Bob Gale Talks Back To The Future, 25 Years Later

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Was that the point when you started thinking about sequels? Did you always have the idea that there was a way to continue the story, or was it just meant to be only one film, at first?

Oh, yeah, the first film was made complete and of itself. One of the myths that I can deflate right now… A lot of people say, “I can remember seeing it at the theater and it said ‘To Be Continued’ at the end of it.” Well, eyewitness testimony is one of the most unreliable in the world [Laughs]. The “To Be Continued” thing was something that we put on the VHS release. At that time, we knew we would be making a sequel, and we put that on there to tease the buyers and viewers that there was another one coming. But when we made the first one, the ending of it was, you know, Doc and Marty fly off into the sunset to have another adventure.

Bob Zemeckis and I have said many times, if we knew, if we were absolutely sure we were having a sequel, we would never have had Jennifer get in the car. When it came time for us to write Part II, we kept saying “What are we going to do with Jennifer? What are we going to do with her?” She’s not a very well-defined character, and she kind of gets in the way of the Doc Brown/Marty McFly relationship, which is the crux of it, so we knocked her out! We left her unconscious for most of the sequels.

When you sat down to come up with the sequels, did you feel as if the two of you had written yourself into corner with end of the first movie?

Yes! [Laughs} Yes, of course we had. The point of the first one is, you are in control of your own destiny, that your future has not been written. We say that literally at the end of Part III. So the idea of going into the future, and Marty has to change something about the future, we said to each other, he could just turn to Jennifer in the car and say “Hey, let’s not get married.” Problem solved, and now we don’t have to go to the future. But we didn’t think the audience would like that. [Laughs]

At what point did you come up with the idea to make both Part II and Part III together? Was that your idea, or was it a studio decision?

When we started [planning the sequels], we were only thinking about Part II. Part III came on when we kept adding stuff to Part II. We actually had a script to Part II that was, oh, about 165 pages, I remember, which had four acts, with the fourth act being that they had to go to the [old] west. And it never really worked because, suddenly, three quarters of the way through the movie, we were introducing all these characters that haven’t been set up, and when I read the script through, I said to Bob, “I think we have enough material to make two movies out of this. Give me a week, let me write it the way I feel it.” He said, sure, go for it, so I worked some 16, 20 hours days, and came up with this 210 page script that bisected quite nicely into two movies. Bob liked it, and then we just had to convince the studio.

For the studio, it was an economic decision more than anything else. We said, “We can make Back To The Future Part II and it’ll cost you $55 million, but we can make you Back To The Future Part II and Part III and it’ll cost you just $70 million.” We got the idea, actually, from Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who shot The Three Muskateers and The Four Muskateers in the 1970s back to back. They’re terrific movies, they’re movies that we loved. And then, when they went to make the Superman movies, their intention was to shoot two movies at the same time. It didn’t work out that way because they ran out of money, and they were unable to finish shooting the second, but we can’t take credit for coming up with that idea.

We actually put the trailer for Part III at the end of Part II, to let everyone know, yes, we know you’re upset that we didn’t end this, but the third one’s coming, and here’s what it’s going to look like, and you’re going to get to see it in six or seven months, because we put “Coming Summer 1990” at the end. Again, an idea we got from The Three Muskateers, because they put a trailer for Four Muskateers at the end. I remember, when I saw The Empire Strikes Back, how pissed I was at the end, because Han Solo’s in carbon freeze. I was thinking, “Wait, they’re just gonna leave Han Solo in carboon freeze? That sucks!” We didn’t want fans to be that pissed off at us.

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