Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter return to mess with time and space again in the upcoming movie Bill & Ted Face the Music, , after taking a few decades off from playing the lovable San Dimas slackers who become earnest rock gods out to save the world.
Original Bill and Ted screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson returned to write the new adventure, and director Dean Parisot came on board to make their script come alive on the big (and small) screen.
I chatted with the trio to find out why they think Bill and Ted are timeless characters, and why the world needs some joyful optimism right now.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
Why is now the perfect time to bring back Bill and Ted for a new generation of fans?
Ed Solomon: We got really lucky and surprised with Bill and Ted in that it grew culturally in a way we never expected. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves have told Chris and me they get approached in the street by young people more than by older people about Bill and Ted. Young people seem to be discovering it by watching it online. So in a way, I don’t know if the new movie is introducing new people or a new generation to it. It’s just giving them another installment.
Dean Parisot: Bill and Ted movies are a genre unto themselves. I love the friendship between Bill and Ted. They are two best friends that cannot be pulled apart. They’re delusional optimists who happen to be right. It’s easy to love those characters and how they approach the world, which kind of seems stupid at first, and then it’s strangely brilliant. Bill and Ted are such good-natured, best friends. Also, the positive message of the movie really stuck with me.
Why did you decide to have daughters instead of sons helping out their dads Bill and Ted in the new movie?
Chris Matheson: When we wrote the first drafts of Bill & Ted Face the Music the characters were sons. But we could never really get it to work. Because they were either little knockoffs of Bill and Ted who were acting and talking like the dads, which wasn’t very interesting. Or the sons were cool guys, and cool guys are hard to make funny. So finally when we made them daughters, and instantly it got a lot more interesting.
Solomon: Chris and I both have two kids, and we both learn a lot about pop culture from them, much like Bill and Ted do from their daughters in the movie. I get a lot of really great music from them, a lot of great comedy they turn me onto. It’s nice for me to be able to share something for them and their friends.
What was your favorite moment working on Bill & Ted Face the Music?
Matheson: We were working on the prison scene, and Alex and Keanu were wearing rubber muscle suits. It must have been 100 degrees and really humid in New Orleans. Alex was almost passing out at times. Everyone was doing anything to stay cool. It was a very, very hard day of shooting. At the end, Alex and Keanu are out of their muscle suits, and we’re waiting for cameras and lights to be moved. They’re just on set together, it’s just the two of them. I have no idea what they’re laughing about, but they’re cracking up, and just delighted in each other’s company. I thought it was really beautiful. It had been a really hard day, and it made me just think that so much of what’s happened stemmed from this very genuine, deep connection that these two guys have.
Solomon: My most memorable moment is when we had to shut production down because of a potential hurricane. The cast and crew are holed up in this town called Covington. Keanu invited everybody to an afternoon screening at the local movie theater of John Wick, and then Alex hosted a lunch with everyone. That stands out in my mind as a special day.
Do you think Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves’ real-life friendship shines through as they play Bill and Ted?
Parisot: Alex and Keanu are actually best friends. We’re shooting a scene where Bill and Ted have to abruptly run out of couples therapy they’re having with their wives. Keanu takes off first, really fast. And I’m thinking he’s going to run out the door. But instead, Keanu stops in front of the door and opens it for Alex who then runs through. That really defines their relationship. They’re constantly thinking of the other one. That is endearing. How could you not love that?
What were some of the challenges in making this film, especially since it’s a time travel movie with lots of moving parts?
Parisot: The whole thing was challenging — we didn’t have any money (laughs). We had to contemporize Bill and Ted. So it’s a balancing act of Bill and Ted 30 years ago and who they are now. They’re parents and husbands now. And it’s different. Unfortunately for us, logistically we have to create the past, the future, hell, and the destruction of all space and time. That’s very hard to do with a limited budget.
Which musical icon or historical figure were you really excited to include in the movie?
Matheson: Louis Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix were pretty great to have portrayed in the movie.
Whose idea was it to give Jesus the cowbell to play?
Solomon: When we were filming the sequence of The Last Supper where people were falling in and out of different times, we had this idea at the last minute to have the historical figures play along with the music at the end. So whatever props they happened to have in the prop truck, they brought it out. So that’s how it ended up happening.
Was there anything that didn’t make the final cut?
Solomon: We had so little money to make this movie and so little time that we used every part of the buffalo, so to speak. There are some script scenes we had to cut due to budget. Once the movie comes out, Chris and I might release some of the scenes we thought were fun or sweet that didn’t get in the movie.
Parisot: There are multiple takes of Bill and Ted as old men playing music together at the end of the movie. We did three or four versions. They kept riffing. They would have kept playing, but we ran out of time.
Fans got to send videos of themselves playing music and dancing to be included. Did you have a favorite?
Solomon: Chris and I weren’t allowed by law to decide which ones got in the movie. But there were so many great submissions. I love how they put it all together in the film. I know there was a lot they couldn’t use just because of time. They were all very moving. Just seeing so many people want to be a part of the movie meant a lot.
Did you learn something new from making Bill & Ted Face the Music?
Parisot: I learned I still haven’t figured out how to make movies after all this time (laughs). Bill and Ted are so unique. Watching Keanu and Alex revisit those characters in their middle age, and watching them own it, I learned a lot. They spent their weekends just rehearsing. Every move they make physically, they are figuring out because together they’re almost like one character too. It’s a very subtle nod to silent film comedy duos that work as one.
What is it about the new movie that will resonate most with audiences who see it?
Solomon: We made Bill and Ted from the heart. There’s no cynicism in the movie, and I think that shows. Plus I don’t know of a better time for people to play together. The theme of the movie is that it’s not that Bill and Ted have to write a song that is so great that the world is going to be saved, it’s that something has to happen to get everyone to play with each other. In my lifetime, I’ve never sensed such discord — certainly not in our country. So if it is a perfect time for Bill and Ted, maybe that’s one contributing reason.
Parisot: This movie is also a love letter to Bill and Ted fans. But I also hope audiences take to heart the real message. It’s not the one song saves the universe. It’s everyone learning to play together as one.