‘Back to the Future’ Stunt Pro Charlie Croughwell Remembers His First Day of Shooting With Michael J. Fox
Movies immerse audiences with engaging stories, authentic performances, sweeping soundscapes, and ingenious effects. The backbone of cinema is made up of production crews who work behind the scenes to make movie magic. Many of these cinematic magicians specialize in stunts as performers and as creators. Charlie Croughwell is one such expert. We caught up with him to talk about his newest project, The Call of the Wild, but first, he shared a few details about one of his most iconic projects, the Back to the Future series.
Croughwell recalls meeting Michael J. Fox his first day on the set of ‘Back to the Future’
With over three decades in the business, Croughwell began as a stunt performer in the 1980s. He worked as a stunt double for Michael J. Fox in over a dozen films, including the Back to the Future series. Croughwell said this about the experience:
“Mike and I were great friends. We’re still friends. We had to work very closely, especially, on Back to the Future. That’s when I started working with Mike. The day he began on Back to the Future is the day I began.”
Croughwell went on to explain that the studio had already shot the entire film with another actor, but they didn’t like the chemistry with Christopher Lloyd. Croughwell says they worked out a deal with Fox’s other gig on Family Ties and launched production with the actor in the role of Marty McFly. Here is what Croughwell remembers about his first day:
As I walked up to the stunt coordinator, Mike walked up next to me and asked if I was going to be his stunt double. Since that was his first day and there was a bunch of skating stuff to do and Mike and I are exactly the same size and we move in very similar fashion. And the coordinator just said, “Yeah, you’re the guy. So, this is the guy, Mike” so Mike and I said “Hello, how are you?” And the next thing I knew, I was skating down the street holding on to the back of a Jeep and getting pushed backwards by Biff and running over the car. That was the first gag I did on the very first day at work.Charlie Croughwell
Croughwell on the ‘Back to the Future’ phenomenon
We asked Croughwell when he began working in stunts almost 40 years ago, if he ever imagined that he would be helping create some of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history. His answer:
Absolutely not. That’s the furthest thing from your mind. It’s just you have no idea what you’re creating at that time, early on.
When I started on Back to the Future, basically it was a summer movie, or a movie that came out in the summer, and they thought it was just going to be one of those, you know, a popcorn movie for teenagers, so you don’t really look at it…I don’t think I look at anything in that way, that you think, wow, this just is going to be an absolutely amazing iconic picture that is just going to stand the test of time and everybody’s going to fall in love with it.
I’m shooting in a skatepark today and tomorrow and all these guys that are skating now, not all of them, but a lot of them got inspiration from the skating that we did on Back to the Future. That’s what inspired them to just begin skating in the first place. And it’s not until now that you realize, wow, that movie had an enormous impact on a massive, massive number of people. So, no, at the time, you definitely have no idea. It’s not until well after the fact.Charlie Croughwell
Read more: Cool Movie Tricks: From ‘Back to the Future’ to ‘The Call of the Wild,’ Stunt Coordinator Charlie Croughwell Drops Knowledge