Back to the Future is still one of the best movies ever made. It’s got a kickass 80s soundtrack, Michael J Fox, time travel, Christopher Lloyd, potential incest, skateboarding…what’s not to like?
With the massive success of BttF, a sequel was inevitable, in fact, they made the movie into a trilogy. When the sequel was due out, not everyone was back in their roles, Crispin Glover who played George McFly was not in the sequel or the third movie.
Originally, George was to play a big part in the second movie, but Glover didn’t want to come back for the role, which then caused a major issue. BttF2 changed the script to have George assassinated, thus cutting down on the screen time needed for Glover.
Why didn’t Glover want Back to the Future 2?
There were many rumours about why Glover didn’t want to be back as George. In an interview with Den of Geek in 2013, Glover explained he had ‘moral objections’ to the planned finale of the trilogy. He said:
“It had to do with money, and what the characters were doing with money. I said to [director] Robert Zemeckis I thought it was not a good idea for our characters to have a monetary reward, because it basically makes the moral of the movie that money equals happiness.”
On the IMDb, the reason is listed as “Glover did not reach a financial agreement with the producers.” It also turned out that Glover wasn’t getting paid nearly as much as actors like Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson, who played Lorraine McFly and Biff Tannen.
You’re George McFly?
Even though the story was changed for BttF2, it still meant that they needed someone to be George. The best solution for this, use someone who looks like Glover and basically “steal” his image. In BttF2 there are sequences where Marty re-visits parts of the original movie. A lot of the scenes were reshot, from a slightly different angle and a stand-in was used.
The filmmakers had molds of Glover’s face that made for the original movie. They then made casts and put them on an actor, with the same build and height as Glover. That actor was Jeffery Weissman.
Hidden in plain sight
To fool the audience, clever tricks were pulled to help you believe that Weismann was Glover. In the future, when you head to the McFly’s home, Grandpa arrives and is upside down, because he ‘put his pack out’. This was just a way to confuse the audience so they wouldn’t notice it wasn’t Glover.
There is another clever scene, just after Marty introduces 1955 to heavy metal, where you can see George and Lorraine in the background. As Weissman was about to come into shot, Biff enters the scene and steals the focus. It’s actually incredibly clever.
Rights of Publicity
When making BttF2 the fact that Weismann was playing George was kept very quiet. When Glover found out what had happened he filed a lawsuit against Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and U-Drive Productions for $1 million. The suit stated they had violated his “right to publicity”, adding that he had “a unique and distinctive likenesss and voice that won him roles in numerous motion pictures”.
Universal argued that they were merely trying to protect the continuity of George’s character. They said they were trying to provide visual continuity for the character, as opposed to engaging in identity theft.
The main problem was that they used molds and casts of Glover’s face and put them on Weismann. If they had just found another actor who looked like Glover, it wouldn’t have been an issue. However, they literally put Glover’s face on Weismann and tried to pass him off as Glover playing George.
We now live in a world where Deepfake can take the face of anyone, put it on anyone’s body and you can have them say whatever you like. It’s actually very scary when you cannot believe your own eyes and ears anymore.
It seems Glover had an inclination this might take place. By suing Universal he was saying it was not OK to take someone’s likeness and use it how you want. If someone doesn’t come back for your movie, fine, just dress up another actor in his face and he’s back.
When the lawsuit was filed, SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, sat up and took notice. They added new clauses and protections to help actors protect themselves, and their likenesses, from being exploited. SAG’s union contracts now make provisions for an artist’s:
…”right of publicity,” which is “a state intellectual property right (much like a copyright) vested in you and your heirs in order to protect the right to use your likeness.”
This helps all actors have rights and makes it very difficult for movies, TV shows, video games, and most other formats of entertainment to misappropriate their likeness.
In the end, the suit was settled out of court for around $760,000. Glover was blacklisted from Universal. In the end, he and Robert Zemeckis, the director, did bury the hatchet and worked together again in the future. Although Glover never forgave Bob Gale, the producer.
As a side note, Glover wasn’t the only actor to be replaced in BttF2. Jennifer, Marty’s girlfriend, was played by Claudia Wells in the original movie. Due to her mother being taken ill, she could not return for the sequel. Instead, they brought in Elizabeth Shue and just replaced her, without the aid of molds, casts or prosthetics, so no issues with anyone’s identity being stolen.
Problems on and off set
On the set of BttF2, some people were not happy with Weismann replacing Glover. In the book We Don’t Need Roads by Caseen Gaines, Lea Thompson shared how she and Glover had become good friends during the making of the original movie and she was not happy with an ‘imposter’ literally wearing George’s face. She said:
“I was kind of annoyed that Jeffrey Weissman was doing those scenes with me, to be perfectly honest. That was a little hard for me, just because Crispin was so fantastic. He was a genius in Back to the Future, so it was hard that he wasn’t there.”
She was so upset that she would give Weismann the cold shoulder and wouldn’t even use his name. Weismann said:
“Lea never called me by name. When we were in the makeup chair in the morning, she rarely addressed me. After the shoot, she brought her mother up to Universal to see the tour. I went to speak to her and she introduced me as “the actor who played Crispin.” She didn’t remember my name.”
Also on the set, when Weismann was in makeup, he would be called Glover, cast and crew were thrown off by his appearance. He wrote that Thompson and Zemeckis would do it and even Steven Spielberg did it once on set. He said it made the experience “a bit uncomfortable”.
Off the set, Glover and Weismann had worked on a movie together before and had remained casual friends. Glover called Weismann before the lawsuit to explain what was going on. Weismann said:
“He contacted me and was very whiny about how badly they treated him on the first film. The producers belittled him and made him cry in front of extras on the first shoot, cut his hair without his approval.”
I guess it was a fair warning, I mean, Glover couldn’t have been happy about the situation and just gave a heads-up to his friend.
This story isn’t new, but it is interesting and I thought I would share it. The implications of events had are more relevant than ever today, given the potential of AI.
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