Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves Talk Bill & Ted Face the Music
by B. Alan Orange
Over thirty years ago, the two great ones set off on a most excellent adventure through history. A few years later they embarked on a most bogus journey to Hell. Now, they must face the music and live up to their destiny as The Wyld Stallyns return for one last ride through the circuits of time. Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted 'Theodore' Logan are back in the time traveling phone booth for Bill & Ted Face the Music, which hits select theaters and Drive-ins starting this Friday. The comedy sequel will also be getting a simultaneous release on PVOD.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are back for one final mission, one that will repair the space time continuum and save the universe as we know it. The dynamic duo only have 72 minutes to write the song that has eluded them their entire lives. But they're not alone. This time, Bill and Ted will be joined by their wives, their daughters, death and a whole phone booth worth of iconic musicians throughout the fabric of time.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves recently sat down for a giant group Zoom meeting that brought in over 60 esteemed personages of historical significance to express their feelings on the finished movie and what it was like to return as the most important rock duo in history.
That's really needs to be a motto for 2020. Why do you think this advice to be kind to each other is so relevant right now?
Keanu Reeves: Well, I think it's relevant all the time. I guess now it has a a certain impact just because of the situation that we find ourselves in and the idea of be excellent to each other, I think is a very good idea.
Alex Winter: I think Eonni summed it up pretty well. I think that the Bill and Ted movies have kind of an inherent sweetness. A theme of inclusivity, of people being kind to each other and coming together. That was certainly the story that Chris Matheson and ED Solomon set out to write with the third one many years before there was this situation we're in today. Also it just so happens to be something that may bring folks enjoyment during this particular time because of that. But that was the movie we all set out to make.
Alex, you know, after all these years of not playing Bill, how easy was it to get back into the character's speech and mannerisms?
Alex Winter: We had time all that time. The film took time to get made. It went through a lot of orations with the script, that we all worked on together. And the writers put a lot of effort into that. During that time, that gave me a chance to wrap my head around it. You know, who this guy was? I spent a lot of time talking about those things, so it wasn't like I just had to suddenly turn it on like a switch. I had time to prepare. And then there's also a a familiarity to working with Keanu when the physicality of that, the instinctive nature of the way we riff on the dialogue...And that stuff just kind of did kick in on its own. It did for me anyway. But it was helped by the fact that we had a lot of time to rehearse and discuss it.
Keanu, when you did have conversations with Alex about what it would mean for these characters to be in this age that they're playing...What were the conversations about it? How did you feel Bill and Ted had advanced through time?
Keanu Reeves: There's been many years since we've seen them last. And during those years, they've lived life. And, you know, they've got more mature daughters, relationships with their wives, and they've been with their friendship and being together with this kind of pressure of things, destiny that they were given and responsibility of uniting the world through music. That they haven't been able to do. And just how did those pressures mount? Is that maturity? What does that look like? You know, and then sorta play these guys who are still familiar, but not caricatures of themselves from the past. To be present, so that we feel the weight of these guys, as well as their joy and their likeness in their spirit.
After all these years of playing such positive characters, what is the after-effect of doing Bill and Ted for a period of time? Do you walk away in a good mood? What is your kind of version of PTSD? What is it like?
Alex Winter: Post Bill and Ted disorder? You know, I would say for me, the whole experience has a kind of warmth to it. That's always been the case of playing these guys, because they are joyful, optimistic people. Even if they're experiencing hardships and challenges and have fear and doubt, all the human traits that we do have as these characters. I think what added to that in this experience was that it was particularly warm. Because there were so many of us reuniting. Keanu and I already see a fair amount of each other. But we haven't seen or worked with William Sadler, or Hal Landon Jr. and Amy Stoch. Scott Group was producing, and this is a great gang together. Just the the incredible commitment of this ensemble cast, like we're so lucky to have and what they brought to the table and the crew that we had, that was really stellar. So it was a very warm experience. It wasn't easy. It was challenging. There were difficult days. But I think you come away from the experience with...I felt very good about what we made. And I felt a great appreciation for having had the experience.
How did you guys go about modernizing the movie so that it was not a relic stuck in the 80s and 90s?
Keanu Reeves: The writers did that, you know? I think the way that they structured the the plot of the film. It was all about facing the music, being in the moment. So you know that that work was kind of done for us. I think you see that in the opening sequence. Ted, at the wedding ceremony, you know? They're not playing Van Halen riffs. They've expanded their musical excellence. But they moved on. They've developed from that. The themes of the daughters using music as a mash up kind of construction. Very modern kind of idea. I think that brought it to present day. I would just say some of those elements.
How has fatherhood changed Bill and Ted?
Alex Winter: That's another aspect of the modernity of it. It takes away from the last time we saw them. They have very distinct lives with their wives, with their partners. and their parents, and they love their kids and they love their wives. And yet they're having challenges in their life and in typical Bill and Ted fashion. They're very kind of, you know, simple guys who were always facing these gigantic challenges. In this case, we have not succeeded in writing the song that will save the world. And ultimately threatens reality as we know it. That could be ascribed to any challenge that one faces at a certain point in their life, only not written, not ripped quite so large.That's really what's impacting us, is how do we relate to that? Our wives and daughters. We're having some trouble with the wives, we're in marriage counseling. The first time you see us with our daughters, they love us very much. But they know we're having a hard time. So that's creating some friction within the family. And, you know, Keanu and I just lead into the reality of that stuff. So did director Dean Parisot. It was very important to him to kind of find a grounded foundation from which to launch into this completely insane narrative.
What was it like working with Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as your daughters and getting to have that new energy to play off of?
Keanu Reeves: It was a lot of fun. Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine are just lovely people. And very, very talented. They brought a kind of enthusiasm and craft. So it was very, very fun.
Alex Winter: I feel the same. There was a little bit of anxiety. Not about them. Not as actors at all, but even in the earliest generations of how these character would be conveyed. We're really happy with the way Chris and Ed had written the daughters. But it was really a whole different ballgame when Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine were cast. And the amount of thought they put into playing them. It wasn't at all just watching our movies five times and then doing us. Thankfully, they just created their own characters that were very much unique to them and their world views. It was very gratifying. I was also fun to play Bill and Ted as dads. It changes you in terms of how you approach the role. We never felt these movies were about being bros. Even the originals, I don't think they really are. In a sense, they're more childlike than they are that. But once you're a parent, it's really not that at all. And Bill and Ted love being parents. They love being husband, so that created more things to play.
Did you get to do anything in this new movie that you didn't get to do in the originals that you really wanted to do?
Keanu Reeves: No.
Alex Winter: Yeah, I can't think of anything.
Keanu Reeves: I think the writers were intent on finding new ways into Bill and Ted. I think they did. If they gave us a lot of meat on the bone to work with, because we get to play ourselves, and so many different versions of ourselves....So we're really looking at many different facets of these characters. And that's very new, that's something that we didn't do before. That's something that wasn't in either of the other two. There were evil robot uses, which were very specific. But this is really just Bill and Ted, who are going through very painful, very, very traumatic periods of different iterations of their lives. And there's a lot of comic potential there, as well as emotional potential. There was a lot of new things that the guys came up with that gave everyone room to play. But I can't think of anything that we could only do now. For some reason
There are so many versions of Bill and Ted. Which were the most fun to play? Or the ones that you looked forward to doing the most?
Keanu Reeves: I can't choose that. I don't think there's a best one. We had some extraordinary makeup. So the prison yard Bill and Ted. But I think it was more just emotionally the characters got kind of dark. So it's nice to play this kind of darkness against the brightness of it. They're almost like, exuberantly darker.
When the trailer came out, people really responded to the prison yard versions of you guys. What was it like playing those versions of the characters?
Alex Winter: My family happened to come to New Orleans and visit the set that day. We shot that sequence. Also we were sweating profusely in the 104 degree heat with 50% humidity. And, I looked out bleary eyed to my kids. They were looking quite amused, shall we say...But in general, we really wanted to maintain surprises for the audience. We have managed to continue to do that. There's a lot that no one has seen yet that's in this film. Whole characters. In fact, there are several major characters in the film that have not been exposed, and many of the iterations of us have not really been exposed. I should say there aren't that many. We've tried to keep it fresh for people, but the prisoners, it was fun to see that get unleashed on the world.
Do you have fond memories of working with George Carlin? And what did his presence bring to the Bill and Ted franchise?
Keanu Reeves: It brought class. I mean, he was just such a really...Just not humble, but just down to earth. He worked really hard on Rufus. He brought a weight to it. It was really extraordinary to have a chance to work with such an incredible person. And artist.
Do you have any fun memories of interacting off camera?
Alex Winter: I have, like, an overall fuzzy memory. I mean, warm and fuzzy. Not indistinct. Fuzzy memory. And gratitude about having been able to work with George so closely. You know, Keanu and I, we were young. We had both been around famous people, even when we did the first movie. But George was a different kind of famous than the type of people we were used to meeting as an actor. This was, you know, sort of like the beginning of the rock star comedy identity, right? Pryor? Carlin? I mean, obviously Lenny Bruce, there have never really been people like that before. And so they were kind of like God, in a way, right? They were so much more than just a personality. And I remember being very star struck by him and really grateful. He's very open. He was very accommodating. You didn't feel a wall with George at all, But I just have a kind of overall feeling of gratitude that we got that experience, huge gratitude that he's in the movie. He really elevated it. Just by his presence.
What's it like to have a whole new generation watching this, who maybe aren't familiar with Bill and Ted?
Keanu Reeves: That hasn't hit yet. That's more of a concept than a reality. We've experienced something akin to that sense of meeting people. Hopefully, they'll enjoy.
Alex Winter: Yeah, we tried to make a film that would be enjoyable. Whether you've seen the first two or not. We'll soon find out if that's true.
What has it been like to live alongside Bill and Ted for all these years?
Keanu Reeves: Well, there have been so many more moments with fans. It's such an honor to work with Alex. The way we can share our sense of humor and laugh in the work is something that I can't get anywhere else. It's pretty extraordinary. I'm very grateful. Thanks, Alex.
Alex Winter: It's obviously mutual. You know, it's a strange and very lovely thing to have in your life. It's very sweet from the sort of outside aspect. You're in your world, which has got nothing to do with public life. And some five year old comes running up to you to tell you how much you mean to them is pretty amazing. And then there's the the the internal performance part of it, just having had these experiences. Obviously Keanu and I have been friends all these years, but that is very different from my memories of the performance aspect with him. And getting into this groove that we get into when we're actually, like, being in a band, especially the way comedy works so much about timing. We kind of replay that. We literally play together, and so to have had the opportunity, to come back and do that again, I didn't think about it that way. Going in. There was so much work to do. But on the first week, I was like, I found myself just playing again with Keanu, and it was really fun and instinctive and just a very rare thing. It's its own thing.
What did the first day on set look like for you guys?
Keanu Reeves: Yeah, our first day was getting into the phone booth. We started to get into the phone booth, and I think that's where it landed for us. Okay, here we go. But I thought it was cool that we got to do it in the phone booth.
Alex Winter: Yeah, it was inadvertently because we didn't no say in that right, or much of anything else. Which was a good thing. But in looking back, that was a smart move on whoever's part. I don't think it was intentional, but it was helpful, actually, to start that way. I think for me, it was a few days into production. I think after we shot the marriage counseling scene, and there was just a moment where I just felt like he and I were in a real groove, and it was really...It's like many different things one can do in life, where you experience this, right? Not just acting in a movie, but it just suddenly something was there that I didn't expect. Um, that I hadn't quite remembered. It was just back. That was nice.
How do you think advances in technology helped this movie in relation to the other movies?
Keanu Reeves: For me, it didn't have a lot of impact. But I mean, we shot the first two on film. This was shot with digital cameras. But Dean Parisot grew up with film. So the digital process looked very much like that. Like the film process. I don't know about technologically, maybe the advancement in terms of speed of rendering visual effects was different?
Alex Winter: Yeah, I honestly would say that from a practical standpoint, this film was harder. In many ways than the first two, and more challenging,. Because despite this happening with new technology, not to overhype here, but Keanu made a whole movie about this, which I highly recommend. But often times in the digital world, you end up, because of the ease you get from the technology, you end up just going for everything, right? So if you're editing, you have less downtime, because you're on a nonlinear system. It just goes all the time, and you can get burned out very easily. In the old days, you have to change reels and you're using real film and things went at a slightly more measured pace. Thankfully, we had Dean at the helm, to Keanu's point. I remember that. I forgot we're even shooting digital too. It's crazy cause I direct, and I look at cameras all the time. But I remember, I don't think I said this. I think I would have felt foolish. I remember going to set one morning. We're not even shooting..I felt we weren't actually shooting digitally. Which I haven't even thought about it. To his credit, he was really pacing us like a movie. And Shelly Johnson was pacing it. And they weren't just gunning just because we could. And I'm really grateful that they all designed it that way.
Do you have any parting words in these uncertain times?
Alex Winter: Be excellent to each other.
Keanu Reeves: And party on dudes.
Bill and Ted Face the Music will be in select theaters and Drive-Ins this Friday. It is also getting a simultaneous release on PVOD.