"I think what made 'Back to the Future' such an immense hit," opines its star Michael J. Fox, "is that it was cross-generational. Just by the nature of the story, its appeal reached people who remembered the '50s, and interested a whole new generation in the period. It was also a very life-affirming story about relationships, as well as a 'what if?' movie, which is another thing audiences love. It's hard to analyze, and maybe it's best left that way. It's like Mark Twain's analogy between comedy and a frog. If you dissect it, you might find out what makes it work, but it'll die in the process."
Whatever the reason for the phenomenal success of the film, Fox was delighted with the prospect of returning to play Marty McFly for a second time, so much that he assumed the very same working conditions he had experienced four years eariler. In order to make its Thanksgiving release date, the movie's production schedule coincided with the filming of the final season of the hit television series "Family Ties."
For several months Fox found himself shuttling between both projects, working on the television show during the day, and filming "Back to the Future Part II" through the night. There was, however, one major difference that Fox had not encountered during the filming of the first feature. If filming a motion picture and a television show at the same time wasn't enough, Fox also had the added, but welcome distraction of the imminent arrival of his and actress Tracy Pollan's first child. Happily, the baby's sense of timing was as good as his father's, and Sam Michael Fox was born after his father had completed filming chores on "Family Ties."
"When I began work on the first film, I was pretty much walking into unknown territory. Obviously I liked the script, but I didn't really know Bob Zemeckis, or any of the cast and crew. When I was approached to do the sequel, I knew that if the entire team was coming back, they were going to make sure that part two was every bit as special an experience as part one."
"To my mind, they've succeeded," says Fox. "For the audience, I think the word that best describes this film is relentless. It never stops. Every time you think the characters have rescued themselves from their current predicament, and you think you can relax for a minute or two...BAM!--you run into something else. The great thing about the film is that even though there's ten things going on every second, it's not overwhelming. Everything is done in a compelling way that involves the audience and draws them closer, rather than wearing them out."
Four years after filming the first movie, Fox marvels at the new rigors that Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale invented for Marty, physical challenges that found the actor in very uncomfortable positions at times. "What's amazing is that Bob Zemeckis is tireless in his quest for new ways to torture me," says the actor with a grin. "He was always coming up with new devices to approximate the physical reality of concepts like hoverboarding. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a real hoverboard, so all sorts of contraptions were invented to simulate the process." Using a combination of wires, rigs and harnesses, Fox was suspended in mid-air for several hours at a time in order to film the futuristic hoverboard chase as Marty attempts to escape from Griff and his gang. "It was pretty exhausting, and occasionally painful" says the actor, "but hopefully worth it when you see the finished product." Upon thinking of all the hanging and flying that Marty does, and the number of devices necessary to implement their successful filming, Fox recalls a saying that he and director Zemeckis would quote in situations of that nature. "Pain is temporary, film is forever."
After finishing "Back to the Future," Fox was pleased to find his services wanted for numerous film projects. Not wanting to leave "Family Ties," the actor used his hiatus from the series to embark on a film career. His choice of roles over the past four years have enabled him to challenge himself and grow as a new actor, which is, for Fox, a prerequisite before considering any new project. Those films include "Light of Day," "The Secret of My Success" and "Bright Lights, Big City."
Fox is a three-time Emmy winner for his work as Alex Keaton on "Family Ties." With his most recent film performance, Fox earned critical praise for his portrayal of a soldier who must fight not only the enemy, but his fellow platoon members, and his sense of morality as well, in "Casualties of War."
After four grueling months in the jungles of Thailand, Fox was more than ready to don the Nikes of Marty McFly and set out on a new adventure with Doc Brown. "The great thing about doing this sequel," he says, "is that I had an incredible experience doing the first film, and then four years later, the filmmakers say 'C'mon, let's do it again.' It's similar enough so that we've all relived that same pleasure for the second time, yet it's just different enough so we feel we're doing something new and interesting, and definitely creative."
Steven Spielberg Presents A Robert Zemeckis Film. "Back to the Future Part II." Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson. Music by Alan Silvestri. Edited by Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas. Production Design by Rick Carter. Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, A.S.C. Executive Producers, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy. Story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. Screenplay by Bob Gale. Produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. A Universal Picture.
as of October 24, 1989