SDCC 2020: Bill and Ted Are Still Most Excellent

Kevin Smith cried at the end of the third "Bill and Ted" movie, "Bill and Ted Face the Music." "I can't tell you how emotional this movie got for me," he said. "They cracked the code. It is adorable, and I mean to be adored. It makes me hopeful. You guys crushed it. Oh, and stay all the way through the credits." The "Bill and Ted" movies are not just favorites for Smith; they are foundational. He said the duo he created, Jay and Silent Bob, were in part inspired by them. And then, as moderator of the panel about the upcoming "Bill and Ted Face the Music," he introduced each member by having them appear, of course, via an animated time machine that looks like a telephone booth.

Now, maybe you "Bill and Ted"-heads know this already, but even super-fan Smith was surprised to learn that co-writer Chris Matheson is the son of sci-fi all-star Richard Matheson ("I Am Legend"). Chris and his co-writer Ed Solomon created the Bill and Ted characters in improv and had a lot of fun playing, them, even when they were not performing but just goofing around together. "They're such fun characters to inhabit," Solomon said. They were thinking about writing a film with several different skits, one featuring those characters. It was his father who said that Bill and Ted deserved their own movie. 

They were protective of the characters and since they were not involved in casting, they were worried that no actors could live up to their vision. Then, just before filming began, they were standing in line at McDonald's and eavesdropping on the two guys in front of them. "Those are the guys who should play Bill and Ted!" Solomon said. And it was none other than Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, getting into character.

The audition process for the first film was "grueling and unnecessarily prolonged," according to Alex Winter. He and co-star Keanu Reeves remembered a kind of round robin with several other actors trying out both roles opposite each other. 

The auditions for the two actresses who play their daughters in this third version went much more smoothly. Both admitted that they had not seen the original films before they tried out for the roles. But both said they studied their movie fathers very carefully so they could make the family connection believable. Samara Weaving, who plays Bill's daughter, was, however, very familiar with Reeves' other work. "He killed my uncle!" she said cheerfully. She is the niece of Hugo Weaving, who played Reeves' nemesis in "The Matrix." Brigette Lundy-Paine plays Ted's daughter. In the film, "Everyone we find in history is actually a brilliant musician," and the real-life musical skills of the actors who play those roles were a highlight for her. Solomon said his favorite moments in making the sequel were off camera, a music night with the cast jamming together and Reeves hosting the whole cast and crew for "John Wick."

The first sequel was originally called "Bill and Ted Go to Hell," which Smith said was the most metal movie name ever. But unsurprisingly it was renamed "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" after consultation with the marketing department. There were conversations about another sequel over the years but it began to came together ten years ago, when the writers and the stars had dinner together and talked about what a third chapter might look like. "No one needs it unless it's really great," Winter said. But Reeves had another reason for signing on. "There's no other place that I can laugh like this."

Nell Minow

Nell Minow reviews movies and DVDs each week as The Movie Mom online and on radio stations across the US. She is the author of The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

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