Cuts We Love 4th Qtr, 2018
A worldwide cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing film of 1985, Back to the Future launched one of the most successful franchises in Universal’s history. The classic time-travel comedy adventure, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, got off to a flying start with a frantic scene that helped template the series’ fast-paced thrills.
At the beginning of the picture, Marty McFly’s (Michael J. Fox) friendship with Doc (Christopher Lloyd) is established making his apparent murder by ‘the Libyans’ all the more arresting. The scene was shot at the Puente Hills Mall, in the City of Industry, Calif.
“The scene was shot at night because Doc needed the deserted and vast parking lot to get the DeLorean up to speed when no one else was around,” explains Arthur Schmidt, ACE, co-editor with Harry Keramidas, ACE, on all three Back to the Future films and Robert Zemeckis’ frequent collaborator (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump). “The parking lot is wet in order to have more light reflections and to cheat and justify extra dramatic lighting whenever it was needed.”
This was the first scene shot with Fox after he replaced Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty. “For his first couple of weeks on Back to the Future, Michael could only work at night because he was still working on the TV series, Family Ties, during the day,” says Schmidt. “From the script we knew that we would have to revisit the scene later in the movie when Marty needs to get back to the future. Harry cut that [later] scene.
“We knew that there were going to be two complicated, time-consuming action sequences and we wanted to be able to give each the time they needed. In the first parking lot scene, we needed to set up how the time travel in the DeLorean works with the cuts to the dashboard. We also needed to make the chase as exciting and as much fun as possible and then get a laugh or two with the scarecrow’s head and hope that the audience realizes that we are now in the field back in 1955 before it became the parking lot!”
Schmidt adds, “Bob [Zemeckis] shot all the footage with the principal actors and Frank Marshall – the producer and second unit director – spent about another week or so shooting the inserts and the great, wider angle, chase shots. The material was an editor’s gift.”