It’s common for roles to be recast in Hollywood, but few cases are as infamous as the one that impacted Back to the future (1985). Before Michael J. Fox took on the role that made him a household name, Eric Stoltz tried his hand at playing Marty McFly. You don’t need a time machine to see how the film’s alternate history would have played out – just watch the video below.
Director Robert Zemeckis wanted to cast Fox all along, but the young actor was busy filming Family ties. Despite feeling Fox was the best man for the role, he settled for Stoltz and began production in 1984. A month after principal photography began, the director finally admitted to himself what he suspected a long time ago: the movie didn’t work without Fox like Marty.
Stoltz was released at the Puente Hills Mall — aka the Twin Pines Mall — after shooting a few scenes that didn’t feature his face. Fox arrived on set a few days later. He had to split his time between filming Back to the future and Family ties, which caused him to only get a few hours of sleep each night, but his grueling schedule didn’t hurt his performance. The film had the missing element it needed, and it became one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.
Unlike most redesign situations, Stoltz was not cast quickly. He was Marty McFly for a third of the film’s planned three months of shooting, which resulted in a lot of expensive footage that the filmmakers couldn’t use. Most of the scenes he shot ended up being identical to the final cut, with Fox’s face instead of Stoltz’s being the only difference. After watching the comparison of the two Marty McFlys, find out more facts about the making of Back to the future.