Some may say how much of a beneficiary Alex Winter became with Bill & Ted Face the Music's release especially given how much a superstar his co-star Keanu Reeves became since the first two films in Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bogus Journey (1991). Make no mistake, Winter's carved a bit of a career behind the camera working on documentaries and directing his own films. On the heels of the duo's latest film, the actor and director spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about returning to acting and plans on balancing both. As the story goes, Bill & Ted creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon approached Reeves and Winter about doing Face the Music over dinner remaining friends over the years since the 1991 sequel.
Did John Wick's Success Lead to Bill & Ted Face the Music?
Some speculated Reeves' success in John Wick (2014) helped greenlit Face the Music in May 2018, but Winter doubts the assertion. "It would make sense that that's the case, but it wasn't the view from inside," he said. "A lot of the false starts and a lot of the troubles we were having with financing were well after John Wick 1 had come out and become a huge hit. And, in a way, I was a little apprehensive that it would hurt us because Ted could not be further from John Wick. So anyone thinking, 'We want more of that thing Keanu's doing that's so successful,' that's not us at all — in spades. It's just not. We are the opposite of that. Honestly, from inside, it really felt like it came from the fan base, and I think Keanu feels similarly because we've discussed it a lot."
As far Bill & Ted Face the Music's current appeal which matches the favorability rating with Excellent Adventure at 81 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Winter disagrees it has anything to do with the current political climate as opposed to the timeless positive message the franchise always delivered. "The film was written originally 10 years ago, well before the political climate we're in now, much less this incredible pandemic that we find ourselves in. So it's always a good message," he explains. "That's really at the heart of Bill & Ted, and Keanu and I feel grateful to be able to be a part of something that conveys that message. I do think that it's a terrible time, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I wish we weren't releasing a movie in the middle of a pandemic, but if you're going to have to do that, I do think that the underlying theme of the film — that we're all part of the fabric of one thing and we should operate with that in mind and compassion for each other — isn't the worst message to get out at the moment."
Winter remembered the pitch from Matheson and Solomon. "We've all been friends for a long time, but none of us had ever thought seriously about revisiting these guys," he said. "But it was a really good idea, and it felt like something that would be worth trying to get made. Keanu and I thought it was playable. We could see how we could be Bill and Ted in this narrative, and Chris and Ed had some really funny ideas for how to make it work. So, they went out and spec'd it. They worked on the script for a while, and then we got back together with Scott Kroopf, the producer of the original two, and then we brought on [director] Dean Parisot. We were lucky that we got interest from him, and that was still a good six or seven years ago. And then, we began a very long and painful process to find the money. (Laughs.)"
As far as selling Bill & Ted in 2020, Winter doesn't think the market made it particularly more favorable compared to 30 years ago. "Yeah, I don't think it's ever easy," he said. "There are more buyers, but there's also a lot more sellers. And at the end of the day, there are only so many slots to fill, and people are pretty risk-averse. I think that we had two things going on. One is just the Bill & Ted-ness of it all. Bill & Ted movies have never been slam dunk movies; we'll see how this one does. But the first two, they were looked upon very affectionately when they came out, but every step of convincing people to make them was difficult. They're just strange, idiosyncratic things, and they don't feel particularly that way to us. (Laughs.) But they feel that way to the marketplace, right? So that was one of them, and then, the other was convincing people that it's worth revisiting a comedy with the original cast 25 years later. It took a bit of work." To hear more about Winter talk about if chemistry needed to be re-established with Reeves, how they both changed since Bogus Journey, which future incarnation of Bill & Ted he enjoyed the most, paying proper tribute to George Carlin, establishing Bill & Ted's daughters, and transitioning between directing and acting, you can check out the rest of the interview on THR. Bill & Ted Face the Music is currently in theatres and on-demand. Below you can check out the exclusive online behind-the-scenes mockumentary featurette called Death's Crib with William Sadler as Death.