‘Back to the Future’s Original Ending Nearly Nuked the Fridge (Literally)
Back to the Future is getting a new 35th anniversary Blu-ray and 4K box set this fall. It includes many of the previous set’s special features, plus new extras like previously unseen audition tapes featuring some famous actors. ln response to the news, one of those actors, Two and a Half Men’s Jon Cryer, posted a long Twitter thread about the original Back to the Future script he read decades ago, which was very different from the finished version — and sounds an awful lot like another famous movie.
Here’s Cryer’s thread from Twitter, which he says is based on the script that he “read before [his audition].” In this draft, the time machine was not a DeLorean. And the secret ingredient for time travel came from a special ingredient rather than lightning...
It surely does to anyone who has seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which opens with a sequence where Indy accidentally stumbles into a nuclear test in the 1950s and survives certain doom by hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator at the last moment:
Cryer’s recall of this 35-year-old script is impressive, although he did get a couple of minor details wrong. Marty didn’t hide in a refrigerator after accidentally losing his Coke, the refrigerator was the time machine. Doc (called “Professor Brown” in early drafts) builds the time machine’s laser on top of a fridge:
According to the early draft available online, Marty doesn’t accidentally “drop” the all-important Coke bottle, either. He leaves it behind in a jacket he forgets in Professor Brown’s truck.
The common denominator between Back to the Future and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is Steven Spielberg, who produced the former and directed the latter, and clearly liked the fridge gag even if it wound up being cut from BTTF. (According to legend, Back to the Future’s producers were worried kids might try to copy Marty and lock themselves in their own refrigerators, so that idea got scrapped.)
Even after the fridge was swapped for a DeLorean, the idea of using a nuclear bomb test as the propulsion device that returns Marty to the future remained in the script for a while, as evidenced by this storyboard sequence, illustrated by Andrew Probert, that shows Marty driving the time machine directly into a nuclear explosion:
Eventually the nuclear test was phased out entirely, and Indiana Jones nuked the fridge instead of Back to the Future. Given how Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was received, with “nuked the fridge” becoming a modern shorthand equivalent of “jumping the shark,” it was a fortuitous change. If the fridge had been left in Back to the Future, would people have rejected it? Would that mean no sequels? Does that mean no 35th anniversary Blu-ray set? And then no Jon Cryer tweets about the script in 2020? Wow, this whole thing is getting very heavy, Professor.
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