Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice (2024)


  • The role of Jennifer in Back to the Future went through multiple recastings, with Claudia Wells originally cast but unable to continue due to a scheduling conflict.
  • Melora Hardin was brought in to replace Claudia Wells as Jennifer, but was deemed "too tall" for Michael J. Fox, resulting in her replacement by Elizabeth Shue.
  • The recasting of Jennifer is a result of various logistical setbacks and changes in the production process, ultimately leading to the triple recasting of the character.

The recasting of Jennifer in Back to the Future might have gone unnoticed by some viewers, but Marty McFly's girlfriend is a role with a complex history. In the original 1985 Back to the Future, Claudia Wells plays Jennifer Parker, Marty's supportive love interest and high school sweetheart. She has a limited role in the first movie, since most of the action takes place in 1955, but she has a much larger role in the sequel Back to the Future Part II. However, the sequel sees Elizabeth Shue in the role, and she remained as the character in Back to the Future Part III as well.

All three of the Back to the Future movies are set in quick succession, with the ending of each movie setting up the beginning of the next entry. With the action of one movie getting immediately picked up in the sequel, it made it difficult to have a main character suddenly change actors between movies. However, while Elizabeth Shue taking over the role of Jennifer in Back to the Future Part II may have been a fairly easy transition, that is not where the casting drama ends, as Melora Hardin was the first actor to play Jennifer in Back to the Future.


The Back To The Future classic movie would have looked very different if three of the first actors cast as main characters had not been replaced.

The Jennifer Back To The Future Recast Explained

The Recasting Of Marty McFly Meant Original Jennifer Melora Hardin Lost The Role

Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice (2)

Claudia Wells was originally cast to play Jennifer in Back to the Future; however, a scheduling conflict made her unavailable to play the part [via People]. Melora Hardin was then brought in to take her Back to the Future role. However, this was before Michael J. Fox had been cast in the movie, and the original Jennifer Claudia Wells starred opposite a very different Marty McFly played by Eric Stoltz.

After filming for six weeks, the producers decided he wasn't right for the part, and Stoltz was fired as Marty in Back to the Future, getting replaced by the producer's original first choice, Michael J. Fox. Unfortunately for Hardin, she was deemed "too tall" for Fox [via Wired]. By the time this had happened, Claudia Wells' show had wrapped, and she was free to return to Back to the Future.


Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Faints Seeing Her Future Self, But Biff Doesn't

Back to the Future features a memorable moment where Jennifer meets her older self and faints, but why doesn't young Biff have the same reaction?

The Tragic Reason Claudia Wells Didn't Return As Jennifer For Back To The Future 2

Jennifer Was Not The Only Back To The Future Character Recast In The Sequel

After the massive success of Back to the Future, two sequels were set to go into back-to-back production. Sadly, Claudia Wells had to turn down the offer to return as Jennifer because her mother (who was also her manager) was dying of breast cancer. This tragedy led to Elisabeth Shue being cast as Wells' replacement in the subsequent films. Because the sequel starts right where the last film left off, Back to the Future's ending was reshot with Shue. This was one of quite a few logistical setbacks the production faced. In addition to the characters of Jennifer and Marty, George McFly also had to be recast after Crispin Glover chose not to return for the sequels.

What Back To The Future’s Three Jennifers Are Doing Now

Shue Is Likely The Most Famous Of The Jennifer Actors

Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice (4)

All three actresses have continued their remarkable careers beyond playing Jennifer in Back to the Future and into the present. Claudia Wells participates in Back to the Future conventions and still acts on occasion. Elisabeth Shue has been in many notable movies and TV shows since Back to the Future, most recently Cobra Kai and The Boys, while the Emmy-nominated Melora Hardin is best known for playing Jan on The Office. If Michael J. Fox had just been a little taller, she might have been the franchise's leading lady, and Elisabeth Shue may have never been involved at all.


5 Back To The Future Characters Who Were Recast

Back to the Future underwent quite a few major recasts, and some of them went perfectly unnoticed for years.

A Jennifer Back To The Future Theory Covers The Recast Problem

Time Travel Opens The Doors For Many Explanations For The New Jennifer

A clever Back to the Future theory that fans have come up with might help explain the recasting of Jennifer within the universe of the movies. Whether it be a new Bruce Banner in the MCU or a new Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones, it can be hard for a big franchise to pull off recasting a major character.

However, Back to the Future has time travel on its side through which nearly anything is possible. Specifically, the movies deal with the effects on the future that come about by Marty tampering with the past. Fans theorize that whatever Marty did in 1955 resulted in a new-looking Jennifer in 1985. Given all the changes Marty is responsible for in 1985, it is not hard to imagine this being true.

Why Michael J. Fox Replaced Eric Stoltz As Marty McFly

Stoltz's Less Comedic Performance And On-Set Behavior Led To The Change

Ultimately, a crucial factor in the multiple recastings of Jennifer in the Back to the Future franchise was the initial recasting of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly after Eric Stoltz was fired. Fox had always been the first choice to play Marty, but his schedule on the sitcom Family Ties prevented him from signing on when production initially began. Stoltz's performance as McFly was generally alright, but apparently, he didn't hit quite the right comedic note that was essential to the success of Back to the Future.

Additionally, Stoltz's personality on set and his method acting, in which he only answered to the name Marty and wore his costume clothes at all times, rubbed some of Back to the Future's other actors the wrong way. While Michael J. Fox's recasting meant the unfortunate loss of Melora Hardin from Back to the Future's cast, it was ultimately the right call for the franchise, and Jennifer's triple recasting has become a fun quirk in a production process full of them.

Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice (7)
Back to the Future


Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown. In 1955, he meets his parents when they were his age, and must step in to make sure they wind up together before he gets back to 1985.

Release Date
July 3, 1985

Robert Zemeckis
Claudia Wells , Christopher Lloyd , James Tolkan , Thomas F. Wilson , Michael J. Fox , Wendie Jo Sperber , Crispin Glover , Marc McClure , Lea Thompson

116 minutes

Robert Zemeckis , Bob Gale

$19 million

Universal Pictures

  • Movies
  • Back to the Future (1985)

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Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice (2024)


Back To The Future: Why Jennifer Was Recast Twice? ›

Melora Hardin was replaced by Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker because she looked too tall next to Michael J. Fox, but Wells had to turn down the offer for the second film due to family tragedy and Elisabeth Shue took over the role.

Why did they recast Jennifer in Back to the Future? ›

Sadly, Claudia Wells had to turn down the offer to return as Jennifer because her mother (who was also her manager) was dying of breast cancer. This tragedy led to Elisabeth Shue being cast as Wells' replacement in the subsequent films.

Why does Jennifer look different in Back to the Future 2? ›

Jennifer's role in the trilogy may be limited, but she is an important and supportive character in Marty's journey. Claudia Wells was replaced by Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer in the second film due to personal reasons, but both actors found success in their careers.

Why did they change the actor in Back to the Future? ›

On January 10, 1985, Eric Stoltz was fired from Back to the Future after a month of filming, making way for Michael J. Fox to take over as Marty McFly. Stoltz's method acting and lack of comedic chops led to reservations from cast and crew, who felt he wasn't bringing the right energy to the role. Michael J.

Why was Crispin Glover not in Back to the Future? ›

Due to these initial disagreements and a salary dispute, Glover did not return for either of the Back to the Future sequels and his role was taken over by Jeffrey Weissman.

Why didn't Claudia Wells come back for Back to the Future 2? ›

Wells was wanted for Back to the Future Part II but said no because her manager was dying of breast cancer. That manager also happened to be her mother. “I just didn't have it in me to do anything but deal with the stress and the emotions that were going on as a result of my mom being in the process of dying.

Who played Marty and Jennifer's daughter in Back to the Future 2? ›

Marty Jr. and Marlene McFly (both portrayed by Michael J. Fox) are Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker's future son and daughter in 2015 in Part II. Originally, 17-year-old Marty Jr. was to be arrested and sentenced to fifteen years in prison for joining a robbery initiated by Griff and his gang.

Why did they change the girl in Back to the Future 2? ›

After her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Wells put her career on hold for family reasons, and told the studio she would be unavailable to reprise her Back to the Future role for the two sequels. Actress Elisabeth Shue replaced her.

Is Marty's girlfriend different in Back to the Future 2? ›

Undoubtedly Wells' biggest role in her career, her time playing Jennifer was cut short as a not-so-rare case of recasting happened. Wells was replaced by Elisabeth Shue in Back to the Future II, a move that many may not have noticed as the sequel reshot the ending of the first film with Shue to serve as its opening.

Who turned down the role in Back to the Future? ›

Many other young actors also tried out for Marty McFly. John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Billy Zane (who appears in Back to the Future as Match, one of Biff's gang), Peter DeLuise, Matthew Modine, George Newbern, Christopher Collet, and Robert Downey Jr. were all considered but ultimately turned down.

Who was originally supposed to play Marty McFly? ›

Michael J. Fox became a household name when he starred as the protagonist Marty McFly in Robert Zemeckis' sci-fi comedy Back to the Future. While the actor was not the first choice for the role, he replaced actor Eric Stoltz who had already begun filming for the movie.

Why did Disney reject Back to the Future? ›

But the pushback we got from the studio was that it was too sweet and too nice, and it wasn't the kind of comedies that people were interested in. We heard that comment over and over. We were also told time-travel movies don't make any money, which was true in the early '80s.

Did Michael J. Fox and Crispin Glover get along? ›

Fox and his Back To The Future dad Crispin Glover both worked on the 1983 TV movie High School USA, also starring Todd Bridges and Anthony Edwards. While he and Glover haven't spoken since BTTF, Fox remains very close friends with Christopher Lloyd, who played Doc Brown.

Who sued Back to the Future? ›

Glover and Kari filed a lawsuit against Universal and Amblin Entertainment in October 1990, claiming Glover's voice and likeness were used without permission. Glover argued he had a right to publicity, or the power to retain control over his own likeness.

Who almost kicked David Letterman? ›

Crispin Glover tries to kick David Letterman in the head, 1987.

Who played Marty's girlfriend Jennifer in Back to the Future? ›

CLAUDIA WELLS portrays Jennifer Parker, Marty McFly's beautiful girlfriend.

Who was recast in Back to the Future 2? ›

Elisabeth Shue replaces Claudia Wells as Jennifer Parker and Jeffrey Weissman replaces Crispin Glover as George McFly, though Glover appears in archive footage from the first film.

Was Melora Hardin in Back to the Future? ›

She was also originally cast in Back to the Future (1985) as Jennifer Parker alongside Eric Stoltz, who starred as Marty McFly. Stoltz was fired shortly after filming began and was replaced with Michael J. Fox.


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