While at the Sundance Film Festival promoting the fantastic new documentary “Devo” (from “Tiger King” and “American Movie” director Chris Smith), founding Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh told TheWrap a truly bonkers story about nearly getting cast in Robert Zemeckis’ classic “Back to the Future.”
How we landed on “Back to the Future” in the first place is there is a moment in the documentary where a clip from the Steven Spielberg-produced film is played. In the sequence where Doc (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty (Michael J. Fox) are about to test the time machine in the mall parking lot, Marty looks at Doc’s contamination suit and asks, “What is this, Devo?” It’s a moment very easy to miss, even if you’ve seen the movie a thousand times, but bringing it up gave Motherbaugh the runway to tell the story of a fascinating what-if.
Apparently, Devo played a show at The Palace — a “sit-down show,” according to Mothersbaugh — and both Spielberg and Zemeckis were in the audience. As Mothersbaugh and the other band members were putting away their gear at the end of the night, Zemeckis and Spielberg approached and said, “Hey we want to talk to you about something. We have a film we’re working on and we wanted to talk to you about working on it with us.” Mothersbaugh was intrigued.
“I just remember for, like, two weeks, I kept thinking, ‘They’re going to hire me to score their film,‘” Mothersbaugh said. He then went to a meeting with Zemeckis and Spielberg, who told him, “We love what you do on stage. We love the way your band looks. We want you to be a crazy mad scientist in a film we’re doing.”
Mothersbaugh asked them: “What do you mean?” They replied: “There’s a part in the film with a guy who runs around in a lab coat and has a car that can go through time. We want you to play that part.”
Mothersbaugh’s response? “I don’t want to act in a movie.”
They pressed him on acting on stage, during his musical sets with Devo, to which he replied, “Well, we make that stuff up on stage.” He wasn’t going to budge.
“I remember leaving Amblin and going, ‘They didn’t ask me to score the film. I cannot believe it. I thought that’s what was going to happen here,'” Mothersbaugh said.
Of course, if he had said yes to the role he would have made untold millions and starred in two other movies and a popular theme park attraction.
“Well, there you go,” Mothersbaugh said with a shrug. He today figures that the Devo reference that wound up in the movie was a nod to his almost-was casting choice.
Watch the “Devo” interview with Mothersbaugh in the video above.
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