit of Watchability: Still one of the best…if not THE best time travel film made. Very much still watchable today. While it does have a bit of that 80’s cheese factor to it, at the same time it’s almost timeless and seems appropriate no matter which decade you watch it in.

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Dr. Emmett Brown:Things have certainly changed around here. I remember when this was all farmland as far the eye could see. Old man Peabody owned all of this. He had this crazy idea about breeding pine trees.

Back to the Future turned 30 years old today. Please also check out my insight into some the of behind the scenes trivia of the film too.

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It’s been 30 years? Great Scott!

July 3rd 1985 saw the release of one of the very best time travel movies, Back to the Future.

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So It’s time for a Back to the Future 30th birthday celebration.
Join me on an adventure through time as I look back on Back to the Future, it’s legacy and also look at a few behind the scenes tit-bits.

If my calculations are correct, when I start typing 88 words a minute…you’re gonna see some serious shit.

BttF is a masterful mix of action/sci-fi/comedy and even a love story.

The idea for the film came about when writer, Bob Gale was looking through his parent’s high school yearbook and he wondered whether he would have gotten on with his father when he was a teenager.
Bob Gale took the idea to various people but no one wanted to make the film. So Bob went to his old friend Robert Zemeckis to help flesh out the story.
Robert Zemeckis not only took on the role as co-writer but also got on board as director too.

The two Bobs took the more in depth concept to various movie studios including Disney who turned it down as they felt some of the content was not suitable and too hard for a Disney film…I guess Disney were not too keen on the incest subplot between Marty and his mother or Biff trying to rape Lorraine in a car.
Disney were not the only studio to turn the project down, pretty much every major studio turned it down too.

It was only when Steven Spielberg showed an interest in producing the film that the studios started to take notice. The final draft of Back to the Future was finished in 1981, but it took 4 years before the film was finally made by Universal Studios.

Of course everyone knows and loves Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, but Michael was not the original Marty.

Even though Michael was the first actor approached and offered the now iconic role, at the time he was busy filming the movie Teenwolf and his TV show Family Ties. In fact it was while shooting Teenwolf that Michael J Fox learned of Back to the Future as some scenes in Teenwolf took place on the very same filming locations that Back to the Future would also be filmed in and Michael heard of this up and coming new film when Robert Zemeckis was location scouting.

Though Michael J Fox really wanted the job and Zemeckis really wanted him onboard too, he just could not commit as he was too busy. With the start of filming date fast approaching, the producers could not wait for Michael to become available and so Eric Stolz was hired to play Marty McFly instead.

Yes, Eric Stolz was Marty McFly before Michael J Fox was.

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Now this is not uncommon in films for an actor to be replaced at a later date. But what is unusual is to shoot most of a movie with one actor to then replace them later at great expense. In fact it was said by Steven Spielberg that firing Eric and hiring Michael cost over $3 million.

Well that is what happened with Back to the Future. Eric Stolz filmed pretty much the entire film working alongside all the other actors. Some of this Eric Stolz footage has been released on various versions of BttF on DVD and Bluray and you can find many stills from the Eric Stolz Back to the Future online, with Eric alongside all the other main cast members in all the scenes you remember…but all the footage filmed has never been seen publicly.

It’s even been noted that some of the Eric Stolz footage is still in the final film. Some of the longer shots or seeing Marty from over the shoulder so you can’t clearly see the actor, etc. These scenes and shots have been said to contain Eric playing Marty as to avoid costly re-shooting.
Take a closer look next time you watch the film. Is that Micheal or Eric?

So why make pretty much an entire film with one actor only to replace him later at great expense?
Well it’s been strongly suggested this was done to waste time until Michael J Fox had more free time to take on the role.

It has been said that Eric Stolz was hired by director Robert Zemeckis purely as he knew when the producers saw the footage that they would not be happy and demand the role of Marty McFly be recast with the original choice of Michael J Fox instead.

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Whatever the truth behind the firing of Eric Stolz was, the rest, as they say, is history…

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The role of the other main character, “Doc” Emmett Brown was played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd who said he drew inspiration from Albert Einstein and conductor Leopold Stokowski to play the character.
But though Lloyd made the role his own, he was not the first choice, originally the role was offered to John Lithgow. However, John Lithgow was busy on other projects and could not commit.
So Christopher Lloyd was offered the role instead…yet he originally turned it down. It was only when he read the script along with his wife who then convinced him to take on the role that Lloyd signed up.

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Of course you can’t have a hero without a villain. Enter bully boy and all round asshole Biff Tannen. Biff was played brilliantly by Thomas F. Wilson. But even here, Wilson was not the first choice.

In fact the first choice was J.J. Cohen, but when Eric Stolz was still playing Marty, the producers felt J.J was not imposing enough to bully Eric. So they gave the role to Thomas F. Wilson instead and J.J. Cohen was recast as one of Biff’s chorts.
By the time Michael J Fox was finally in place as Marty, the producers just felt Thomas F. Wilson owned the role and was perfect and so allowed him to keep the Biff role.

Now you can’t talk about Back to the Future without mentioning its other main star…the time machine itself…

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Yes that is a picture of a fridge, but why?
Well because that was the original time machine.
Yes, Robert Zemeckis wanted the time machine to be a fridge, but later changed his mind after worrying that kids might try to copy the film and start climbing into fridges.
So that idea was scrapped and Zemeckis started to think of the need to make the machine more mobile.

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Robert Zemeckis settled on the DeLorean DMC-12 as he wanted something that would look futuristic from the 1955 viewpoint. This film helped make the DeLorean immortal and hugely popular.

Despite early production problems, one including a Universal Studios executive, Sidney Sheinberg, not liking the title of Back to the Future. As Sidney was convinced that no film with the word “future” in its title would ever be successful. He demanded the title be changed to “Spaceman from Pluto” instead.

Steven Spielberg eventually dictated a memo to Sheinberg, where Spielberg convinced Sheinberg he thought his title was just a joke and he found it really funny, and so embarrassed Sidney Sheinberg into dropping the whole idea.

So you can thank Steven Spielberg for you not having to sit through a film called “Spaceman from Pluto”.

Overall, the filming and post production of Back to the Future went without a hitch and the film was finally relased on July 3rd.

But Universal really had very little faith in the film. Micheal J Fox was away in London filming an episode of Family Ties at the time of Back to the Future’s release and Universal thought that without Fox helping to promote the film that the film would be a flop.

Back to the Future was a huge success and spent 11 weeks at the number 1 box office. Taking in a worldwide total of $383.87 million upon initial release, Back to the Future was the top grossing film of 1985.

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The film even won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing. The two Bobs (Gale & Zemeckis) were nominated for Best Original Screenplay, “The Power of Love” was nominated for Best Original Song, and the film was also nominated for Best Sound Mixing.

The success of Back to the Future led to (unplanned) sequels. Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III which were shot back to back and then relased in 1989 and 1990 respectively.
There have been Back to the Future games, merchandise, a theme park attraction and endless references and parodies, even today.

This is just such an amazing film, brilliant story, great and engaging characters. The film is “timeless”.
Everyone should see this flick at least once and bask in its glory as one of the very best films of the 1980s.

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George McFly:Lou, give me a milk…chocolate.

Also, check out my quick Back to the Future overview.

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40 years of Jaws and the birth of the “summer blockbuster”.

As I write this article, Jurassic World is taking the cinema by storm. Becoming the first film to take over £322m at the global box office on its opening weekend.

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It’s looking very much as if Jurassic World is going to be the big “summer blockbuster” of 2015.

If you wanted to, you could trace back 4 decades of the “summer blockbusters” with films like; Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Die Hard (1988), Batman (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Jurassic Park (1993), Independence Day (1996) and many, many more films.
You can find at least 1 film for each year over the last 40 years that is considered a “summer blockbuster”.

The summer period has become the biggest and best time to release a new film and the “summer blockbuster” has become a staple of cinema for 40 years now.
However, pre-1975. The idea of going to the cinema during the summer was just not thought of. Who wants to sit in a stuffy and sweltering cinema when the sun is shining and the weather is hot outside?
Back then, summer was when film studios would release the films they didn’t think would do very well at the box office. However, one film released 40 years ago today changed all of that and shaped modern cinema as we now know it…

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Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. 20th June 1975 saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s seminal thriller/horror flick, Jaws. Making today (20/06/15) 40 years since Jaws first hit cinema screens.

So I’m going to take a look at the film that started it all as well as a quick overview of Jaws – NES and Jaws Unleashed – PS2 games.
But instead of just doing a “Jaws is awesome” kind of article. I thought I’d take a look behind the scenes instead and see how and why this now iconic and important piece of cinema almost never made it to the big screen at all.

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Steven Spielberg was only 26 when he started work on Jaws and he was fairly inexperienced overall. With only one other cinematic film to his name; The Sugarland Express (1974), he had also directed a handful of TV movies with; Savage (1973), Something Evil (1972) and Duel (1971).
Steven had also directed episodes of TV shows like Columbo. He had wrote and directed a few independent short films very early on with; Amblin’ (1968) being the film that would also give him his production company name; Amblin Entertainment, founded in 1981.

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But Spielberg was not the original director of Jaws. Director Dick Richards (Farewell, My Lovely, Death Valley) was first considered. But Dick kept calling the shark a whale. Producers were not impressed with his lack of commitment and felt he never took the project seriously so Dick was fired and Steven Spielberg hired in his place.

Steven was aware of his own inexperience and even pulled out of the project at one point. But he was convinced to stay on and even decided to compare making Jaws to his TV movie; Duel.

Steven Spielberg: “Wow, this is like a movie I just made about a truck and a driver (Duel). Jaws and Duel both have four letters, they’re both about a leviathan going after man.

Yes, Steven Spielberg really took on the impossible task of making Jaws as the film had a four letter title like one of his previous films.

Jaws production met with many, many, many problems and almost never got made.

Richard Dreyfuss:We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark.

All true. Jaws began filming even before they had a finished script, without a finalized cast or even a working shark.

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Richard Dreyfuss who eventually went on to be cast as Hooper, the young and enthusiastic marine biologist turned the role down twice before accepting the role.

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The rough, salty-seadog character of Quint was offered to Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden. Both of which turned the role down, but as production began and no Quint in place. Spielberg offered the role to Robert Shaw and Quint finally had an actor. But the problems did not end with the casting of Shaw, in fact they had only just begun as Shaw had a big drinking problem at the time. According to Jaws actor Carl Gottlieb, Shaw would drink a lot between takes.
Roy Scheider (on Robert Shaw):A perfect gentleman whenever he was sober. All he needed was one drink and then he turned into a competitive son-of-a-bitch.
This competitiveness lead to an infamous feud between Shaw and Dreyfuss who never got on at all…and I’m sure the drinking didn’t help. Some of that tension and anger between the two can even be seen on screen.

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The only one of the three main characters that had an actor before production began was the “fish out of water” (sorry) Brody played by Roy Scheider. That only came about due to a chance meeting between Spielberg and Scheider at a party.

Even the location Jaws was filmed at (Martha’s Vineyard) proved to be problematic as residents did not appreciate the fact a film crew would be around. Filming on water also was a huge obstacle, with logistic nightmares getting cameras, lights and all electrical equipment available for use. Even getting a simple shot of the boat proved near impossible with ever changing weather, losing daylight and residents that were not happy about the filming constantly sailing their boats around in the background.

Then on top of all of those problems, the star of the show, the shark (called Bruce by Spielberg named after his lawyer) just would not work.

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Initially Steven Spielberg wanted to show the shark a lot more. The infamous and tense opening scene from Jaws that was filmed from the perspective of the shark only came about as Bruce would not work. So Spielberg had to abandon his idea of showing the shark to favour the scene we now have. This would also shape the entire film and help create a much more tense atmosphere than Spielberg intended.

Even that classic Jaws theme tune almost never made it. Spielberg hired (now legendary) composer John Williams to come up with the music of Jaws. However, when Williams first played the now iconic tune for Spielberg. Steven said he thought it was a joke and asked for the real music instead. It took a lot of convincing for Spielberg to accept and include the now infamous music.

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These many problems would carry on over the whole 155 day shooting…yes it took 155 days to complete filming on Jaws. However, the schedule was only originally planned for a 52 day shoot. These non-planned 103 extra filming days caused countless problems. Which also included the main thing producers care about, money.
The budget for Jaws was initially £2.6 million. Due to delays, problems with the cast and crew, an expanding shooting schedule and constant repairs of Bruce. That £2.6 million budget grew to over £5.7 million and producers were not happy at all. You do not spend £5.7 million on a film with an inexperienced director that was due to be released during summer which was just not (at the time) big business for films.

Steven Spielberg was even threatened with being fired from the film, several times.
Spielberg was at a dinner party during the filming of Jaws in 1974…

Steven Spielberg:An actress came over to me and said; Everyone is talking about this movie back in Hollywood and they are saying this is the end of your career, they’re saying you are so far over budget and schedule nobody is going to hire you after this.

The young and inexperienced Steven Spielberg was dejected and depressed.

Producer David Brown:Had we read the script twice, in my opinion, we never would have made Jaws.”

Jaws was one of the most troubled productions in film history. The only reason it was finished was due to the fact producers released they were already in too deep and decided to let the film be finished and just hope they can at least make some of their money back.

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Jaws was finally released on 20th June 1975 and it didn’t just make it’s money back…it broke all previous box office records. Jaws grossed over £4.5 million in it’s opening weekend alone and went on to make over £300 million worldwide. All from an inflated £5.7 million budget.

A lot of Jaws success came from some of cinema’s firsts.
Jaws was the first film to have a strong merchandise market. Yes before Star Wars (1977) there was Jaws. With T-shirts, toys, posters, cups and so many more products with the Jaws logo and images being sold.
Jaws was also the first film to have a simultaneous nationwide release. Being shown at over 100’s of screens at the same time all over the country was previously unheard of.

Jaws became the very first “summer blockbuster” and helped cement that young and inexperienced director; Steven Spielberg’s entire career and changed his life forever.
The name Spielberg became a household name and even opened the doors and allowed Steven to make the films he is now famous for. Steven Spielberg also became known for not only creating the “summer blockbuster” but adding to them with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and many, many other all time classics.

Jaws itself went on to spawn 3 sequels, video games, endless merchandise, a theme park attraction..and even two (yes two) musicals as well as countless parodies.

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From troubled production to helping shape modern cinema today. Also take a look at this; Jaws: The Inside Story – Documentary on Youtube for even more detail on the film that almost never was.
Jaws’ 40 year endurance is a true test of its quality and commitment.

Happy 40th Birthday Bruce.

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This ends my look back on the film Jaws and how it created the “summer blockbuster” sub-genre in cinema.
Please also check out my overview for Jaws – NES and Jaws Unleashed – PS2.

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