We Don’t Need Roads: The Making Of The Back To The Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines (book review).

Oddly, when you consider that the ‘Back To The Future’ film trilogy has been celebrating its 50th anniversary, you would have thought more books about them would have been brought to my attention. ‘We Don’t Need Roads: The Making Of The Back To The Future Trilogy’ by Caseen Gaines, as seen by the sub-title focuses on how they were put together. He successfully gets interviews with everyone including Bob Zemeckis who only allowed half an hour of his time because he doesn’t really like talking about his old films.

Originally, Doc Brown was going to have a pet chimp called Shemp. An odd choice of name as it is one of the names of the original Three Stooges. The dogs with names Copernicus and Einstein had a lot more style.


Seeing the decisions that were made and sometimes why they were changed always gives insight into film making. If anything, it’s often more by luck that the final design choices are made showing how fickle things are in making everything right. A note to future directors, if you want to get your pet project off the ground then do a successful film in Hollywood. For cast, even for the most minor roles, keep in your agents or their assistants minds by reminding them of particular odd talents or skills you have. You never know when it might be needed.

Lest you think anything else, there’s a lot of detail pointed at that you might have accepted from the film and not think anything about it. Gaines does wonder about the white smoke coming from the van that Doc Brown drives the DeLorean out of although I suspect it has more to do with revving up a car in a confined space. Good thing this car was a little more air tight or Brown would have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Reading about how the ten sparkle effects by Wes Takahashi to make it look as if the DeLorean was time travelling which we take for granted now wasn’t always quite there in the planning and not in how they built the extras into the car.

There is a lot more detail in why actor Eric Stoltz was never a good fit for the film that I suspect was learnt by all for other films later because comic timing doesn’t come to all people. It does make you wonder about the Hollywood system, especially as Stoltz was the studio head’s choice purely on the basis of ‘Mask’ (1985) when Michael J. Fox wasn’t available.

The insight into other members of the cast is…shall we say, interesting. Crispin Glover comes over as a piece of work with mind games. Poor Jeffrey Weissman who replaced Glover for the second two films certainly got stuck in the middle through no fault of his own or experience in what to do under certain circumstances. Actress Lea Thompson comes over largely as being insecure. If anything Christopher Lloyd broke out of his shell with these three films. A lot of these things are already familiar to those who know about the films. Gaines gives a lot of insight but leaves any judgement to you the reader as to what went on.

Something that Gaines alludes to but doesn’t group collectively is the number of cast changes, even between films, and accidents that happened. Some are understandable. Others, especially regarding stunts, were tightened up because of it, especially when they are linked to special effects.

Looking at the aftermath and influence of the three films is illuminating. I’m surprised Mattel only tried to do a wheeled version of the hover-board, which is still impossible to make without wheels when you consider Marty McFly used two other wheeled skateboards but I guess kids and parents want the impossible more.

If you want an examination of the making of all three ‘Back To The Future’ films then this will certainly fill your quota and a decent sixteen page photo insert should do the rest. Don’t forget to set your watches.

GF Willmetts

January 2016

(pub: Plume Books/Penguin. 268 page indexed illustration insert small enlarged paperback. Price: $17.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-14-218153-9)

check out websites: www.penguin.com and www.caseengaines.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.