For Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, the Bill & Ted franchise came a long way since they start playing the characters themselves growing up. Their characters, Bill S Preston and Ted "Theodore" Logan, have endured for generations considering the two films in Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bogus Journey (1991) were made three decades ago. With the simple mantra of "be excellent to one another" echoed from the mouths of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, Matheson and Solomon shared their journeys into fatherhood into their latest film Bill & Ted Face the Music. I spoke to them about changes going into Face the Music came about, the story arc, the historical figures chosen and how their own family went into developing Bill and Ted's daughter's Billie and Thea.
One of the first significant changes going into Face the Music was the gender of the children Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) had at the conclusion of Bogus Journey. Given how Matheson and Solomon ended up having daughters themselves, they decided to make the change when they developed the script, "About halfway through writing; it was decided it would be girls," Solomon said. The two decided to get together and, near the turn of the decade, only decided to approach Reeves and Winter about the idea. Naturally, one of the obstacles of filming became is working around Reeves' busy schedule as he was already well-established as a top star thanks to his involvement in the Matrix and John Wick franchises.
As elements came together, the creative decision was made to have Bill and Ted travel forward in time to steal the song they already created in the future. One of the decisions made from the getgo is who is going to set the duo on their journey. For Matheson and Solomon, it was a simple decision to let Kelly (Kristen Schaal) become the daughter of Rufus, played by the late George Carlin in the first two films, who passed in 2008. "We never considered recasting Rufus," Solomon said. There is a touching tribute to the actor-comedian early in the movie.
As Bill and Ted set off on their journey to find the song, their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) set off on a journey of their own paralleling their fathers' in the 1989 film. "We wanted to revolve the film around historical figures," Matheson said. Instead of Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Socrates, and Genghis Khan of Excellent Adventure, Billie and Thea targeted musicians. "We realize we wanted to add deeper figures into history," Solomon said. "We wanted iconic figures like Louis Armstrong, [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, and Jimi Hendrix," Matheson added. One of the figures they considered was Elvis Presley. The final target of their journey ended up with Ling-Lung, the legendary founder of music in ancient China. Solomon said he was proud, "fleshing out her character."
Billie and Thea were modeled in part from Matheson and Solomon's own daughters. "That was always the big balance between Brigette and Samara that to make them as apples not fall far from the tree," Solomon said. "It wasn't until they were cast until we can tailor to their performances. They didn't want to copy Alex and Keanu." As Face the Music largely became extensions of both their lives as fathers, they wanted to convey Bill and Ted's relationship through their family, fans, and the planet. "I think we both feel the music was the most meaningful to the planet through our children," Solomon said. "To me, it influenced the film in a giant way. The relationship I try to have with my kids I wanted to emulate with Bill and Ted and their daughters. Bill and Ted wanted to be great fathers and citizens of the planet." As far as any further sequel implications beyond Face the Music, Matheson sees a passing of the torch of sorts. "If there's a fourth film, I think it would be through Billie and Thea," he said, "I don't imagine writing that story." Bill & Ted Face the Music comes to theaters and on-demand on August 28.