Bob Gale Talks Back To The Future, 25 Years Later

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With Back To The Future celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with the release of a 3-disc blu-ray boxset collection of the entire trilogy, I talked to producer and co-writer of the series, Bob Gale, about what it’s like to revisit your past self revisiting the past.

How does it feel looking back at 25 years ago, both at the legacy of Back To The Future and all the behind the scenes footage for the Blu-Ray release? Does it seem like yesterday, or some time ago?

Well, it’s both ways. Some of it, you say “Wow, I forgot that we did that,” and some, it’s so fresh and immediate, it’s almost like it happened last year.

Do you feel very protective of the movies, or do you look at them and only see the mistakes, and things that you wish you could’ve done differently?

I don’t think about the mistakes. There are mistakes, there are things that, when I watch it, I go “Oh God, why didn’t I change that?” But there are very few, and the movies have gone on to have this life of their own, this huge impact on pop culture throughout the world, their popularity, so, like Doc Brown would advise, “Don’t tamper with the space time continuum.” [Laughs]

Back when you were first writing Back To The Future, did you have any idea that it would be such a success, or that it would have such an impact?

Oh, no, no. In fact, Bob Zemeckis and I wrote the first draft for Columbia Pictures in the spring of 1981. We wrote another draft there, and then Columbia passed on it, and we received over 40 [more] rejections in trying to get this movie made. Every major studio rejected it, every one. Some, more than once. Studio executives kept saying, “Eh, time travel movies don’t make any money. Time travel movies don’t make any money.” We were just hoping that it would make its money back! So the idea that it would become this phenomenon…!

But I’ll tell you the moment we thought, maybe, maybe we’ll have a chance with this thing. We were shooting down at Whittier High School, the exterior scene at the dance where George finally confronts Biff, and word got out that Michael J. Fox was shooting. Kids lined up seven deep to just get a glimpse of Michael J. Fox. I remember, Bob and I just looked at each other and said, “Wow, we had no idea that this guy was as big a star as he is, just from that TV show.”

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