On July 3rd, the time-traveling comedy classic Back to the Future will celebrate its 30 Year Anniversary. This is, of course, a momentous occasion, but it is rendered even more special when you consider Back to the Future has managed to avoid the dreaded remake curse.
As a much-loved, era-defining franchise dependent to a certain extent on special effects, you'd imagine there are studio execs somewhere which are positively drooling at the prospect of rehashing the film and raking in even more big bucks. However, if they do want to do that - and you can rest assured they probably do - they will have to wait quite a while. In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis claimed he would have to die before a remake would ever be made. He said:
"That can’t happen until both Bob and I are dead. And then I’m sure they’ll do it, unless there’s a way our estates can stop it. I mean, to me, that’s outrageous. Especially since it’s a good movie. It’s like saying ‘Let’s remake Citizen Kane. Who are we going to get to play Kane?’ What folly, what insanity is that? Why would anyone do that?'"
Zemeckis and co-creator Bob Gale made sure to hang on to the full rights to their characters when they originally signed their contracts with Universal and Amblin Entertainment back in 1984. A piece of foresight which has probably saved Back to the Future in this remake-heavy environment.
Why wouldn't they make another?
As he explains, Back to the Future is ripe for a remake since it constitutes what is referred to in the business as a "pre-sold title." Basically, this means the studio can scrip on marketing costs since everyone is already intimately familiar with the story and name. This formula recently proved how successful it can be with the release of Jurassic World - a movie which is currently making money faster than any other movie, ever.
Zemeckis is sure a Back to the Future remake would be similarly lucrative, but for him it's not about the money - it's about defending the nature of art and preserving it as something which is permanent and not developed on some kind of Fordist assembly line. This is certainly refreshing to hear in this day and age. I mean, can we really expect this to be improved upon?
Furthermore, Zemeckis is adamant Back to the Future simply couldn't work without Michael J. Fox, an undeniable truth which has also prevented the development of a new, belated sequel. In 2008, he told a fan convention in Florida:
"The idea of making another Back to the Future movie without Michael J Fox – you know, that’s like saying, ‘I’m going to cook you a steak dinner and I’m going to hold the beef.’"
But not all adaptations are off the table
Gale and Zemeckis, however, do feel more positive about adaptations that take the concept in a new or more creative direction. Back in 2012, the duo revealed they did intend to develop a stage musical of Back to the Future to show in London's West End. The project, which is closely supported by Gale and Zemeckis, is due to premiere in 2015, although it seems the project might be coming along slowly. Late last year, Gale told Yahoo:
"It’s still in development. We’re not going to have that out next year. It’s going to take longer to get right. If and when it finally comes out—and we expect that it will — Bob (Zemeckis) and I will be all over it."
The co-creators will also be penning a tie-in book for the musical, while Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard are writing the music and lyrics for the adaptation. Gale also reassured fans the musical would meet the high bar set by the movies, adding:
"We’re not going to have a shitty version of a Back to the Future musical. If it’s going to be out there, it’s going to be great and if it’s not great, we’re not going to have it go out."
And what scenes can we expect to get a musical makeover? Well, I can think of one which is a no-brainer...