Back To The Future is one of those films that you can't really imagine living in a world without.
Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in a DeLorean, time-travelling? Of course that makes complete and utter sense to us. Back in the '80s, however, it didn't. At all. In a recent interview with screenwriter Bob Gale, the fate of Back To The Future was a lot less certain than you'd expect.
"The script was rejected over 40 times by every major studio and by some more than once. We’d go back when they changed management. It was always one of two things. It was “Well, this is time travel, and those movies don’t make any money.” We got that a lot. We also got, “There’s a lot of sweetness to this. It’s too nice, we want something raunchier like ‘Porky’s.’ Why don’t you take it to Disney?”'
Of course, when Gale and Robert Zemeckis, the film's director, took it to Disney, it was dismissed out of hand. It wasn't until Zemeckis made Romancing The Stone that any movement happened, as the film's success gave him a launching board to pick his next film. That and a certain director called Steven Spielberg helped get Back To The Future over the line.
As Gale tells it, there were a few changes needed. "The head of Universal at the time, Sid Sheinberg, liked the script, but he asked for a couple of things to be changed. First, he was known as “Professor Brown,” not “Doc Brown.” He said that kids wouldn’t like someone named “Professor,” so let’s change it to “Doc Brown.” Also at first, Doc Brown didn’t have a pet dog. He had a chimpanzee. Sid said no chimpanzees. “I looked it up,” he said, “no movie with a chimpanzee ever made any money.” We said, what about those Clint Eastwood movies, “Every Which Way But Loose” and “Any Which Way You Can”? He said, “No, that was an orangutan.” So, we have a dog."
There were, of course, the more famous changes - including the means of time-travel itself, which was originally a fridge. Zemeckis, however, changed that quickly as he felt children would be recreating it and climbing into fridges. You also had Eric Stoltz, who was initially cast as McFly before he was unceremoniously bounced out of the role to make room for Michael J. Fox.
Despite all these changes and the constant rejections, it's clear there was something special going on and it wasn't going to stay hidden forever.