Eric Stoltz may have been sacked from Back to the Future for his intense reading, but he had a point about the tragic nature of its ending.
Eric Stoltz’s time playing Marty McFly was cut short before Michael J. Fox stepped in, partially due to his interpretation of Back to the Future’s ending as a tragedy, which he actually had a point about. Back to the Future ends with Marty McFly returning back to 1985 from his trip to 1955. Along the way, Marty actually adjusted his own future, returning to a version of 1985 where his family members were now better versions of themselves, changing the entire dynamic he had always known.
Before Michael J. Fox was cast in the iconic role of Marty McFly, Eric Stoltz began the movie’s production as the character. Stoltz was fired from Back to the Future and eventually replaced by Fox after the creators decided to go another route with Marty’s character approach as well as changes to the content. One of the reasons Stoltz was let go was because of the intense way he interpreted and portrayed Marty, which wasn’t how Back to the Future’s writers intended the story to be played.
In an interview for Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us, the Back to the Future creators gave an interview about Stoltz’s time as Marty McFly, where they discussed how his depressing reading of Back to the Future’s ending was part of what lost him the role. Stoltz’s interpretation was that Back to the Future was a tragedy since Marty returns to the future with an entirely new life, making him an outsider in his family. The reading may have gotten Stoltz fired, but he has a point – Marty is essentially a stranger to his own life when he returns home; he knows that his family isn’t who they were before, and while he can put the pieces together, he doesn’t know what his new life has been like for the past 17 years.
The life Marty knew before Doc Brown took him back to 1955 was a bit sad: his father was still an unconfident push-over, his mother had become a crass alcoholic, his older brother was working at a fast-food restaurant, and his sister was just desperate to have a boyfriend. After Marty used time travel to return, BTTF‘s McFly family was loving and connected, all of them thriving and confident, which would have changed the entire dynamic of his life growing up – Marty himself wouldn’t be the same as before. His life appears much better now that he fixed his parents’ relationship back in the ‘50s, he just never actually got to experience the better upbringing.
In a way, Marty returning to his life in 1985 as the same teenager he was before is a plot hole. The rest of his family changed in significant ways that affected their demeanors, life goals, personalities, and dynamics, all of which would have impacted Marty’s personality as well. He grew up as the most well-adjusted, popular member of his family, but Back to the Future’s alternate timeline suggests that’s not true anymore. Stoltz’s reading of Back to the Future as a tragedy is essentially correct; Marty would be cursed with not knowing who he really is, which would be the equivalent of having retrograde amnesia, having no memory of his life before returning from the past.
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