"Bob Zemeckis is the real Doc Brown," says Michael J. Fox of his "Back to the Future" director. "He's manic, but that insanity is tempered by an incredible mastery of his craft as well as an amazing vision and incredible flair for storytelling. It's great just to watch Bob work. I feel like I'm Marty McFly both on screen, and in real life, but that's why Marty hangs out with Doc, because... things happen."
Zemeckis has in fact made things happen for millions of moviegoers worldwide, with his last two films, "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" earning over $350 million each as the top-grossing films of 1985 and 1988, respectively. With "Back to the Future Part II," Zemeckis taked a trip to a territory into which few filmmakers have ventured--the cinematic future.
"After watching many of those movies set in the future," says the director, "I learned that you can only predict the future based on what you know. A good example is Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' When I first saw the film, I, along with many others, thought it was a brilliant prediction of the future. If you watch the film now, there are certain aspects about it that have become dated. For instance, it's amazing how huge Hal the computer is. In 1989, we have computers that can do almost everything that Hal did, including talk, and you can carry them in your pocket. When Kubrick and his production team were trying to predict the future, they knew there were computers, but they didn't know about the existence of the microchip. So they were half right and half wrong. Watching these films helped to show us where we might go astray."
A native of Chicago, Zemeckis transfered from Northern Illinois University to USC's film school, where he met two men who would be intrumental to his future. The first was classmate Bob Gale, who would eventually become Zemeckis' writing partner. As part of their studies at USC, Zemeckis and Gale spent one day each week at Universal Studios observing the functions of different departments in order to learn how the studio worked. On the last day of the semester, the class was introduced to a young director named Steven Spielberg, who had recently completed his first feature, "The Sugarland Express."
Zemeckis remained after class, and asked Spielberg if he would like to see the student film that Zemeckis had directed. The film, which won an Academy Award, so impressed Spielberg that he helped Zemeckis and Gale obtain a development deal for an original screenplay. The duo wrote "1941," which Spielberg directed. Spielberg also served as executive producer on Zemeckis' directorial debut, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" as well as "Used Cars," the director's second feature. After directing the smash hit "Romancing the Stone," Zemeckis' next project was the top-grossing film of 1985, "Back to the Future."
He spent the next two years perfecting a process to effectively blend live action with animation, and received even greater acclaim as the director of 1988's Academy Award-winning "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Returning to continue the saga of time traveler Marty McFly (a story which the director promises to conclude in "Back to the Future Part III"), Zemeckis has fashioned a story which he claims is "much more difficult to describe than it is to watch. That's one of the things I love about this film. It's a story that can only be told correctly in the movie theatre."
While Zemeckis believes that no one can accurately predict the future, he asserts that this is precisely the message he wishes to convey in "Back to the Future Part II."
"The DeLorean time machine is simply a movie device, and by using that device, we're able to alter and shape the course of our characters' lives in two years. Real life takes a little longer. One's future," he states, "is not written in stone. It's in the hands of each individual to make whatever they want it to be, good or bad."
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