ByJonathan Sim, writer at
I'm a writer/film theorist. Check out my articles on Pixar, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, Die Hard, politics, and more!
Jonathan Sim

Back to the Future is a wildly successful film franchise, and part of the franchise's success is due to the movies' main actor, Michael J. Fox, who stepped into the shoes of Marty McFly. In fact, he was their first choice for the role. But, he wasn't always in the movie. I am going to tell you about how Eric Stoltz was almost Marty McFly.

Michael J. Fox, as I mentioned earlier, was the first choice to play Marty McFly. However, he was committed to the TV show, Family Ties. The show's producer, Gary David Goldberg, refused to let Fox work on the movie. So, the producers chose Eric Stoltz to play Marty. Five weeks into filming, they decided the role had been miscast.

First of all, Stoltz was a method actor and while filming, he refused to be called by his real name and only wanted to be called Marty, which greatly annoyed the crew, since he wouldn't even respond to Eric. "We almost always called him Marty," Bob Gale says. "We thought it was silly, but we figured if it helped him do his job, it was harmless. There were a few people on the crew who'd worked on Mask and they called him Rocky, the name of his character in that film."

Thomas F. Wilson, who played the role of Biff Tannen in the movie, was extremely annoyed by Stoltz's behavior. They were very hostile to each other. For example, in the scene where Marty punches Biff, Stoltz would use all his force and refused to take it easy. He would injure Wilson's collarbone.

Christopher Lloyd, who played the role of Doc, also had a sense that things were not clicking the way they should have been. "I felt for Eric. He was a really good actor," he says. "Although he was doing the part well, he was not bringing that element of comedy to the screen."

And he wasn't the only one thinking that.

Although Zemeckis and Spielberg realized re-shooting the film would add $3 million to the $14 million budget, they decided to recast. Spielberg explained Zemeckis felt Stoltz was too humorless and gave a "terrifically dramatic performance". Gale further explained they felt Stoltz was simply acting out the role, whereas Fox himself had a personality like Marty McFly. He felt Stoltz was uncomfortable riding a skateboard, whereas Fox was not. Stoltz confessed to director Peter Bogdanovich during a phone call, two weeks into the shoot, that he was unsure of Zemeckis and Gale's direction, and concurred that he was wrong for the role.

Fox agreed to do Family Ties in the day and Back to the Future in the evenings. Fox says, "I'd be backstage at Family Ties waiting for my entrance and going, 'Where's my camcorder?', and I'd be looking for props from Back to the Future. I almost called Meredith Baxter 'Doc'." And that's how Michael J. Fox became Marty McFly. You can see some footage of Eric Stoltz in the movie as Marty here.

But you actually can see Eric in the movie.

In the scene where Marty punches Biff (the one I mentioned earlier with Stoltz actually punching Thomas), that's not Michael J. Fox punching him. That's actually Stoltz. They used this footage because the shot was a closeup of Biff, not Marty. You can hear about it here:


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