There are many things left out of the Back to the Future movie that could have answered a number of questions. One that may have stumped you for years is “How did Marty get out of detention to make it to the Battle of the Bands audition?”

The answer, Dear Reader, can be found in the Back to the Future novelization by George Gipe, released on July 1, 1985 – two days ahead of the movie’s release. I remember grabbing the book and devouring it before seeing the movie, which was kind of a thing I did back in the day.  One of the interesting things about movie novelizations of the ’80s is they often included more information that wasn’t, or couldn’t be, revealed in the movie.

When Marty arrived late to school, Principal Strickland gave Marty a detention slip, which should have prevented him from making it to the Battle of the Bands audition.  However, while in detention, Mr. Strickland was too busy destroying Sony Walkmans to notice Marty slipping the lens out of the classroom projector. He then proceeded to chew some gum, stick it to the back of a book of matches, and then sling the matches to the ceiling, next to the fire alarm/sprinkler system.

For the next several paragraphs, Marty proceeded to focus the afternoon sunlight onto the matchbook, trying to get it to ignite. He almost didn’t succeed, as Mr. Strickland started closing the blinds in the classroom – presumably to make it even more oppressive for those in High School Time Out.  The matchbook did ignite, the fire alarm did go off, and Marty slipped out of the school to make it to his audition.

This solution to the problem may be complex, but it does show that Marty is a very smart kid. Marty’s smarts are further demonstrated in the Back to the Future #1 comic book released through IDW Publishing. That issue focuses on the first meeting between Marty and Doc Brown.

So why wasn’t this scene in the movie?

It almost was.  Fans of the movie already know that Eric Stoltz was first cast as Marty McFly and the movie was a month into production before everyone agreed that Stoltz just wasn’t cutting it as McFly. During the first month, the detention escape scene was shot, and would have been in the film, had reshoots not been needed. During the recasting that swapped Stoltz for Michael J. Fox, Robert Zemeckis was able to get an additional three million dollars to reshoot everything – except the detention scene.


And now you know.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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