Eric Cameron Stoltz is an American actor, known for an illustrious career that spans from the late seventies through to the present day, comprising an impressive portfolio that includes award-winning performances on stage, on television and in film. Eric is best known for playing the role of Rocky Dennis in the drama film “Mask”, and for starring in the independent film “Pulp Fiction”. His later career is highlighted by a role as Daniel Graystone in the science fiction series “Caprica”.
During the course of his career, Stoltz would further expand his interests in filmmaking by taking up behind-the-scenes roles, including assuming the director’s seat, as well as helping with production. His credits include directing several episodes of ‘Glee’ among numerous other television series, and producing several films such as his most iconic production, “Fort McCoy”, a drama film in which Stoltz also acted.
Over the course of Eric’s golden, 43-year-long career, he attained impressive success along all the avenues he followed, though for all that he achieved, Eric’s career is marked by one failure he can’t seem to shake off, as many people still ask why Eric Stoltz got fired from the set of “Back To The Future”?
Considering the cult following the film created, and how it marked Michael J Fox’s career as his greatest performance, it would seem Stoltz missed out on a golden opportunity that would become the biggest blunder of his career, a mistake film connoisseurs still discuss to this day.
Despite the small, though significant, setback early in his career, Eric went on to achieve noteworthy success in the film industry, and can easily be regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest and most remarkable directors, producers and actors.
Although we will be diving more into the details behind Stoltz’s little mishap, we will also briefly reflect on Eric’s success over the span of his four-decade career. Of course, with so many curious fans asking about it, we will attempt to find the true reason why Michael J Fox had to replace Stoltz for the role of Marty McFly.
What To Expect?
Initially, we will briefly discuss Stoltz’s early life, his rise to fame during the late seventies, and how his career progressed through the first couple of decades, all in hopes of learning more about the actor, director and producer, who is perhaps best known for assuming dramatic roles.
Following this, we will discuss the burning question and reflect on what happened on the set of “Back To The Future”, looking specifically at Stoltz’s motivations for not playing the role of Marty, and all the drama that unfolded behind the scenes.
Finally, we’ll continue a brief discussion about how Eric progressed during the later decades of his career, viewing all the highlights Stoltz achieved as an influential personality in the film industry.
A Golden Career
Born on 30 September 1961, in Whittier, California, to Evelyn and Jack Stoltz, Eric spent his early life living between the American territory of American Samoa and Santa Barbara, California, with his sisters, Catherine, and Susan. Stoltz’s parents both worked as teachers, making a humble living by serving the American Samoan communities.
Throwback Thursday! Little Eric Stoltz and his sister Susan as children in American Samoa. 🙂
Eric and his sisters grew up yearning for success unacquainted with the sentiments of a humble life, each seeking their own glory. Catherine Stoltz became an opera singer, Susan Stoltz an author, and Eric sought the stage.
During his late teens in the late 1970s, Eric sought his first taste for acting when he joined a performance at the Edinburgh Festiva,l and travelled all the way to Scotland to perform in a total of ten plays.
Eric landed his first role as Steve Benson in the television performance of “The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank” in 1978, marking his return to mainland US. In 1979, Eric enrolled at the University of Southern California, but abandoned his drama studies to further pursue a career in acting.
Eric’s oldest credits, which marked the beginning of his career, comprise a few minor roles on television productions such as “A New Kind Of Family”, and guest appearances in series such as “The Waltons” and “Eight Is Enough”.
In 1981, Eric moved to New York City where he undertook acting classes with two prominent teachers, namely Stella Adler and Peggy Feury. During his early stay in New York, Eric continued performing minor roles until he made his film debut in 1982.
Although it was a minor role in the film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, it would become Stoltz’s good fortune to befriend the director Cameron Crowe while on set. Stoltz later stated that Cameron expressed his desire to cast him in all of his future productions, a promise that created both a lasting friendship and provided Stoltz a chance at early success.
As promised, Eric starred in four of Crowe’s films, starting with “The Wild Life” in 1984, then “Say Anything…” in 1989, “Single” in 1992, and “Jerry Maguire” in 1996. Some of these became notable performances by Eric, though his true success came in 1985 when he earned a Golden Globe nomination for his iconic supporting performance as Rocky Dennis in ‘Mask’.
Following his first noteworthy success, Eric continued starring in a long list of credits, ranging from television films and series to numerous major motion pictures. Among the more notable being “Some Kind of Wonderful”. This, as can probably be guessed, was also around the time Stoltz earned the role of Marty Mcfly, but was later let go from the set, leaving many people still wondering what happened.
Why Was Stoltz Replaced?
In 1985, when Stoltz was first offered the leading role in “Back To The Future”, he was a rising star who’d already earned a reputation among his peers as an outstanding actor. However, for the role of Marty McFly, it seemed that the director, Robert Zemeckis, and the producers wanted the casting to be rather particular.
According to certain gossip publications, around the time “Back To The Future” was being filmed, Zemeckis and the casting crew had ample choice among some of Hollywood’s most noted actors. This included the likes of John Cusack, Johnny Depp and perhaps even Charlie Sheen, but Zemeckis overlooked all of them with his hopes invested in Michael J Fox. Unfortunately, Fox was busy filming his regular role in “Family Ties”, and was unavailable to fill the role of Marty. Thus, the script was presented to Stoltz, and while things seemed favourable, events would transpire disappointingly for Eric.
Known as a brilliant drama actor, Stoltz approached the “Back To The Future” script with the same inspiration he did playing the part of Rocky, which may have been his undoing mistake. According to sources on set, Eric submerged himself into Marty’s character through method acting, assuming such deep immersion that he would request being called Marty during filming and production. Though strange to some, Eric was known for doing this, having beenthe same on the set of ‘Mask’, and those who previously worked with him were familiar with his method.
— ➠ Back to the Future HQ 💎 (@bttfHQ) October 29, 2020
While this would seem highly professional, and perhaps even create depth to Marty’s character the audience didn’t get to see, Eric’s methods and acting did not appeal to the creative insights of the director and producers.
Sadly, halfway through filming “Back To The Future”, the production crew decided to let go of Stoltz and renegotiated a contract with Fox, but despite the change of mind continued filming. As the film’s co-writer, Bob Gale would later state that Eric’s methods may have seemed silly to them, but when it came to filming, they quickly realised that Stoltz’s approach did not suit the comedic vision of the film.
As it were, Stoltz assumed Marty’s role from a dramatic point of view as someone who returns to live a life that is not their own, intently focusing on the seriousness and tragedy of the story. Unfortunately, this did not suit the light-heartedness Zemeckis wanted for the film.
Cristopher Lloyd, who played the role of Doc Brown, also expressed his remorse during Stoltz’s release from “Back To The Future”, saying that he felt bad for Eric, whom he believed to be a remarkable actor. As Lloyd stated, no one on set doubted his acting or skill as a performer, he simply had a talent for other genres, and could not provide the needed humour fans adored about “Back To The Future”.
Lloyd would also comment that filming became a little awkward after the decision was made to let Stoltz go, especially because they continued filming. Cristopher explained that everybody felt remorse about the situation, but the show had to go on.
While it was a tragic moment in Eric’s career, one many people would discuss and continue talking about for years to come, it was certainly also a difficult task for the creators of “Back To The Future”. Despite having filmed hours of footage with Eric, most of the film had to be reshot, this time with Michael J Fox assuming his iconic role as Marty.
Considering Eric’s dramatic acting, many people believed that “Back To The Future” would have been a completely different film. Some seem grateful for Fox’s performance, as many fanatics of the film would still agree, but others wonder if perhaps Stoltz could have added a stronger, more dramatic lead to what would otherwise be a tragic film.
As for Stoltz though, he never spoke much publicly about what had happened on set, seemingly taking it in his stride. Stoltz’s career continued, highlighted by great success and prosperous outcomes.
During the 1990s, following Stoltz’s relative failure on the set of “Back To The Future”, he continued his career by acting on the stage, in films, and on television. Around this time, Eric’s noteworthy credits include “The Waterdance”, and, of course, his notable performance in the independent film Pulp Fiction”.
Stoltz would also use this time to further his interests in producing, working on several films during the early and middle nineties. Some of his production credits around this time include “Sleep With Me”, and “Mr Jealousy”.
Stoltz also earned renown in New York acting on the Broadway stage, appearing in a long list of plays. His most notable performance was in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” as George Gibbs, for which Eric earned a Tony Award nomination.
Eric’s television credits include playing opposite Helen Hunt as her ex-boyfriend in “Mad About You”, as well as starring performances in television films such as “Inside” and “The Passion of Ayn Rand”.
For the following decade, through the 2000s, Stoltz would continue adding to his already expansive portfolio. His earliest notable performance during this time was opposite Gillian Anderson in “The House of Mirth”, as well as a recurring role in the series “Once and Again”.
Stoltz later guest starred in the sitcom “Will and Grace” as Debra Messing’s love interest, but it would seem that Eric’s interest in acting would decline around the middle 2000s. Following a number of smaller roles, Stoltz shifted his interests more towards the Director’s seat.
Eric began directing short films, and initially gained a Daytime Emmy nomination for his direction of the film “My Horrible Year!” in 2001. Eric soon followed this success by taking on the director’s role for several television series, which include “Law and Order”.
By 2007, Stoltz directed several episodes for the series “Quarterlife”, and the following year he joined the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy”, in which he both acted and directed two episodes.
At the turn of the next decade in 2010, Stoltz took on a role in the science fiction series “Caprica” as Daniel Graystone, one of Eric Stoltz’s most noteworthy performances. He also took on a regular position as director on the set of the popular series “Glee, and later directed and starred in the series “Madam Secretary”.
With his career growing from height to height, Eric Stoltz achieved much as an actor, and director, and continues to earn even more credits to his already impressive resume. It seemed quite clear that Stoltz was not going to allow one silly setback to ruin his career, as he pushed on to carve quite the name for himself.
While Eric would perhaps like to forget about the Marty incident, his fans and followers remain curious about the only black mark on an otherwise spotless record. No doubt, people can still expect great things from Eric Stoltz, as his career in film-making is still far from over.