‘Back to the Future II’ Almost Killed Off Michael J. Fox!

The Hollywood Museum opened a new Back to the Future exhibit featuring props, costumes Michael J. Fox wore and De Loreans from the film as well as memorabilia surrounding the films. One of the most fascinating portions of the exhibits features screenwriter Bob Gale’s notepads pertaining to the the films. 

Michael J. Fox costumes in Back to the Future exhibit
Original Back To The Future costumes worn by Michael J. Fox at the Hollywood Museum | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Some of Gale’s yellow legal pads are opened to pages revealing some of his notes for Back to the Future Part II. They’re so different than the final film, it’s tempting to open up the case and flip those notepads to see more pages! But the several pages on display suggest wild possibilities the sequels could have taken. You can see for yourself at the Hollywood Museum in California and if you’re not able to visit, Showbiz Cheat Sheet has you covered.

It could’ve gotten worse for 2015 Michael J. Fox in ‘Back to the Future II’

Michael J. Fox played several members of the McFly family in Back to the Future Part II including his own son and daughter, and Marty McFly at age 47. In the film, Marty is a has been and then gets fired from is desk job. Gale’s early ideas were even darker.

Marty’s job woes were at one point even more dire as Gale wrote, “Old Marty used company funds to finance get rich quick scheme which failed. Was fired. George bailed him out ended up working for Dave.”

Newspapers used in the Back to the Future movies | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

That would have given George McFly (Jeffrey Weisman replacing Crispin Glover) and Marty’s brother Dave (Marc McClure whose scene was ultimately deleted). But it would have ended the worst for 2015 Marty.

“Jennifer could financially support the family but M doesn’t know this,” Gale wrote. “If/when he finds out he commits suicide.”

Wow. So old Marty would have killed himself over how badly his life turned out, and the fact that his wife could have been the breadwinner. Gale chatted with Showbiz Cheat Sheet during the exhibit and confirmed these were just brainstorming ideas and as a writer, you go down every path and some don’t work out. He made the right call that it didn’t need to be that bad for young Marty to turn his life around, but how wild that it could have gone this way at one point.

There were dark possibilities for the McFly kids too 

Gale took notes to address Doc (Christopher Lloyd)’s line at the end of Back to the Future, “Something’s gotta be done about your kids.” So what’s gotta be done? There were several options:

1. Kill’ em

2. Talk to ‘em

3. See ‘em so that M and J will change their ways

Obviously Back to the Future II did not murder Marty and Jennifer’s kids. That must have been another blind alley Gale went down just to get it out of his creative system. What ended up in the film was a combination of 2 and 3. They do see them and it’s the beginning of what makes Marty realize he’s got to mature or he’ll keep repeating the same mistakes throughout life.

Abandoned plot ideas for ‘Back to the Future II’

When Doc took Marty and Jennifer (Claudia Wells) into the future at the end of Back to the Future, Gale never imagined he’d be writing a sequel. Once he got started he had to figure out what they’d be doing there. Some of the ideas he didn’t use sound pretty interesting.

De Lorean from Back to the Future III
A De Lorean from Back to the Future Part III | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

In one, Gale wrote, “Marty sends his son to the 80s, takes son’s place.” Sending a kid from 2015 into 1985 is actually a fantastic idea. That should have been the plot of Back to the Future IV released in the real 2015, but alas it was not. Marty does take Marty Jr.’s place in the fictional 2015 to stop him from making a mistake that destroys their family.

Another idea in Gale’s notes was that Biff’s kid wants revenge. That would make sense that Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) spent the 60 years since George knocked him out in 1955 griping about his nemesis, until his son finally took revenge for the family. In Back to the Future II, Biff’s grandson Griff (Wilson) takes after his grandpa as a hooligan in the future. 

Back to the Future memorabilia
Back to the Future memorabilia at the Hollywood Museum | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Another idea for 2015 showed a Wanted poster in the town square. The wanted criminals are The McFly Twins who could either be “M and J” (Gale’s shorthand for Marty and Jennifer) or two Martys! Gale was playing with Michael J. Fox in multiple roles so twin Marty villains could have been interesting.

More 2015 ideas they didn’t use in ‘Back to the Future II’

Many of Gale’s notes remind modern day audiences how much Gale predicted accurately: Hundreds of TV channels curated for individual viewers, online shopping, everything but flying cars. Some of his undused ideas were prescient too.

Michael J. Fox cosplay
A fan dressed as Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Gale considered having a Hill Valley underground shopping district, a revamped futuristic mall that could have been Lone Pine II or Lone Pine -Downtown Branch. That’s not far off from the indoor shopping complexes we have today.

Back to the Future II could have added Japan as the 51st state. That certainly seemed likely in the ‘80s, though probably a little less so today. Gale also considered having McDonald’s introduce waiters with the revolutionary idea, “No more waiting in line. Have your food brought directly to you.”