October 21 is Back To The Future Day. A day fans everywhere dress up in costumes and talk about their favorite aspects of the movie trilogy. And at one point, those aspects looked very different, namely the leading actor. It is not well-known, outside the BTTF fandom, that actor Eric Stoltz was first cast as Marty McFly. In fact, 5 weeks of filming happened with Stoltz before director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale came to the heartbreaking conclusion that it just wasn’t working. Stoltz was a talented actor, but his take on Marty was too serious and the executive team knew something was missing. The lovable comedic element just wasn’t there. So, with the blessing of executive producer Steven Spielberg, they recast. And with Michael J Fox in the role, they reshot the entire 5 weeks worth of movie they had already done with Stoltz.
This misfortune for Stoltz was fortune for Claudia Wells. Wells auditioned for the role of Jennifer Parker, Marty’s girlfriend, but didn’t get cast. When Fox replaced Stoltz, the actor playing Jennifer was too tall for Fox, so Wells was brought on board. And to continue this snowball of fate, Wells ended up not continuing beyond the first movie because her mother was diagnosed with cancer and Wells left the franchise to care for her. She was replaced in the latter two movies by Elizabeth Shue.
Fate? Maybe. Maybe Shue and Fox were destined to be the faces of this beloved trilogy, or maybe they just got lucky. But it all could have looked much different. Among the many people who auditioned for the role of Marty was Ben Stiller. No doubt Stiller would have been a lovable Marty, but there might have been more intentional comedy, and less vulnerability, than what Fox delivered. And that would have changed the entire energy of the movie. Stiller might have even been the one fired after 5 weeks of filming. Who knows.
You decide. Watch Stiller’s audition reel for the role. Completely different direction than what Fox did. And the role of Jennifer was also tested out by some well-known performers. Kyra Sedgwick read for the role, and while she was more on par with the character we’ve come to know from the first Back To The Future, it would have changed the franchise. Who knows, maybe Sedgwick would have done all three roles and Elizabeth Shue wouldn’t have had any part of it. One shift can change an entire course. But I think we can all agree it turned out perfect. Happy Back to the Future Day!
Get more details (and watch Kyra’s audition) from People.