Bill & Ted Rock On
by Bob Fenster
Hey, newspaper dudes, this way to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Interview.
Bill and Ted, known in real life as actors Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, are the two goofball teen-agers from the 1989 throwaway comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The movie became a surprise smash. Bill and Ted - and their odd way of talking and thinking - popped into the nation’s pop-culture consciousness.
Now the undynamic duo are back in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Bill and Ted imitators are everywhere.
If you have kids, you’ve probably heard them do Bill-and-Tedspeak. You may even find yourself lapsing into it now and then at the office when things get a little crazed and you need to mellow out. Winter and Reeves find Bill and Ted everywhere.
"One guy came up to me and he was dressed just like Bill, with the cap on backward," Winter said. "He said, ‘Hey, Bill, I’m having a hard time getting my band off the ground. Got any suggestions for me?’
"I suggested therapy."
Reeves said Ted changed his life.
"The part of Ted that is non-judgemental and wants to have a good time, that kind of stays with me," he said. "I do take a home a little bit."
Winter dismissed the notion that the characters glorify stupidity.
"I don’t think anyone sees Bill and Ted and says, ‘Wow, I want to be stupid, too.’"
‘Dude’ is everywhere
The actors think their films aren’t totally lacking in social significance.
"Dude is an important part of anyone’s vocabulary," Winter said.
"I don’t think Bill and Ted are an evil influence. But I feel strongly that I don’t have a responsibility to teach kids anything."
While Bill and Ted are a rage with kids, Winter finds his fans are as laid-back as his character.
"Kids are nice to me," he said. "They don’t make me do the air guitar. I usually break into Einstein’s theory of relativity when a fan comes up to me."
The demanding part - for the actors - is to do justice to Bill and Ted as characters in a world all their own.
"To play Ted takes an extraordinary amount of energy," Reeves said. "Once the director says, ‘Action,’ right after that, it’s beautiful. In between, it’s hard.
"There were things that were hard for Bill and Ted to do in the second film, like propose to the princesses. It was weird."
As if their roles weren’t hard enough - playing two pairs of Bills and Teds - Winter also plays Bill’s grandmother in the film.
"I also did as many stunts as they would let me do," Winter said. "I loved that stuff. I love heights. I’m a lunatic."
No guitar heroes here
Both Winter and Reeves wanted to play their own guitars in the film, even though "neither of us play very well," Winter admitted.
"So we both tried to play as well as we could, and the result was absolutely horrendous," he said.
Their cacophonous riffs eventually were dubbed in by a professional.
Reeves said that if he weren’t an actor, he’d like to be a rock star.
"You get to party and meet chicks and lead a careless existence," he said. "Looks like fun to me."
Winter and Reeves, both 25, did not know each other before they made the first film.
"We met at the audition," Winter said. "They were looking for chemistry. We auditioned together. It clicked right away.
"Now, sometimes I get what he is going to say before he says it."
Will there be a third Bill and Ted movie?
"Who cares?" Reeves replied.
Added Winter: "We were all passionate to come back for this one because we wanted to make a better movie than the first one. But I don’t know if I’d want to do it again."
Reeves also doesn’t think much of the merchandising going on around the movie.
"It’s the nature of today," he said. "Buy and sell. The cereal, I ate. It’s pretty good. But the toy itself, no thought. It’s no good. Throw it away."
Promotions aside, what makes Bill and Ted so popular?
"It’s the endearing nature of the characters," Winter said.
Peter Hewitt, who directed their Bogus Journey but not their Excellent Adventure, said, "Alex and Keanu are what everyone loved about the first film, and they are what everyone will love about the second.
"I inherited Alex and Keanu. If they didn’t want to do the film, it wouldn’t have been made. If I didn’t want to do it, it would have been made anyway.
"Bill and Ted are popular because they have an irreverence for everything. They are the everyday meeting the extraordinary and continuing to be everyday."