Steven Spielberg’s outrageous plan to avoid calling ‘Back to the Future’ something awful

[UPDATE: Corrections made on casting notes and production credits added 9/1/2016, 2:40 p.m.]

Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's Back to the Future is a classic for many of us but studio interference could have put a very different face on it. Would you have seen a movie titled “Space Man From Pluto” starring Jeff Goldblum?

As a huge Back to the Future fan, I've come across my fair share of trivia and interesting tidbits about the creation of the film over the years as I'm sure a lot of you have. We've seen some fun handwritten notes from Gale before on the film's sequel but recently, producer Will McCrabb took to Twitter to revitalize a few classics. For instance, other actors being considered for the lead roles:


[UPDATE: The images, first published in Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin, don't actually state that Goldblum was a first choice (perhaps McCrabb assumed since his name was on top). Though the book says the three main contenders were Goldblum, John Lithgow, and Christopher Lloyd, Bob Gale confirmed to us Goldblum was not the first choice.]

Yes, there are alternate realities where Doc Brown was played by Jeff Goldblum, Joe Piscopo, John Cleese, Gene Hackman, James Wood, Harold Ramis and more. McCrabb also shared the first page of the first draft of the film:


But it's this interoffice memo from MCA/Universal executive Sid Sheinberg to Steven Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Gale that's getting the most attention right now, with good reason.


It reads, “[I] believe the title leaves much to be desired. There are a number of reasons why I found the title less than 'wonderful;' but my primary concern i that it appears to make the picture a 'genre' picture. I think the script (and, hopefully, the film) deserves a better title. Now that I have buttered you up, I would suggest we consider the title 'Space Man From Pluto.'”

It's an odd note to be sure. Especially when you consider a film based around time travel absolutely is a “genre” film. That aside, Sheinberg went on to explain where the title phrase could be inserted in the film and then closed with, “I am sure there will be those who will argue that the movie will appear to the audience to be a cheap, old-fashioned sci-fi flick. Nonsense! I think it's a kind of title that has 'heat, originality and projects fun.' Most importantly I think it avoids the feeling of a 'genre' time-travel movie.”

A “cheap, old-fashioned sci-fi flick” is exactly the kind of feel I get from “Space Man From Pluto” (and considering the Goldblum thing, makes me think of 1988's Earth Girls Are Easy). Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just doesn't fit Back to the Future at all. Thankfully, Spielberg had a strategic plan to avoid the issue.

As has been previously reported, “In response, Spielberg sent a memo back to Sheinberg, thanking him for sending his wonderful 'joke memo' and that the office 'got a kick out of it.' Embarrassed, Sheinberg let Zemeckis and Spielberg keep the film's original title.”

Don't try that at home or your own job, kids. It probably won't work.