A few years ago this video was posted on YouTube featuring a Crispin Glover Marty McFly screen test. I remember watching it at the time and thinking two things. One, this video quality is terrible and two, it also feels very dark. As a fan of Back to the Future, I filed it away in the back of my brain and promptly forgot about it. This week for some reason it bubbled up again in my YouTube search results and I watched it multiple times. Seeing it in a very different light now.
Instead of seeing a test for an actor or a set, I felt like I was seeing a backstory. Yes, Back to the Future is a comedy, but it certainly has some dark elements to it. The darkest being the failure of the McFlys as a family. We all know it and it is often played for laughs, but you can feel the undertone. This is why Crispin Glover is perfectly cast.
He is able to play an affable, but downtrodden George McFly, and make him both likable and confusing at the same time. In this screen test we see a different angle on George. Here, he is the main focus, not his teen son. With that shift we get a glimpse of a broken man. Someone who has always had difficulty communicating and has no real wisdom to pass down to his son.
After watching this a few times, I could not help but feel that George’s life has been just one giant nightmarish hellscape. Filled with bullys and disappointment, his only salvation is for his son to change the very fabric of reality by altering time. I can’t say that a younger version of myself would enjoy watching a movie just about George’s unaltered life, but adult me certainly would.