A motion picture extra is a person who is hired to appear in the background of a film, or as part of a crowd. These people generally do not have a speaking role, and are seldom given on-screen credit.
In return for a per diem payment, an extra must follow the same directions for as many takes as are necessary for a particular scene, until the film director is satisfied. When filming is done on location, rather than on a closed set, there is generally not a compensation for a person who is passing through while filming is done. Like many motion pictures, Back to the Future had hundreds of extras.
Among the persons who can be seen:
Hill Valley 1985 (8:30 a.m.)
- The pickup truck driver who inadvertently gives Marty McFly a ride from Doc's house to downtown. As Marty leaves Doc's house, he spots the blue Ford Ranger coming out of the Burger King drive-thru, skateboards over, and catches a ride into downtown.
- A man and his backpack-carrying son, walking out of the restaurant and in the same direction Marty is going.
- Marty lets go of the Ford pickup, then catches a ride on a Jeep, driven by the man with the Mountain Dew hat (the driver, uncredited, was stunt coordinator Walter Scott) . There are about 25 people in Courthouse Square at about 8:30 a.m.
- Marty passes an old woman who has to pump her own gasoline at Texaco, as an employee stands and watches.
- A man wearing a hat is walking his dog on Main Street. He watches Marty pass by.
- A helmeted motorcyclist passes Marty from the opposite direction. The red Honda can be seen that afternoon at the Courthouse parking lot later.
- There are about ten girls and women at Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center, most of whom wave to Marty as he rides by on his skateboard and waves (Marty appears to pass them three times).
- Three more girls, standing on the corner, watch Marty go by, but don't wave.
- As the Jeep rounds the corner, a woman with a purse, and standing near the Welcome sign, turns to look as Marty goes by.
- As Marty waves to the Jeep driver, you can see a man walking into Cupid's Adult Book Store.
- A man in a blue jacket stands in front of the Bluebird Motel. In the afternoon, he is still standing there.
Battle of the Bands, 1985
At the band audition, the high school gym has about 20 people.
- A student and three teachers, all with clipboards, judge the bands. Besides Huey Lewis, there is a student (Tom Tanger), a man, and a woman.
- A band with three girls is seen moving equipment, then setting up behind Jennifer Parker
- Marty passes a group of four guys on his way up to the stage. They are the next group after the Pinheads.
- The rest of the Pinheads are a guitarist (Paul Hanson, who tutored Michael J. Fox on the chords for "Johnny B. Goode"), a drummer, and a keyboard player.
Hill Valley 1985 (after school)
After school, Courthouse Square is a pretty crowded place, with about 60 people walking about. Among them are:
- A girl in black and a girl in lavender overalls. They are walking down the sidewalk while Marty and Jennifer walk through the parking lot.
- A person backing a yellow Honda out as Marty and Jennifer walk by. The Honda had been pulling in as Marty was going to school.
- Two girls in leotards, one dressed in light blue, one in purple. Marty turns his head to check them out, and Jennifer has to refocus his attention. They walk across the street to the pawn shop. Earlier that day, the same girls could be seen standing across the street from Lou’s.
- Two teenage boys on skateboards glide by while Marty and Jennifer walk through the parking lot.
- A woman in brown is helping the Clock Tower Lady (Elsa Raven).
- A female postal worker is pulling a letter cart outside the Ask Mr. Foster travel agency.
- A bank guard is standing out in front of the Bank of America.
- A man in a suit and a hat, carrying a brief case and reading something, is riding a bike past the courthouse.
- A black Honda parks behind Marty and Jennifer as they step up on to the park bench, and a man and his son step out. When they move off the screen, there suddenly are no more people in the background.
- As the Clock Tower Lady talks, Lou’s Aerobic Fitness Center is visible in the background, and a class for children is being conducted.
- A man walks past The Third Eye to Lou's to buy a newspaper, while another man walks toward the entrance of Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center. When Jennifer runs out to her Dad's car, the men are repeating the same steps.
- As Marty watches Jennifer leave, a woman, carrying a foil wrapped gift, can be seen walking past the X-rated theater. Marty then hitches a ride on a police car.
- Marty hitches a ride home, with the assistance of the driver of a red and gray pickup truck, and lets go as he arrives at Lyon Estates.
- As Marty glides down the street toward his house, he passes a man and woman who are walking down the sidewalk.
- A tow truck driver is backing George McFly's totaled Chevrolet Nova into the driveway, while a voice on the truck’s radio asks for assistance.
Upon entering 1955:
- Marty encounters the Peabody family and some cows.
- A man and woman in a car. The man's wife calls him Wilbur and he continues to drive away.
Hill Valley 1955 (8:30 a.m.)
Numerous people (about 75) are in Courthouse Square at 8:30 in the morning. Among them are:
- A woman window-shopping at Hal’s Bike Store.
- A man in a plaid jacket who notices Marty's odd attire as he crosses the street.
- A woman driving a dark green De Soto (it had driven by Marty once as he passed the Miller beer truck). In a foreshadowing of his encounter with Sam Baines, Marty walks in front of her car and she honks the horn.
- A man painting a picture of the Hill Valley Courthouse.
- A man mowing the courthouse lawn.
- Four Texaco service station employees who run out to service a car pulling into the station (though the same color, it's not Wilbur‘s car).
- A well-dressed woman in suit, high heels and gloves, towing groceries in a handcart.
- A kid jumping on springs, and his father.
- A man and woman on the sidewalk (Marty almost bumps into them).
- A scout raising the flag.
- A boy throwing a football to another boy.
- Two men in suits, carrying briefcases to the corner across from Lou's.
- A girl with a hat box, and her mother (they get into a blue car).
- The driver of Mayor Red Thomas’s campaign vehicle.
- The man who throws the newspaper in the trash (which Marty picks up to read the date).
- A man coming out of the Elite barbershop.
- A woman with blue hat who walks past the telephone sign.
- A kid in a red school jacket who rides his bike past Lou's (he rides by again as Marty crosses the street)
- A young man in a sports jacket, coming out of Lou's Cafe as Marty prepares to go in.
- At Lou‘s Café, there are a boy and girl dining at table 3; and a blonde sitting at the counter, a few seats away from George, while Marty’s on the payphone.
- The female cashier who listens to Goldie talk about being Mayor, and Marty yells "Hey Dad!"
Hill Valley High, 1955
When Doc first goes with Marty to Hill Valley High School on Monday morning, there are more than 100 people milling about in the hallways between classes. Several walk in front of Marty and Doc as they talk, while others bump into them. Among the people to look for:
- As Marty and Doc arrive at school, a girl in a blue dress crosses from the left, while two boys pass her from the right (Doc has to step over the bicycles parked in front of the school).
- Marty and Doc are in front of a staircase. A girl in blue dress with stripes is walking upstairs. She passes Doc again at the trophy case a few minutes later, and is tardy running into her classroom as the bell rings.
- A greasy haired boy in a gray blazer watches as George is being kicked.
- George’s three tormentors are Mark Dixon, who sports a gaudy skiing sweater; a boy in red and white school jacket; and boy in a yellow and blue flannel shirt. A fourth boy, in a red sweater comes up the hall and kicks George (who is wearing a Kick Me sign). A boy in blue jeans and two-tone shoes laughs as George drops his books.
- Although Hill Valley High has an upstairs/downstairs rule, several of the students haven't mastered the concept. Thus, a boy in blue jeans is walking upstairs on the left side, against a crowd of people coming down. Moments later, a girl in blue sweater and white dress is descending the "up" staircase against a crowd of ascending students.
- A guy in a leather jacket and blue jeans, dressed in the style of 50s-nostalgia hero Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli from the ABC sitcom Happy Days (1974-1984), comes down the stairs, twice.
- A girl is walking with her boyfriend and wearing his red letterman jacket.
- A boy in a blue sleeveless sweater vest watches George pick up his books, and is shoved out of the way by principal Mr. Strickland.
- A girl in a plaid brown skirt passes by Strickland and George twice.
- As Strickland lectures George, a student reaches up to look at a paper on the bulletin board;
- As noted, several students walk in front of Marty and Doc while they’re talking. One girl in a beige sweater (and wearing a ribbon in her hair) walks by them and goes up the (wrong side) stairs while Marty says "That's Strickland! Jesus, didn't that guy ever have hair?" Twelve seconds later, she walks by them again while Doc's asking "What did your mother ever see in that kid?" saying and goes up the stairs. And 20 seconds later, she's passing by Marty a third time while he‘s telling George, "I have been lookin' all over for you."
- A male teacher in a gray pinstripe suit comes down the stairs, talking to a student. The teacher is later seen at the dance, where he's described in the novelization as Dexter Gore.
- The aforementioned male teacher is soon followed by a female colleague.
- A boy in a white sweater vest and long brown shirt bumps into Doc, then into Marty, then finds his girlfriend and walks back up the hall; then runs down hall again; all in the same minute.
- A teacher with a long black dress talks to two students
- Two guys, one in an argyle sweater, the other in white T-shirt and blue jeans, are running really late while Doc and Marty talk about the dance.
In the school cafeteria, there are about 50 students eating lunch, some of whom yell "Fight!" when they see Biff Tannen and Marty about to come to blows. Mr. Strickland's sudden appearance is enough to prevent the fisticuffs. Before Strickland can question the new student, someone off-screen throws a paper airplane, preventing a meeting from ever taking place. Some of the other people visible are a group of boys sitting at the table behind Lorraine, Babs and Betty. They react as Lorraine slaps Biff's face, and then as Marty grabs Biff by the collar.
- Out of frame on the DVD and VHS releases, but visible in the original theatrical release, is a student sitting at the table to the right of George. While George is busy writing, the off-screen extra is busy reading a book.
- Hill Valley High apparently has some freshmen students, visible in the background behind George. They seem oblivious to Marty's presence, even after the near fight.
Hill Valley 1955 (after school)
Courthouse Square was crowded with more than 100 people when Biff and his gang chased Marty. Among the people to look for:
- Two boys are pushing homemade scooters; not the ones that Marty borrows a skateboard from, but a blonde haired kid and a Cub Scout.
- A husband and wife, both wearing coats and hats, notice George talking to Marty about "Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan".
Inside Lou's Cafe are about 30 teenagers, including:
- A guy standing at by the door and reading a magazine.
- A girl in a beige sweater and dress, with a ribbon in her hair (she may be the one who walked past Marty three times at school). Sitting at Table 1, she smiles at Goldie Wilson.
- At Table 2 is a girl with long blonde hair; her boyfriend, who is munching on a hamburger while George talks to Lorraine; and a greaser wearing a sleeveless pullover sweater. They were seen walking outside while George looked for Marty.
- At Table 3, of course, are Lorraine, Babs (dark hair) and Betty (blonde hair).
- At Table 4 are two girls.
- By the jukebox, a boy and girl are dancing to the song "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)".
- Sitting at the counter stools are about a dozen kids. Marty takes a seat by a girl wearing in pink sweater and pink hair ribbon, and her boyfriend.
- A guy in a jacket with brown trim, and carrying a notebook, stands up as Biff's gang walks in. Biff shoves the guy while threatening George.
- The greasy haired guy at Table 2 has some dialogue: He's heard to say "And a cherry Coke" to a friend in a gray jacket. When Marty punches Biff, the greaser catches Tannen. The girl at Table 1 has to move aside when Marty topples Biff's gang.
- Marty runs past two women who happen to be walking on the corner at Lou’s Cafe, and heads across the street to find "Scooter Kid #1" (Johnny Green) and "Scooter Kid #2" (Jamie Abbott), both of whom are on makeshift scooters. Marty pulls Kid #1 off the scooter, breaks off the "board with wheels", and takes off. Kid #2 doesn't talk, but tries to keep Marty from taking the board. The two kids then watch from the corner across from the Essex Theater, before Marty gives the board back. Among the other witnesses are:
- Two ladies waiting for a bus.
- A woman pushing a baby carriage.
- The well-dressed woman pulling the hand cart (she was there on November 5 as well).
- Two girls sitting on top of a bench.
- A man riding a bicycle.
- The driver of the turquoise pickup truck (Marty grabs the truck and skates away from Biff's gang).
- The driver of the blue and white Bel-Air (Biff cuts right in front of the car and runs over the hedges).
- The guy who suddenly opens the door of his black car door in front of Marty.
- The man and woman coming out of the courthouse who spill papers when Marty crashes into them. They have to roll out of the way when Biff drives his car down the sidewalk.
- The man pushing the ice cream cart near the manure truck.
- Manure hauler D. Jones in a jumpsuit and his helper.
- A boy in winter hat and sweater, carrying a baseball glove.
- A man in hat and overcoat, hands in pockets, watching after Biff crashes into the manure truck.
- A man carrying a French horn in a case.
- A woman wearing white gloves and carrying a shiny gift box.
- A man in a hat, laughing at Biff’s gang.
Hill Valley, Saturday night
Even before the dance, a few people are in Courthouse Square as Doc worked on his "weather experiment" at 7:55 in the evening:
- The radio announcer saying that the weather will be mostly clear.
- The blue and white Bel-Air (Biff nearly crashed into the car while chasing Marty).
- A man walks past the Bluebird Motel while Doc asks if Marty is sure about the storm.
- A man and woman cross the street while Doc says he'll get a chance to see 1985.
- A woman walks past Ruth's Frock Shop while Marty and Doc argue about knowing the future.
- While Doc is being questioned by the policeman, a man in a raincoat walks past. Marty passes the man from the opposite direction. Two more women walk past as Doc reaches in his wallet to hand his 'permit' to the officer.
- Most notably, an older man in a hat and raincoat pedals a bike down the street while Marty says, "Doc, about the future.." and Doc interrupts. Some viewers of the trilogy speculate that this is Doc from 1985, seen pedaling a bike in Part II, although that didn't occur in this timeline.
Enchantment Under the Sea Dance
The high school dance floor is filled with about 60 people, all of whom are dressed in formal wear appropriate for 1955 (when the dance was restaged four years later for Part II, an entirely new set of extras were enlisted). Although there is not much unusual about the dancers, some are noticeable:
- George isn't the only guy without a date. As George dances to "Night Train", a student in blue suit and red tie is standing by with hands in pockets, awkwardly.
- Many of the guys wear thin bow ties. One, who has a gray suit and red bow tie, resembles Pee-Wee Herman (whose film would be made two years later)
- One of the few Hill Valley female students who wears glasses walks near George while he's drinking punch during the break.
Outside in the parking lot:
- A couple walks past Marty's side of the Packard while he asks Lorraine if she wants to "park".
- Several people are on the steps as George rushes to the car for what he thinks will be a staged fight.
- A guy is smoking a cigarette as Marty rushes back to watch Biff fall to the ground.
- A crowd of students rushes up to find Biff collapsed on the ground, including a boy wearing a brown suit. In Part II, the brown suit character is the "Wallet guy", named in the novelization as Lester. However, since Biff has no Grays Sports Almanac in this timeline, the later Marty in the black leather jacket, pork pie hat and sunglasses is not present and doesn't try to take anything from him, and so Lester (played here by a different actor) has no lines.
- A tall girl in red says "Who is that guy?". She's Bystander #1, given on-screen credit and played by Sachi Parker (who, as it turns out, is the daughter of actress Shirley MacLaine).
- Her date, Bystander #2 says in amazement, "That’s George McFly." He is played by Robert Krantz. These two characters can also be seen in Part II, but are played by different actors.
- The Starlighters are led by Marvin Berry (played by Harry Waters, Jr.; Granville "Danny" Young, David Harold Brown and Lloyd L. Tolbert assist Marvin. Reginald, uncredited, plays the drums and drives the band's car. The saxophone player is the late Tommy Thomas.
- Besides Mr. Strickland, there are two other chaperones. In the Back to the Future novelization, they are referred to as Dexter Gore and Deborah Chambers. All three are standing together by the punch bowl when Marty plays "Earth Angel".
Once Marty starts playing "Johnny B. Goode" on stage...
- A blond guy in light blue coat and thin bow tie, says "George, I heard you laid out Biff, nice going!" He's credited as Guy #1, and portrayed by Gary Riley.
- His date, wearing a green dress, asks, "George, you ever think of running for class president?" She's Girl #1, portrayed by Karen Petrasek.
- A guy in black coat and tie gets down in center circle on the ball court and dances to the beat.
- A blonde girl in white blouse and red skirt is swung upside down by her date (setting up a visually interesting shot for the camera)...!
And after Marty introduces the students to heavy metal, the same ones who applauded him for "Earth Angel" have mixed reactions:
- A dark haired girl with light green dress and corsage is furious, with arms crossed.
- The guy in the checkered coat and red tie is outraged, and his date, a blonde in black dress, is speechless.
- Further back, a girl in red dress and her date, both standing next to Mr. Strickland, are laughing.
Behind the scenes
The crowd scenes at Hill Valley High were filmed at different times over a course of several weekends, so it would have been unusual for the same participants to report for the high school scenes. The morning and afternoon scenes at Courthouse Square in 1955 were filmed close in time at Universal Studios (Robert Zemeckis comments about the atypical clouds that were present while filming took place). After the 1955 town was altered for the 1985 scenes, the morning and afternoon scenes were shot close in time as well. In some cases, minor background characters can be spotted in more than one scene.
- ↑ Bob Gale and Neil Canton, feature commentary, BTTF 1