‘Bill and Ted’ writing team turned improvisational sketch into movie
by Bob Fenster
In Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, there are two Bills and two Teds. In real life, there are also two sets of the southern California goofballs.
Before actors Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves became Bill and Ted, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon were Bill and Ted.
Matheson and Solomon are the actor-writers who created Bill and Ted as part of their work with an improv group.
"One night, we were asked to do two guys who know nothing about world affairs talking about world affairs," Matheson said.
That’s how Bill and Ted evolved.
"Their language evolved through our joking around," Solomon said.
The duo eventually wrote a movie based on their two alter egos. They developed the script by assuming the characters of Bill (Matheson) and Ted (Solomon).
"We’ve been kicked out of every coffeehouse in L.A. for acting like Bill and Ted," Matheson said.
They considered playing the parts themselves in the movie, but no one in Hollywood took them seriously.
"If we had played the parts ourselves, it would have been eccentric and excruciating," Solomon admitted.
That first script became Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a low-budget comedy that surprised everyone by becoming a big-profit hit.
After selling the script for the movie, Matheson and Solomon did something Bill and Ted in their innocence might have done: They sold the rights to the characters they had created.
Therefore, Matheson and Solomon don’t get a cut of the TV cartoon profits, or an upcoming live-action series, or the action toys, or the cereal, or anything else.
"We had no idea they would be so popular," Matheson said, grinning sheepishly.
What Matheson and Solomon did get was a chance to write the sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
"When we started talking about the sequel, we said, ‘What if they die and hang out with the Grim Reaper?’" Solomon said. "The studio said, ‘No, we never kill people in sequels.’ But they finally gave us a chance to do it."
Solomon and Matheson agreed that Bill and Ted are fun to write for.
"They never have a negative thought," Solomon said. "They like everybody."
"Which is completely opposite from Ed and myself," Matheson added.
Will the writing duo keep on scripting the movie duo?
"I like these characters a lot," Solomon said. "But I don’t want to be writing them when I’m 55 years old."
What would Bill and Ted think of Matheson and Solomon?
"Because they like everyone, they would like us," Solomon said.
"But that’s the only reason," Matheson said.