You may be familiar with Back to the Future - it's one of the most popular and beloved films of all-time, and spawned a rare franchise where every film is regarded as a classic in their own right. It combined 50s nostalgia, time travel, and questionable incest jokes into one of the most enduring movies of all-time.

And it was almost called "Space Man From Pluto" because movie executives are out-of-touch weirdos who think interfering with the creative process is a good way of doing business.

Keep in mind: there is no reference to Pluto in the movie, there are no aliens or "space men", and the title would have felt dated and anachronistic even 30 years ago in 1985. But that didn't stop MCA Universal executive Sid Sheinberg from sending this legitimately insane WTF memo to producer Steven Spielberg in 1984:


To be clear: this is not a joke. You don't send official studio memos to mid-production films with suggestions to change a title with very specific instructions of how you think it could work as a joke. Sid Sheinberg was legitimately nervous that time travel was too "genre" and that sci-fi/aliens references would play better (even though that's clearly "genre" as well).

However, Spielberg and Zemeckis knew the request was 100% insane and an awful idea, so they came up with a pretty brilliant idea - have Spielberg respond with his own memo, which read:

 "Dear Sid, Thank you for your most humorous memo. We got a big laugh out of it. Keep 'em coming."

Spielberg replying like it was just a knowing gag Sheinberg was playing forced Sheinberg into a corner. He wouldn't be able to re-assert himself and say it was serious without looking like an idiot, so he accepted the original title out of embarrassment.


Not that every single change Sheinberg suggested was that bad and stupid - he's responsible for changing "Professor Brown" to "Doc Brown" (a minor distinction, but - c'mon - "Doc" is WAY better than "Professor") AND he (along with a few other executives) pushed to change the original climax of Back to the Future to its current incarnation, keeping the plot in Hill Valley and utilizing the clock tower - because, originally, the climax involved a nuclear test site and a refridgerator.

Yes, you know exactly where this is going.

The nuclear test site/refridgerator sequence from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pulled largely from the cut climax to Back to the Future, where Marty and Doc (well, "Professor" at that point) traveled to a nuclear test site to send Marty back to the future by harnessing the energy emitted by a nuke going off (instead of the lightning strike in the finished film). And Marty wasn't time-travelling in a DeLorean - he was in a lead-lined refridgerator attached to a laser-gun (that was the actual thing that sent Marty through time). Spielberg got Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale to remove the refridgerator aspect (out of fear that kids might recreate it and get themselves locked in refridgerators), but the nuclear test site stuff stayed in even after the time machine was swapped to be a DeLorean, until the budget concerns coming from the executives got the makers of the film to do the clocktower lightning strike ending we've all come to know and love.


To be fair to Mr. Sheinberg, he helped shepherd much of Spielberg's early success, notably with Jaws, E.T., and (later) Jurassic Park. Hell, he gave Spielberg his first contract in 1968 after viewing Spielberg's short, Amblin'. The world of movies owes a huge debt to Sheinberg for that action alone, but that doesn't excuse the fact that he gave what was perhaps the single dumbest studio note in modern history.

Regardless: Sheinberg is more or less the poster boy for Out-of-Touch Movie Studio Executive (he was the main roadblock to the release of Terry Gilliam's Brazil as well, but that's another story). Luckily, Back to the Future got to keep its title and we don't have to live in a world where this poster is real:


via LSDesign