I remember how amazing the ending of the original Back to the Future was back in good old 1985. Not only had we just sat through a thrilling and hilarious film that felt like an instant classic, but then Doc shows up in a crazy outfit, telling Marty and Jennifer they’ve got to go deal with their kids. In the future. In a goddamn flying car. It was like writer/director Robert Zemeckis leaned in and said, “You liked that, did you? Well, check this shit out!” But it turns out that unforgettable closing scene wasn’t actually intended to set up a sequel at all.
With Back to the Future 2’s target future of 2015 only a month away, the folks at Uproxx decided to dig into the history of the franchise, including the fact that BTTF was never intended as a franchise starter. Speaking to Empire Magazine way back in 2010, Zemeckis said:
We’d never designed the first Back to the Future to have a sequel. The flying car at the end was a joke, a great payoff. We thought this would be really hard to unravel and do again. But when you make a movie that’s as successful as Back to the Future, it becomes this piece of corporate real estate. It becomes bigger than you as a filmmaker. You’re basically given a decision: we’re making a sequel, do you want to be involved in it or not?
That’s hard to imagine in this current era of sequels, reboots, shared universes, and franchise-chasing. Especially given that the second and third Back to the Future films are nearly as universally beloved as the original. To be sure, delivering on the promise of that final scene with Doc and the flying DeLorean must have been tricky, but Zemeckis and company pulled it off, giving us not one, but two more films that comprised a damn near perfect movie trilogy, and one that still holds up brilliantly to this day.
But once movement began on the first sequel, they didn’t hit on the right direction straight out of the gate. With it’s leaps between the future of 2015, the past of 1955, and even a dark alternate timeline, Back to the Future 2’s storyline is a Jenga puzzle of carefully balanced parts, all of which could collapse if prodded indelicately. But in the original script treatment for the sequel, the third act didn’t send Marty back to 1955, but rather to 1967. Bob Gale said:
The third act of the movie, rather than going back to 1955, took Marty to 1967. Biff ended up with the sports almanac in 1967 because I thought it would be cool to do the ’60s. George McFly would have been a college professor, Lorraine is a flower child. Let’s do this stuff in the ’60s and see what we could do with that.
One last tidbit I’d never heard before: the shirt Doc Brown wears throughout most of Back to the Future was a deliberate foreshadowing of the third film. Check it out below, all trains and horses.