Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

"History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't spell."


starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin

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'80s Movies: A Guide to What's Wrong with Your Parents - 
Why It Holds Up & Why It's Cringey Moment Isn't as Bad as It Seems.
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Why it’s rad:

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This film didn't just travel through time, it brought time into the present and allowed a fantasy of getting eight of history's most significant figures together, interacting with one another in 1980's America.


“Be Excellent to Each Other” became the teen world’s mantra.

It inspired new slang full of 50 cent words: “most triumphant,” “heinous," "resplendent," "unrivaled," "bodacious," "egregious," etc.

Cemented the word “dude” into the American English language (even used by President Donald J. Trump). Moreover, it made "Party on, dude!" a common phrase.

So '80s:

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Musicians tied tightly to the 1980s were cast. Go-Go Jane Wiedlin is Joan of Arc. Then, there's The Three Most Important People in the World: Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Martha Davis of The Motels, and Fee Waybill of The Tubes.

Everything at the mall. Synthesizers, meeting girls at the food court, and of course, aerobics. All so '80s.

The '80s loved its time travel movies. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure capped the decade, but here's what '80s moviegoers enjoyed: Somewhere in Time (1980 - written by screenwriter Chris Matheson's dad, Richard Matheson), The Final Countdown (1980), Time Bandits (1981), Peggy Sue Got Married (1987), Terminator (1985), The Final Countdown (1980), My Science Project, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1987), and of course, Back to the Future (1984).

What’s your damage?

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Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure appears to be stoners delivering mindless entertainment. Not true: these high schoolers don't do drugs, smoke, drink, curse, or disrespect their parents. They fall for a couple of "historical babes," and treat the young princesses well (in fact, treat them with more consideration than the women's own father). 

However, Bill and Ted perpetuate homophobia. The cringey moment is when Ted survives a perilous moment and the two hug in relief, then pull away from each other in disgust, shouting, "fag!" It's done for a laugh. And, it reiterated a message young viewers received all the time: being gay is gross. 

And, there is that moment where Bill looks down his stepmother's shirt. Sure, Missy is only a couple of years older than Bill, but even Ted calls Bill out on his friend's inappropriate ogling. 

Behind the Scenes

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Bill and Ted began as a student improv exercise. Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon were students at UCLA, each with their own entertainment connection. Matheson was the son of famed sci-fi writer, Richard Matheson. Solomon was a writer for the TV-sitcom, “Laverne and Shirley.” They had an improv group with some other UCLA students, where  Bill and Ted were created.

 "Our suggestion was ‘15-year-old boys talk about world affairs,'" said Chris Matheson told Starlog Magazine. "We had them talking about the world trouble spots and trade problems, but their only impression of anything going on in the world was that it was ‘bogus!’  Ed and I went out after the show that night and played those guys for about three hours.  We fleshed them out, and many things fell into place that are still there."

There was originally a third friend, Bob. It took some time to get a Bill and Ted script to market. "Bob" lost interest in pursuing the project. Additionally, in the first stage version, Bill's dad kept walking in and out of their room. 

Bill and Ted were envisioned as the ones creating history's biggest crises. "After I went off to grad school," Matheson continues, "Ed and I were talking on the phone and cracking up about the idea that these guys had gone back into history, and through sheer bumbling, were responsible for everything bad that ever happened to mankind, including the Plague, world wars, the Titanic. The implications of that were a little dark, however – such as the Holocaust – but we got a big kick out of sending them back into history.

Bill and Ted are dumb...or are they? “We talk about Bill and Ted not being that bright. But, the truth is they have an incredible imagination and they figure out stuff, just not in the way normally," Solomon and Matheson said on the Making Of documentary. "Like that police station scene, it’s kind of brilliant in a way."

San Dimas was picked for its genericness. "In our minds, San Dimas was in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t a beach town, it wasn’t a valley town, it’s east of Los Angeles, it’s kind of nondescript," said Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson in the Making Of documentary. "In the beginning, one of them was in San Dimas and one was from San Gabriel – I don’t know how they became friends!"

Matheson and Solomon wrote the improv to be one of a series of comedy skits, in the style of Kentucky Fried Movie. The sketch was titled "Bill and Ted’s Time Van" – a 1969 Chevy van was meant to be their time machine. Chris Matheson said, "We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, ‘That sounds like a whole movie.’  And he was right!"

Once they decided to write a full feature, they wrote the entire script in four days. Writing by hand, they etched notes in the corner and came up with the premise. Ed Solomon has released most of these script pages and notes on Twitter. 

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Solomon and Matheson may have been students, but they had connections. Chris Matheson gave the script to his dad, noted sci-fi writer Richard Matheson (Somewhere in Time, When Dreams May Come), who passed it to the right people.

Bill & Ted had a lot of interest from studios and production companies, but it almost didn't get released. Interscope and Warner Brothers were both interested in making the film. Warner Brothers ordered several rewrites before deciding they weren’t interested. They then went into production with D.E.G., which went bankrupt.  HBO was buying the finished product for a straight-to-cable release when Nelson Entertainment (spearheaded by a former D.E.G. executive) bought it at slightly higher than the HBO offer.

Stephen Herek was a newer director who – despite success with Critters – didn’t like horror movies. Herek was a Roger Corman apprentice who had one film under his directorial belt: Critters. He told Starlog that what attracted him to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is the same component that makes the film holds up so well. "It’s the relationship between Bill and Ted...That’s what I really got caught up in, how symbiotic they were.  They’re like right and left – we can’t have one without the other.  It’s a nice friendship."

Warner Brothers hired Herek to direct for one reason. "They initially approached me because they thought I could make it on the cheap. After reading the script, I realized it would be impossible to make a picture of any quality for less than a medium budget and that’s where the difficulties began. It was mid-1986 when they finally decided to drop the project altogether," Herek told Starburst Magazine. "Six months later Dino De Laurentiis’s DEG company picked up the option and we finally entered pre-production."

 The studio executives kept complaining, "Nobody talks like this." To which, Stephen Herek said, "I kept scratching my head going, do you have kids? Do you go to the mall?" 

Dino De Laurentiis didn't get it. While his company made the movie, Diane Franklin ("Princess Joanna") wrote in her autobiography, "Originally, Dino De Laurentiis was more involved with the film, but ultimately he pulled out because he didn't understand the humor."

No sets were built. "There were no sets, it was all on location," Jane Wiedlin said. "The mall scenes were in a mall. The high school scenes were in a high school."

De Laurentiis had serious Italian connections. The cast speaks often about all the amazing locations they were able to secure because of De Laurentiis' long reach into Europe. One that shocked them all was the important off-limits historical location in front of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument (Il Vittoriano), "We go to the Piazza Venetia and no one has been in the building since Mussolini left…and we’re doing the So-Crates scene," Winter said, "It really was like Bill and Ted invaded Rome!"

Stephen Herek was the only one who knew it would be a hit. Bill and Ted reminded the director of his own brothers and a pair or former roommates. "I kept telling people to walk through the country’s shopping malls and see the characters first hand with the dialogue rap they have - ‘No way, Hey, dude, Way to go’. I did this research and knew the script was spot on," Herek told Starburst Magazine. "Everyone else felt the film would be of limited interest."

When DEG went out of business, the situation looked bleak. “I got the call saying it’s not going to be released, it's going straight to videotape, and it’s done," Herek said. "Somebody said, 'We shouldn’t even put it on videotape. It’s not going to make one penny.'”

Producer Scott Kroopf said they tested the film with audiences and found a different story.  “It tested so well huge laughs throughout, a level of animation for kids, and shockingly good scores from adults who just thought it was kind of sweet, and lovable, and who were those two boys. The George Carlin thing was so cool for them because they actually knew someone in one of these movies.”

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More than 600 actors were auditioned for the roles of Bill and Ted. Pauly Shore was heavily in contention for the part of Bill.

He didn't know it, but Keanu Reeves was cast as Ted immediately. "[I] saw him, and totally fell in love with this guy. To me, [Reeves] was Ted," director Stephen Herek said in the Making Of documentary about the casting process. "I felt like I had the cornerstone. No matter how many kids I saw after that, Keanu always was the guy."

Herek went back in time to use another pair of doofuses as a template for Bill and Ted. " I had an Abbott and Costello dynamic in my head – I think we saw every young guy in LA," Herek wrote in The Guardian. "Keanu Reeves had this likability about him. He wasn’t even trying to be funny. It was the way he would approach a line: after he said something, he’d have this quizzical look on this face. For our straight man, we boiled it down to 24 guys, and mixed and matched them. Pauly Shore was heavily in the mix, but Alex Winter ended up being chosen."

Alex Winter was known for his role of Marko, one of the vampires in Lost Boys. He did have a musical background - Winter played bass guitar, was a radio DJ in college, and was in an LA band named The Other Band. 

At the time of casting, Keanu Reeves was new to most moviegoers, but known in Hollywood for his role in the indie River's Edge. The film also starred Back to the Future's Crispin Glover and jump-started the career of Ione Skye. Reeves was also in a band at the time, according to Alex Winter. By the time the film came out, though, Reeves had made an impression in Dangerous Liaisons and later in 1989, would have a memorable role in Parenthood as Tod - the brainless boyfriend of Dianne Wiest's daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton). The roles of Ted and Tod would typecast Reeves as a dumb teen.

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter developed a friendship during the audition process -- and that's what got them the job.  “Every time you’d go out into the lobby, there’d be Alex and Keanu in the same conversation, then they’d say, 'oh wait, dude, okay, I’ll talk to you later about that,' and he’d come in and read with another guy, then go back and [they'd] talk some more," said producer Scott Kroopf. "They were both motorcycle freaks and they liked the same music, pretty much with everything they got along.” 

Alex Winter says he and Keanu Reeves secured the roles because of their similar approach to acting. "Because of our theatre backgrounds, we approached the characters in the same way. At that time, everything was 'method' in terms of the sincerity with which you’d look at your character. We were both marrying a clownish-type theatricality with this sincere take. We tried to find the distinctions between them," Winter wrote in The Guardian. "There’s more of a floppiness to Ted, whereas Bill is making more of a concerted effort to attack the world – but he’s failing completely. It might’ve been why Keanu and I clicked on camera. Often the other actors auditioning would be lampooning Bill and Ted; we were genuinely trying to be in their heads."

Keanu Reeves wanted to play Bill. "To be fair to Reeves, it's possible that out of the 80 trillion times we had to do the scenes [in auditions] the very, very last time we went in he happened to get the Bill sides and I happened to get the Ted sides," Alex Winter told WIRED. "We're sitting in the office waiting to meet the producers for the first time and I’m pretty jazzed and he's miserable...I'm like, 'Dude, what's wrong? We finally got it after all this bulls--t,' you know? And he's like, 'Yeah, but I'm Ted.' And I was like, 'Yeah, you're Ted. That's awesome.' He was like, 'I thought I was Bill.' I was like, 'What f--king difference does it make? For god's sake, they're completely interchangeable. If you want you can be Bill and I'll be Ted, I really don't care. It's not going to impact the way I play this guy one iota.'"

Bill and Ted were envisioned as uncool metalheads.  Bill and Ted were envisioned by screenwriters as "14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bellbottoms and heavy metal T-shirts,” according to Ed Solomon said in a 1991 interview. "We actually had a scene that was even shot with Bill and Ted walking past a group of popular kids who hate them. But once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe." 

Bill lives in his own world.  Alex Winter described Bill as, "He’s someone who just lets loose completely, constantly escapes to his fantasyland – completely oblivious to the outside world."

The key element to Bill and Ted is "the puppy factor."  “We figured that Bill and Ted, especially Ted, were big Labrador retrievers -- they just loved life. And, my tweak many times for them was ‘there’s not enough puppy factor.’ They got it and it translated into their sort of lovable goofiness," said Herek in the Making Of documentary. He also told The Guardian there was a reason for that, "Bill and Ted didn’t really have a character arc; it was essentially sketch comedy. So, it was hard for Keanu and Alex to keep the energy factor up all the time – what I called the “puppy factor."

Keanu Reeves found Ted's happy-go-lucky quality exhausting. "I’m playing a guy who’s so insouciant, a naive child of the woods," Reeves said, who thought the role "fun and cleansing." However, Reeves said, "Ted is hard when I don’t have the energy...Being consistent can be difficult, and getting the energy to bring out Ted has been the challenge – keeping up the energy, honesty and that whole look – it’s hard to be a child of the woods in these times!"

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Rufus was first written as a "waste case" student at San Dimas High School. To be specific, “a 27-year old waste case sophomore at San Dimas High School.” 

Instead, Rufus is a sophisticated heavy metal ambassador from the future. "Rufus is very highly evolved," George Carlin said about his character.  "He’s the embodiment of 700 years of elapsed rock-and-roll cool.  He’s a pretty hip dresser, even for the 27th century.  And he appreciates that since history is where it’s at, or at least where it was, it’s never boring."

Rufus was originally styled to be like David Lee Roth. Screenwriter Ed Solomon said then they converted him to being an emissary. Then, he was styled to be similar to David Lee Roth. (“That was when Roth was actually considered to be cool,” Solomon told Cinefan.)

The filmmakers wanted Sean Connery to play Rufus. Alex Winter told The Guardian, "Initially they were thinking of casting action people, actors like Sean Connery in the role. I was so happy when they decided to go for a comedian, and George said yes right away. Rufus is pretty gentle and understated and that's exactly how George was off camera, very different from his comedy persona. He really was a very sincere, big-hearted, understated guy."

It was by chance that producers thought of George Carlin for the role. “I’d gone to a comic relief show and George Carlin performed," producer Scott Kroopf said in Making of Bill & Ted: The Most Triumphant Making Of Documentary. "I hadn’t seen him in 10  or 15 years.  I’d forgotten how amazingly funny he was.”

Bill & Ted was George Carlin's effort to show his skills as an actor. "George works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen as an actor.  He’s a consummate professional.  We have talking about everything – delivery of his lines, his mannerisms – he has been a total joy.  We’ve given him a new look – he’s not very hippy-dippy weatherman any more.  This is the 1980's George Carlin and that’s what’s exciting," director Stephen Herek said to Starlog Magazine. "This is his third film, and he’s really serious about trying to become an actor, rather than just a stand-up comedian."

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SIGMUND FREUD: "Siggy." Nabbed in Austria, Vienna, 1901.

Sigmund Freud was played authentically. Rod Loomis deeply researched the famed psychiatrist.  "I wasn’t looking for his theories, but for the man himself – physical characteristics and attitudes that I would be able to transfer on film.  Little things, like he was a ring-twister, he played with the rings on his hand," Loomis told Starlog Magazine.   

There's a reason Freud is eating a corndog. "There’s also a scene at the mall where I get to eat a hot dog, which is kind of funny.  Rather suggestive, too," said Loomis.  Freud had declared the Phallic Stage of one of the Five Psychosexual Stages of Development. When they're talking to the girls at the mall, the corndog is upright. But, notice when the girls reject him, Freud slowly lowers the corndog. 

In real life, Freud had his own oral fixation: cigars. "Freud was addicted to nicotine and smoked cigars constantly, which I’m going to suggest at the beginning of my scenes, but I didn’t want to have to carry it all the way through.  When I’m picked up by the boys in Vienna, I come out of the office into the street, smoking a cigar," Loomis said. 

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BEETHOVEN: "The Van Halen of his Time." Kidnapped in Kassel, Germany, 1810.

A soap star was cast as Ludwig Van Beethoven. During the '80s, Clifford David was best known to TV audiences for his roles on "Ryan's Hope" and before that, "The Edge of Night."

In the Los Angeles acting community, Clifford David was a well-respected, well known acting coach. "After I made the movie everyone was like, 'Oh my God, you worked with Clifford David! What was that like?" And I came to realize he was this highly revered acting guru," Winter told Empire UK. "I moved to LA from NYU film school just as I made Bill & Ted, so I didn't really know anyone in the industry. Keanu had made more movies than me - I'd just done Lost Boys and then jumped into Bill & Ted. I think Reeves knew Cliff better than I did."

Beethoven has no lines so he spoke with the synth. Beethoven wouldn't know English, so he doesn't speak. Clifford David said to Starlog Magazine, "I thought, ‘What an incredible challenge for me not to speak!’  In these scenes, the synthesizer was an extension of me – at least, I hope that’s how it comes across – speaking through the music and the behavior.  I was fascinated to see if I could find the truth of the character without saying a line!"

Clifford David lowered his hearing capacity to play the deaf pianist.     David said the trick helped him to think like someone who is deaf, and he found he was then forced him to be more attentive to others. He learned to read lips.  

"Beeth-Oven" was made up on the fly.  “Some of the pronunciations were improvised. I remember when it occurred to us call Beethoven Beeth-Oven. it sounded like the funniest thing I ever heard in my life. still makes me laugh.” said Alex Winter.

Clifford David stayed in character as Beethoven during the entire shoot. Winter told Empire UK, "[Clifford David] was super-Method. Because he was supposed to be deaf, he would act deaf. He was sort of pulling a Daniel Day-Lewis. Out of all the historical characters, Cliff was the one in character the whole time he was there. He was Beethoven every day! I would just monkey with him, because I found that really hilarious. I couldn't help but bust on him for taking such a goofy role so seriously. I would only call him 'Beet-oven'. Plus I just loved saying 'Beet-oven'. Who doesn't?"

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GENGHIS KHAN: "A Very Excellent Barbarian." Taken from Outer Mongolia, 1209.

Al Leong is a stunt man who kept getting cast in memorable acting roles. Leong has said many times, "I'm a stunt man, not an actor." However, part of his work as a stunt man, he said, was to do whatever the director told him to do. Sometimes, it's to be an actual character in the film. He’s worked in more than 100 films and was everywhere in the ‘80s. In film, he was Wing Kong Hatchet Man in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Endo in Lethal Weapon (1987), Uli in Die Hard (1988) and a children’s photographer in She’s Having a Baby

At the time, Leong was known as one of the world's leading "lion dancers." Lion dancing is an ancient Chinese dancing ritual with capes. Leong was a founding member of the Four Seas lion dance team, is credited with bringing "guan gung-tyle, red-faced Cantonese lion" to Los Angeles, and the first to do the lion dance across all of L.A.'s Chinatown - climbing "every pole, every rooftop, over every railing" in one day (because someone bet Leong he couldn't). This was a big enough deal that his leadership role in the lion dancing community is mentioned in the press notes. 

To get the part, all Leong needed to do was show up. "I went into casting and they sent me upstairs," he told us in a Facebook message. When he walked in, they told him he had the job. "No reading, no nothing!"

Genghis Khan is Leong's most memorable role. Or is it? The previous year, Leong made a lasting impression as one of Hans Gruber's gang of "terrorist" thieves - he's Uli, the one who steals the candy bar while preparing for a shoot out (a moment Leong improvised). Still, as Genghis Khan, Leong became an action figure.

Genghis Khan is different than Leong's other roles. “It was a lot of fun, everything on it was great," said Leong. "I think that was one of the very films I did not die in!”

Genghis imposing the wrath of Khan on Oshman's Sporting Goods was improv. Jane Wiedlin said, "[Leong] was a high-level athlete and martial artist. In one of the scenes of the movie, he really goes off in a sporting goods store and destroys the store – that was fairly unchoreographed."

Genghis Khan's weapon changes in the final scene. Leong told us, "I dragged that club around forever. When we came to do the ending, I said let me fly back to L.A. and get a better weapon. So, they let me."

A documentary about Leong is coming soon. Henchman: The Al Leong Story highlights his many performances, often in a role of the underling to the main villain. 

Reeves and Winter looked to Al Leong for advice. "He's a legend. Like most martial-arts masters, he was extremely friendly, disciplined and accessible," said Winter to Empire UK. "A super-pro, you know? He would show us martial-arts tricks off-camera and Keanu and I saw him as a sage to get wisdom from. He told us not to take stuff for granted..Al encouraged us to enjoy the moment."

Al "Ka-bong" Leong may be tougher than the real Genghis Khan. In addition to his impressive skills as a martial artist, 66-year-old Leong has survived brain cancer and two strokes. That's in addition to three broken collarbones, 25 fractured ribs, broken limbs and fingers, several knee surgeries, and multiple torn ligaments. Khan died at the age of 64 or 65. Leong is still kicking! 

A person wearing a suit of armor and holding a sword.

JOAN OF ARC: "Noah's wife." Taken from Orleans, France, 1429.

The Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin was pursuing acting on the advice of her manager. Before being cast as Joan of Arc, she'd had a memorable cameos as a singing telegram in Clue (1985) and an alien communications officer in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

Despite a lack of significant acting roles, Wiedlin was cast without an audition.  Director Stephen Herek was a Go-Go's fan and cast her over the phone. She said, "They asked me to practice a little bit of French, in case I had to say anything."

Jane Wiedlin's dialogue was dubbed by another actress. Wiedlin's unique voice is her money maker: she is a professional singer in a massively popular band, so it's surprising to think the filmmakers would replace her voice with that of another actress..“I actually practiced a bunch of French, and they didn't have lines for me but they said to just come up with a bunch of French lines," Wiedlin told Bron James' Entertainment Media Show. However, she said when the film finally was released, she noticed that wasn't her voice! "A few years later, somehow my vocals disappeared and they got somebody who could speak French to do her lines. So when you hear Joan of Arc talking, it's not actually me. Probably my French was really atrocious."

Wiedlin's preparation involved no research on Joan of Arc, but she did learn to fence.  However, she was disappointed she didn't get to use a real sword. "We were using bamboo or wood, which was disappointing. I was looking forward to swinging a real sword. I think it was a good thing it wasn’t a real sword, I probably would have decapitated someone!”

Hollywood's usual way of casting teenagers was exemplified with Joan of Arc. Hollywood has always had a habit of casting actors in their 20s and 30s as teens. Joan of Arc was likely 17 at the age Bill and Ted brought her on their excellent adventure; she was martyred at age 19. Jane Wiedlin was 29.

Only one day of filming was awful for Wiedlin. "Every day of that shoot was fun except there was one day we were in this swamp thing in the mud – that was nota great day. That’s the only day that I was like, 'waaa, it’s too hot, it’s muddy!'" she told Shout! "I was wearing chain mail and armor."

That's definitely a Joan of Arc costume. "It was a really beautiful costume. Supposedly, it was a costume from an earlier Joan of Arc production," Wiedlin said, who said it was perfectly comfortable to wear in Phoenix...indoors. "But, being outside in it was challenging – it was warm!"

Maybe no one else understands why Joan of Arc is doing aerobics, but Weidlin does. One of the strongest criticisms about the film (including from the writers) is that this great young warrior, Joan of Arc, is doing her best Jane Fonda. However, Wiedlin understood why her character would engage. "In the mall scene, I come upon an aerobics class. I’m filled with wonder at seeing the women doing aerobics. The character ends up jumping on stage and pushing the instructor off and I go all Flashdance," she said. "That was a really fun scene to shoot and Stephen [Herek] helped me through it."

A lot of Joan of Arc is still lying on the cutting room floor. "There was a lot of 'historical' footage of me that didn’t get used," she said, saying that she understood getting cut out. "There’s only so much of us you could show. Some of the other guys were so amazing, I’m not surprised at how the screen time was allotted."

A time travel movie fits in perfectly into Wiedlin's passions. The songwriter-musician loves going to comic book conventions and everything space and geek. She told Chicago Pride, "My whole life I've been obsessed with sci-fi, with robots, aliens, outer space, flying saucers, you name it!"

The fencing swords weren't the only sparks that were flying. Alex Winter said in an interview that he was crushing hard on Wiedlin during filming. "Oh God, I can tell you now that I had the biggest crush on her when I was in high school. I went to see the Go-Go's play and I just stood over by her side of the stage and stared at her for two hours. I think I still did that while we were shooting – just stood off to the side and stared at her like an idiot." Winter's love was unrequited, however.

A man in uniform holding a bowling ball.

NAPOLEON: "The Short, Dead Dude." Taken from Austria, 1805.

Australian Terry Camilleri is fluent in five languages. French wasn't one of them. The actor said he had learned some French a decade earlier for a role, but he really didn't know how to speak the language. It didn't matter because none of the historical figures had much dialogue. He told, "The French dialogue I spoke came out of improvisations from ideas I had which Stephen liked.  So between scenes, I was on the phone with friends in Paris and friends in Montreal asking them how to say the lines I was coming up with in French."

During the audition, Terry Camilleri thought he was the least Napoleonic actor in the room.   "I was sitting in the waiting room with about 10-15 Napoleon hopefuls and there were some that looked like dead ringers.  I really didn't think I had much of a chance," Camilleri said. When he was called, he found director Stephen Herek in the room and no lines to recite.  "We sat and had a relaxed talk about some of the work I had done and a bit about the role and the story of the film and then I left.  The following week my agent called me and told me I had the part."

Camilleri didn't research the French Emporer. In his interview with, he said he had seen a comprehensive play on Napoleon's life earlier in the decade. However, he realized doing research might take him in the wrong direction. "When we were on the set, I realized he was a fish out of water.  He was innocent again, he wasn't being judged by anyone and could now fully enjoy life, possibly for the first time.  It was a relief not to have to torture myself with hours or research to be true to his history."

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter pranked Camilleri more than anyone else.  : "I love Terry. He's awesome. But we messed with him mercilessly, because he got so into the character. He was acting emperor-like, though he still did it in a fun-loving, crazy, Australian way — he's a wild Australian with a Napoleonic complex!"Alex Winter told Empire UK, explaining Napoleon was the historical figure they had the most scenes with, so he also was the target of most of their immature behavior. "Terry was subject to endless ridicule and pranking. We would pull a silly face at him or say utter gibberish instead of our lines. We would resort to that, it's fair to say."

Napoleon's favorite scene isn't the one you think. While Camilleri said he enjoyed eating ice cream and had a great day going down water slides for an entire day, that wasn't his favorite part of filming. He said, "I'd have to say the bowling alley scene.  I actually swore in French."

Imagine Napoleon and Ted shredding...because that happened. The cast consistently talks about how much fun they had in their off hours. The opportunity is great when shooting on location, far from home, everyone in the same hotel, and the personalities are open to each other. Camilleri talked about what he'd do during downtime. "There were times when we would go into Keanu's trailer, take out the guitars and jam.  George Carlin and I would pretend to argue in different characters between shots.  It was fun as well as work."

A group of people standing next to each other.

SOCRATES: "Bodacious Philosopher." Picked up in Greece, 410 BC.

Tony Steedman was a well-respected British theater actor. He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Birmingham Repertory Company. He played another notable real people including Shakespeare's Antony, Charles Darwin, and Dr. Samuel Johnson. Steedman said about taking on the ancient philosopher, "There aren’t many people who can question my interpretation." 

The person who would question Steedman's take on Socrates is Socrates. Socrates believed in teaching his students by questioning their own assumptions and beliefs about religion, politics, government, and life to deepen their own understanding. This style of developing critical thinking skills is now called Socratic method.

Tony Steedman struggled with the mall scene. "We shot in The Mall Of America, which I think is the biggest in America. It's the size of five football fields," said Alex Winter. "Tony was not thrilled to do the chase across the ice, when the cops chase them down. If you watch that scene, there's a legitimately pained look on his face as he slides across the ice."

The Greece scenes were shot in Rome. "The stuff with us getting Socrates — that's in the Piazza Venicia, right in the heart of Rome. It's like shooting in Time Square. It was so loud, we had to loop and replace all that dialogue. I don't think anybody had been in that building since they frog-marched Mussolini out of it. It's a very, very important building in Italy. We were only able to shoot it because of Dino's connections," said Alex Winter to Empire UK. 

Tony Steedman was one of the few people in the Socrates scene who spoke English. With the Greece scene being filmed in Italy, the extras were all locals. "All of the other actors in the Socrates scene were Italian, so Tony was dealing with a load of extras who didn't speak English," Winter said. "And two leads who barely spoke English!"

A man in top hat and suit holding his tie.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: "The dude on the penny." Picked up from The White House, 1863.

Robert V. Barron was the go-to Abraham Lincoln of the era. Barron has played the 16th president in TV shows, theater productions, and rock videos. He even played Honest Abe in a one-man show that toured nationally.

That deep voice started his career in entertainment. Barron began working in radio in Charleston, West. Va. He hosted a Saturday morning radio show titled "Bop Shop" on WGKV-AM (now WSWW-AM).

At the time of release, Barron was actually a TV executive for Saban Entertainment. A few years later, he would help bring "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" to American television.  Barron had recognized a trend in translating Japanese animation into American scripts. Saban Entertainment did as well and hired Barron to be their executive director of talent and development. 

Barron had a fan in Jane Wiedlin. Wiedlin spoke about how the historical figures all bonded, drinking in the lobby and going on outings. In a Shout! Factor interview, she said about Barron, "The Lincoln guy was so funny!"

A man wearing a hat and jacket.

BILLY THE KID: "Mr. The Kid." Picked up from New Mexico, 1879.

Dan Shor was cast from a typical Hollywood audition. Dan Shor was known for his role as Ram in Tron and the hit TV series "Cagney & Lacey," but he didn't have any connections to Bill & Ted. He told The Geek Supreme that he was called in along with "a gaggle of cowboys" from a straight-forward agent submission. "I remember going in and doing this Billy the Kid thing, just being a generic cowboy, laughing, going home and getting the job. It was that fast," Shor said, explaining there were no callbacks, just one read and then "going home and they said, 'we want him.' It was really quick, flew to Arizona and then Italy and we shot!"

Dan Shor being cast in the film was to the delight of Alex Winter. "I was pretty psyched to be working with Dan Shor, because he'd been in a bunch of movies that I'd loved: Tron and other things. We hit it off and improvised everything." Winter said.

Dan Shor being cast as Billy the Kid was also a delight to Dan Shor. "I remember just turning 30 years old, putting on a cowboy costume, and being unloosed on the University of Arizona campus – and beware!" he said at a London convention.

Shor initially created a historically accurate portrayal of Billy the Kid which didn't work. "When I got the part, I went back and studied Billy the Kid, read up on all his history. The guy was a syphilitic lunatic! So when I turned up on the first day of shooting, I started to twitch and do all this weird stuff, and they shouted “cut that s--t out! Do it like you did in the audition when you played Generic Cowboy Number 1," Shor told Bron James, and said that, he reverted back to his original "generic cowboy" style and that, in the end, Stephen Herek had it right to play everyone with broad strokes.

Billy the Kid's New Mexico saloon was a Wild West attraction for families. "There’s an Old West village right outside of Tempe...It’s a cowboy village where they’d have wild west shows in the saloon," said Shor about the place now called Rawhide where they filmed and hired the employees as extras. "A lot of those guys worked in the Wild West show. They knew how to stunt fight. They knew all of this stuff, they knew a lot more than I did... they have ‘shootouts’ every day!"

Dan Shor spent a lot of time in bars. Between his "pick up" location in a bar as Billy the Kid to keeping entertained during the off hours in the hotel bar, Shor spent a lot of time in saloon-like environments. "There was a lot of drinking going on! We were stuck in one place for a long time and some days you wouldn’t shoot anything," said Jane Wiedlin about how the historical figures spent most of their off hours.

By the way, that bar-vibe continued later for a future project. Shor created a soap opera for the Northern Mariana Islands (a commonwealth of the United States) "based on all the immigrants living on the island," he said. "'State of Liberty' is about a tiki bar and those who lived functioned around the bar."

Dan Shor became besties with Jane Wiedlin. "Dan Shor, we got to be friends. He was a riot!" said Wiedlin. Shor said, "I went to Jane Wiedlin’s wedding. Then, I saw her this year and she’s doing weddings – she’s an ordained minister. [In 2016], I went to a wedding afterparty with her in New York."

Shor thinks at least two of the historical figures should be in Bill & Ted Face the Music. "I’m in love with [playing] Billy the Kid," Shor told The Geek Supreme. "I should play Billy the Kid again. I should be married to Joan of Arc and living in Jersey!"

A man and woman in medieval garb talking to another person.

HISTORICAL BABES: "Historical Princess Babes." Picked up from 15th Century Medieval England.

Diane Franklin and Kimberley LaBelle did not audition to play the princesses. LaBelle came in for the role of Missy, Franklin read for Joan of Arc. "I thought they were having me come in [for Joan of Arc] because they knew I did a French accent as Monique Junet from Better Off Dead. Surprisingly, the director and writers asked me if I could do a British dialect, so I just started talking to them using the dialect. They were impressed, but I couldn't figure out why Joan of Arc would talk this way?! That's when they asked me if I could see myself playing a princess," Franklin said in a written Q and A to Retroland Lady. "I have to admit I was a little disappointed because I thought it was a much smaller role. Only later did I realized Joan of Arc had no lines, and I would get to play opposite Keanu Reeves. Yeah, I think I got the better role;)”

The actresses switched roles. Diane Franklin wrote in her book that she was originally cast as Princess Elizabeth. 

The princesses worked hard to be authentic. “I first worked with a dialect coach, then later practiced my character by improvising with the dialect. I needed my accent to be as real as possible so that no one would doubt I was a true Medieval babe," Franklin told Retroland Lady. LaBelle Kates said, "I practiced my English accent. My friend was a voiceover specialist, she coached me on it. I don’t think I was very good, I think, with my English accent, it was quite bad."

Exactly which King of England is the father to Princesses Elizabeth and Joanna? There's been a lot of debate about which King Henry is the father of Elizabeth and the lesser known Joanna. First, know that in the original script, they were the daughters of King Richard the Lionheart. Since King Richard died childless, this was clearly a no go, which may be why it was changed to King Henry. So...Henry VIII did have a daughter named Elizabeth, however, this was in the 1500s, not the 15th Century (but given Bill and Ted's non-excellent knowledge of history to this point, a likely mistake). However, Wikipedia leans toward the point of view that it's Henry VII (1485-1509) on a discussion page: "That leaves only one probable explanation for the existence of these two girls, and it can be explained by the hostile disposition of the fictional Henry VII, and his insistence upon forcing those two girls into marriage to two older men: Most likely, they were either stepchildren or the equivalent of adopted children. That may explain why he was so anxious to marry these 2 girls off. If he did father these 2 girls at 13, that would perhaps make a bigger case. It is only by these scenarios that the fictional tale can be applied. But then again, if both girls were 17 or 18 in that scene when Bill and Ted arrived, then Henry VII had to be 31. The actor who played Henry VII in this movie (John Karlsen) looked to be in his late-50s or early-60s. Henry VI died at 49, and Henry VII died at 52." A commenter said, "Or they could be daughters of Edward IV. Henry VII liked to boost his dynasty's claim to royal blood by emphasizing the royal descent of his wife - a daughter of Edward IV. So he'd have been happy to have her sisters at his court and acknowledge them as princesses."

At the time, Franklin was an established film actress, while LaBelle had never been on a movie set. Diane Franklin was a familiar face in the '80s, the unforgettable love interest in The Last American Virgin and Better Off Dead and a scream queen in Amityville II: The Possession. LaBelle, on the other hand, was just a sports model who was just getting started in acting. LaBelle (now Kimberley Kates) said, "It was my first film, I didn’t know what I was doing! It was such a brand new experience in every single possible way. For this girl who grew up in Montana and Idaho, this was so surreal to be flying first class to Europe. I was like, 'okay, here I am walking through the Vatican with George Carlin.' It was really amazing to be at the Coliseum with him and Alex and Keanu and Diane."

YES! So, while in Italy, the production had the weekend off and so Bill, Ted, Rufus, the princesses explored Rome together. Franklin said, "Kim and I had a blast site-seeing with them in Italy.”

Franklin and LaBelle became fast friends. aBoth women have spoken about how they became good friends, LaBelle Kates likening their friendship to a sisterhood - noting that Franklin actually has the same birthday as her own sister. The time together overseas bonded the women. "We went out to dinner a lot together, and shopping, and she went on all our jaunts around Rome with me, Alex, Keanu, George, and Ed Solomon." LaBelle has supported Franklin's books by supplying photos and content and being a guest on Franklin's podcasts.

The medieval England scenes were shot in a real castle. Castello Orsini-Odescalchi is where Bill and Ted meet Princesses Joanna and Elizabeth. It would later become the place where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married. LaBelle Kates said they had to shoot at a real castle: "They didn’t have green screen back then!"

LaBelle was suffering from a queasy stomach while shooting the castle scenes. "We had racecar drivers drive us. I had never had an espresso coffee before..." LaBell Kates said, explaining that between the new beverage and the car zipping through the curvy hills, it made her sick. "That was bad for Diane and everyone in the back seat!”

Keanu Reeves was shy around Diane Franklin. While Ted and Princess Joanna had a love connection, Franklin writes in her book that Reeves was quiet and reserved around her. "He shook my hand, and after that we barely spoke off screen. I don't know whether it was his busy film schedule or what but he was more reclusive."

Franklin and LaBelle were both deeply hurt they were recast for the second film. "It was really a crushing moment. I was already given the shooting dates for Diane and I to go forward with the shoot. [Then, friend] Leah Remini came up to me and said, 'By the way, I went in for one of the princesses today!' That’s how I found out – it was a terrible way to find out," LaBelle Kates said in an interview, saying she and Franklin were forced to re-audition for their roles -- which of course, they then did not get. At first, LaBelle Kates said that reeling, she mistakenly thought that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were behind the situation, people she'd considered to be friends. She later learned a different reason. "It was the director [Peter Hewitt] , they gave him casting approval, and he was English, and I don’t believe he liked Diane and me for the English princesses."

Of all her notable roles, Franklin said she's most remembered for Princess Joanna. "Bill & Ted’s the one [role] that has the most international recognition out of all my films. So it does go to show, you would do a role in something, and you could get huge recognition from a small part in a big film."

A group of people standing next to each other.


The Three Most Important People in the World were supposed to be ZZ Top. Stephen Herek told Starburst he always thought of the bearded rockers in the role of the wise futuristic leaders. "I purposely wanted the ‘Hey, isn’t that . . . ‘ response. Obviously, stars like Madonna would have tipped the balance and detracted from the story. Originally I wanted ZZ Top to be The Three Most Important People, but dealing with rock stars is always a huge problem. My main concern was to keep the story in focus at all times."

The Motels' Martha Davis recruited The Tubes' Fee Waybill to play one of the Most Important People. "Martha has a couple of gorgeous daughters and one of her daughters is married to someone who is involved in the production of Bill and Ted. I guess they had Clarence Clemons, the sax player for Bruce Springsteen, and Martha and they needed one more rock person" he said to "Martha said 'I know Fee. I know his number and he can act! He is an hour away in Los Angeles." 

Amy Stoch won the part despite not matching the character description. "Basically, I didn’t have the bust to play Missy. I wasn’t a very well-endowed person, which is fine, but they wanted Missy to be a bombshell," Stoch told Be Kind and Rewind. They called her back six times, every time she'd be competing for the role with a new group of "young, buxom beauties." Of course, in the '80s, large breasts were expected for these types of roles. Stoch believes her comedic chops is what ultimately helped her book the role.

Plenty of characters and historical locations were scrapped. Screenwriter Ed Solomon told Entertainment Weekly he'd envisioned people like Charlemagne, Christopher Columbus and Richard Nixon; that the boys would go back to the Revolutionary War and the Russian Revolution, as well as explore Magna Carta, Arthurian Legend, and maybe work in some pirates or some ancient Egyptians.“One of the popular kids in the school ended up friends with Hitler for some reason," he said. 

Deacon now works in reality TV. Frazier Bain played the role of twerpy little brother perfectly, but that was more or less the start and finish of his acting career. Bain went on to work his way up the ladder in unscripted televison and is currently a producer in the genre.

A group of people sitting in a bus.

THE PHONE BOOTH: Bill and Ted reach out and touch history.

The time machine was originally a van. Originally, the script had the friends traveling by van, but given 1985's monster hit Back to the Future and its memorable DeLorean time travel device, the writers felt they needed to come up with something else. "[Director Stephen] Herek found it too Scooby-Doo, I think?" Winter told WIRED, "He wanted it to be something that had a bit more energy and a bit more technology." Director Stephen Herek came up with putting them in a phone booth, a tip of the hat to the TARDIS in "Dr. Who;" Solomon and Matheson say they were totally unfamiliar with "Dr. Who" at the time.

The time capsule was to be like a roller coaster. Herek said he was looking for something that would be a ride. He said in the Making Of documentary, "Bill and Ted are the ultimate kids, they’re surfers, and here’s a ride…let’s go on a ride!”

Ultimately, a phone booth seemed to just make sense. "You punch in the right number and you go through whatever fiber optics would be and be spit up," Herek said. Production designer Ray Forge Smith had a different notion: "We wanted a sense of these guys screaming through space like they’re going down a tunnel to create that panicky look. We swung them from a crane that almost made them travel sick."

Is there a Dr. Who connection? Some believe that the phone booth was a tip of the hat to Dr. Who, which was not yet well known in the U.S. In fact, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were completely oblivious to Dr. Who so it's actually uncertain if the idea was lifted from the British sci-fi series. 

The phone booth was everyone's least favorite thing. "It sort of became a bit of albatross," said Herek. "No one really liked being in it. Nothing ever worked right away, you always had to put it together with spit and bubblegum. It never shattered or anything-- [but] We really had to drop a phone booth from a crane – not with anybody in it, necessarily, that was the only way we could get, for the money we had, to get the actual dropping effect."

All of the actors enjoyed the entire shoot, but none of them liked filming the scenes in the phone booth. Sometimes eight humans would be crammed in at once, which became even more uncomfortable when it started “traveling.” Alex Winter told Starlog:  "While we were doing all the blue-screen shots, I thought I was going to be thrown out of this giant, motorized phone booth.  It was attached to a hydraulic shifting device – it’s hard to act in that kind of environment!  I had to focus myself really hard and pull myself into where I am.  I’m in a studio in front of a painted blue wall, with this metal hydraulic thing whining and groaning under my feet; I’m bucking like a bronco being tossed around.  In the midst of all that, I have to act!?"

Jane Wiedlin was the only historical figure to escape the phone booth. As the smallest (and only female) in the phone booth, Joan of Arc only had to do one day before Herek pulled her. Wiedlin said, "Trying to cram everyone in the phone booth was challenging. I got super squished in there. I don’t know if you can see me in there!" In fact, Dan Shor said you couldn't see her, so they didn't make her do any more scenes in the booth.


Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson are not fans of the visit to the mall. Solomon wrote on Twitter, "The mall stuff was always our least favorite stuff; mostly cause they weren't 'Bill&Ted' jokes - they could be in *any* movie."

Ted's hair is a Keanu Reeves' creation that was integral to the character. Ted's hair that always looks like it just saw something alarming was intentional, and in Reeves' opinion, crucial to Reeves to his portrayal of the character. “Ted Hair was really hard to do, I gotta give Keanu credit for that. Ted Hair had to be kinda out ... but it had to be out at this kinda physically impossible level. But not too high. The makeup department would say, 'oh, I'll just spray it!' and he'd say 'no, that's not what I want,'" Alex Winter said in an EW interview while sitting with Reeves, describing how his co-star sometimes delayed shooting so he could get it just right. "It is kind of genius, I do kind of love it, but I had to suffer for months with him trying to get it where it needed to be...When it works, it does just make you laugh your butt off -- it is just kind of funny!"

George Carlin was a different than his persona to everyone on set -- except for Keanu Reeves. Alex Winter described him to EW as “this incredible, spiritual, beautiful human being.” Diane Franklin said to, "I love George Carlin. Seriously, he was the sweetest, most polite guy when we were shooting." But Reeves said when they were done filming, he asked Carlin for an autograph; the comedian wrote “Hey Keanu. F--k you.”

Eddie Van Halen would have joined the Wyld Stallyns if they'd have asked. The Van Halen guitarist gets a lot of wordplay in the film.  It turns out, he would have been up for real play. He has said that if he was asked to be in the film, he would have.

Eddie Van Halen attended the premiere but didn't see the film. Eddie Van Halen was late, missed the film, and said he’d watch it later at home when it came out on video.

Alex Winter’s favorite line in the film was cut. Winter wrote on Reddit that in the medieval England scenes he uttered his favorite line to the king: "How's it going Royal Goat-Faced dude?"

The Wild West scene was fantasy fulfillment for Alex Winter. Winter told Starlog Magazine that it was a childhood dream come true: "I’ve always wanted to shoot a Western scene strolling through town, walking through the bar doors, and having everyone stop and look at me as I order, ‘Two beers!’  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do...It’s a shame I had to do it as a complete bonehead, but it was still fun.  It’s rare to find a comedy that’s actually funny!"

Most hilarious studio note: Don’t these guys like any bands other than Iron Maiden? Interscope's other questions: Do we need the textbook at all with them on their travels? What happens to the van? What is the time frame of the movie?  24 hours?

While Bill and Ted were traveling through time to learn history, Alex and Keanu were traveling through Europe to learn history. Alex Winter said, "We shot most of the movie in Phoenix and then left and shot another chunk in Rome, with a different crew. On the weekends a lot of us went to the Vatican to go see stuff, so we and the historical figures who made it to Europe would traipse around as tourists together."

The writers had to pay their own way to Rome. The truth about Hollywood movies is that once the script is done, writers are sometimes pushed to the side while the film is being made. Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were welcome in Phoenix, but the studio wouldn’t fly them to Rome for the European shoot, they had to pay for it out of their own pocket. They hung out with the cast, but the writers weren’t given per diem money. Solomon said, “They’d all be eating these big fancy dinners and we’d sit there at the table like peasants until they felt sorry for us!”

The phone booth is some random guy's house in Mississippi. Nintendo Power Magazine hosted Bill and Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure. The winner was a kid named Kenneth Grayson of Mississippi.

Alex Winter has disavowed any future wearing of crop tops. He told The Guardian, "I think I'd look like the dad from Family Guy if I did that."

Alex Winter's dream time travel destination is Paris. If he could, Winter said he'd like to go back to Fin De Siècle, the end of the 19th Century that inspired an art movement.

Dick Van Dyke was on set. The Three Most Important People set was at Carefree Studios, better known as Dick Van Dyke studios. "I actually got to meet Dick Van Dyke, which was pretty cool!" Fee Waybill told

Nelson and Dweezil Zappa are on the soundtrack under a fake band name. It's tough to find any albums or music videos from Power Tool because "Two Heads Are Better Than One" is the band's only single. Gunnar Nelson told Popdose how that came to pass: "Matthew and I, we were in the middle of doing all of our writing for the first record with Geffen, we were trying to impress John Kalodner, and the manager that we were working with at the time knew a music supervisor who had caught wind of a new movie that we just thought had the dumbest title we’d ever heard of: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. (Laughs) And they came to us and said, “You guys have been doing a lot of writing and stuff. Would you like to contribute a song?” And we had just written a song for our first Nelson record called “Two Heads Are Better Than One.” And this was at least a year before Kalodner said “yes” and before we had our deal, but we were courting him and all that stuff, and he just said, “Listen, if you want me to continue to consider you guys, if you use this song in the movie, you can’t call it Nelson. You can’t call it Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. Nothing having to do with you guys. It has to be under an assumed name.” So Matthew and I and Dweezil (Zappa), who we co-wrote the song with, came up with Power Tool. So it was a one-off sort of thing that happened, but it wound up being the theme song of the movie!"

A group of people in tuxedos standing next to each other.


Ted's brother Dan is the druggie, not Bill and Ted (...or are they??) Ted had an older brother Dan, who he is told is at Harvard. In reality, Captain Logan kicked Dan out of the house for doing drugs and Dan is basically living in a van down by the river. The whole Dan element was removed for simplicity, but Ed Solomon released on Twitter letters Ted and Dan wrote to each other in the early days, before the script was written - which has Ted writes he's "totally wasted" and makes a "reefer" joke. Solomon tweeted, "Chris found the letters we wrote *as* Ted & his brother Dan. This was late 1983, early 1984. It should be noted that even though Bill & Ted evolved & by the time we wrote the movie they didn't do any drugs at all, I guess early on they did.."

Other offenses that make Bill and Ted less than squeaky clean were removed. In the second draft, Ted asks the woman walking into Circle K if she'll buy them a beer. When Rufus approaches, Ted's first interaction is asking if he'll buy them a beer. In this same script version, when Bill and Ted are in Bill's bedroom trying to figure out history, they call Moses and So-crates "fags."

The history report was presented in the classroom. The auditorium scene is a reshoot. Initially, it was filmed with Bill and Ted presenting to Mr. Ryan and their classmates (the popular kids are seen dressed in historical costumes for their own reports - such as Betsy Ross). According to, the reshoot took place about three weeks after the classroom shoot.

The original ending had Bill and Ted taking the princesses to prom. The boys wore tuxes with shorts, and the Alex Winter told Entertainment Weekly about how the first take went: “We just [brought] the historical figures back to our classroom. And Keanu just sat on the desk, and watched them kind of talk about who they were. Then we’d go to the prom, and that’s the end. Even while we were shooting it, we were kind of depressed.” Diane Franklin said, "After seeing the dailies, the director decided the guys should remain single and focused on their music."

Thus, necessitating the need to cut the promposal scene. Bill and Ted asked cheerleaders Buffy and Jody to the prom, to which they received a snickering refusal.

Bill and Ted were bullied. In the parking lot scene, Ox, Randolph and cheerleaders Buffy and Jody taunt Bill and Ted and call them miscreants. Our good-natured heroes, though, are oblivious to the mistreatment and Ted thinks their slam is a compliment. It was filmed, but in the end, all scenes were removed that showed Bill and Ted as misfits.

The studio wanted Mr. Ryan to be the villain. One notable thing about Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is that there isn't a villain. The bad guy may be Captain Logan who is threatening to send Ted to Oats Military Academy, but honestly, that's just because Ted isn't succeeding in school. The original script did show Ox, Randolph and the popular kids as Bill and Ted's nemesis. But then, in the script notes from Interscope, they asked that Bill and Ted's history teacher have it in for them - that he wants to flunk them. Here is what was submitted to Solomon and Matheson and posted on "We can omit the jocks as antagonists, making Mr. Ryan much tougher, an intense adversary who has really had it in for Bill and Ted since time immemorial.  Ryan can at this point tell the boys their topics, leave the historical figures to them, but they should be assured one will be 'the short dead dude.'  Throughout the script, we should get the sense these boys have been unfairly persecuted by Ryan at every turn.  Ryan may say to the boys "now you know your topics, and you know how much I want to see you fail.  You might even want to start thinking about extra credit."  Or something else that allows us to see him as the villain from the start.  We also need to set up the ticking clock better.  Bill and Ted need to be aware of when their report is due - it’s Thursday and the report’s due the next afternoon possibly."

Wyld Stallyns was an air guitar band: Bill and Ted didn't actually play instruments. This helps make more sense of the recurring images of Bill and Ted air strumming in the future and Bill and Ted discussing that if Ted is sent to military school, they won't be able to form a band (when, it seems, they have already formed a band). A scene was filmed and left on the cutting room floor that had Bill and Ted break out into an air guitar concert at the bus stop.

Somewhere, there's a lot more footage of the Three Most Important People in the World and the historical figures. Fee Waybill said that the Three Most Important People in the World actually had quite a bit of dialogue, all of which was cut. Jane Wiedlin said it was a similar scenario with the historical figures, but she understands why: "There was a lot of historical footage of me that didn’t get used. There’s only so much of us you could show…some of the other guys were so amazing, I’m not surprised at how the screen time was allotted."

Rufus also had a wise-cracking dog named DogRufus. The dog was in the vein of another time traveler, Mr. Peabody. The dog was dropped, human Rufus remained but evolved into a wise ambassador. The revelation came from Ed Solomon when he released his original notes on Twitter.

Adolph Hitler was one of the historical figures.  It was originally noted, "[Bill and Ted] end up, say, in Nazi Germany, and after causing trouble, bring Hitler back to San Dimas. He's stranded there and they go back in time again." In an outline, it states that Hitler and Randolph become friends. Ed Solomon commented on Twitter, "We toyed with Hitler and then we were like 'Actually we can't do that.' (For a lot of reasons.) And we swapped it out w Napoleon." Here is a moment from the script notes Solomon tweeted:

"Mr. Davis, we have been collecting people for our history report. For instance, Adolf Hitler is in San Dimas as we speak."

"Uh huh. Where?"

"At Gremlins. Which is excellent!"

"The microwave scene? Where the gremlin explodes?!" AIR GUITAR.

Fun fact about the scrapped dialogue, according to Ed Solomon: "This was before we knew that our first "job" as a team would be to write - & fail at - a draft of Gremlins 2."

The original script referenced its inspiration.

TED: "This is just like Time Bandits!"

BILL: "But those were midgets."

TED: "Not midgets, Bill - Little People."

Three people dressed up in costumes posing for a picture.


Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure has aged well. Reviews were not kind in 1989, but over time, reviews have grown more positive with some critics giving full-throated endorsements. However, at the time of its release, the major papers panned it as a dumb comedy. Currently, its Rotten Tomatoes score is Certified Fresh (lifted by recent reviews) and its Metacritic score stinks at 44% (with most reviews coming from the original release date). 

The lone visionary seems to have been the critic from The Boston Phoenix. The Boston Phoenix no longer exists, but at the time, the paper was known for supporting counterculture and creating a fresh style of media criticism. Perhaps that's why Charles Taylor's 1989 Phoenix review is one of the few that appreciated one of the most beloved movies of the '80s. Taylor opened with, "Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are teenagers who speak in a weird combination of doper slang and excessive formality: it's as though Ridgemont High's Jeff Spicoli had devoured 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary." He later acknowledges that "some of the gags will make you grin days later." He finishes up with recognizing the teen movie's odd originality:  “It's something we haven't seen before -- a wish-fulfillment fantasy for screw-ups.”

New York Times called it "a painfully inept comedy." It's fair to say that 65-year-old NYT critic Vincent Canby didn't get it. He was boggled by Bill and Ted's elaborate word choices mixed with their low-wattage brain power, calling them "inconsistent ciphers."  He also wrote the film "is meant to be funny, but it only swells the sinus passages."

Variety was impressed with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, but not the film. The review stated about the time jumping: "Each encounter is so brief and utterly cliched that history has little chance to contribute anything to this pic’s two dimensions," but then went on to say, "Reeves, with his beguilingly blank face and loose-limbed, happy-go-lucky physical vocabulary, and Winter, with his golden curls, gleefully good vibes and ‘bodacious’ vocabulary, propel this adventure as long as they can."

The Los Angeles Times was less courteous to Reeves and Winter.  The hometown paper also dissed the film, calling it the "unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness' sake." As for the two leads: "Both performances of Bill and Ted Both of them are sad clones of a movie character: Jeff Spiccoli (sic)."

The Washington Post's Hal Hinson had a problem with the depiction of the historical figures. "Hinson thought the premise was promising, but wrote:"Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who wrote the script, have made only the sketchiest attempts to draw their historical characters. They exist as foils and nothing else, and the gags that are hung on them are far from first-rate." Hinson had a couple of zingers about the film's heroes as well, writing about the characters: "Together, these San Dimas, Calif., teens probably couldn't muster the brainpower to operate soap." And, about Reeves and Winter's portrayals, "The stars themselves are frisky and companionable, like unkempt ponies."

However, Hinson picked up on something others did not - Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is an example of short-distance time travel.  Hinson wrote in The Washington Post: "If ignorance is bliss, these are the most blissed-out kids ever. But because the characters they're playing and the lingo they spout are already out of date, the timing of the picture seems out of whack. It's peddling last year's hip." He was right. The film gestated for a long time between conception and release. Solomon and Matheson conceived the concept in the early '80s, wrote it and sold it the first time in 1985, filmed it in early 1987, and it was released in 1989. Times, attitudes, and slang changed enormously 'from year to year in the '80s, much less over the course of a decade. 


No one was more surprised about Bill & Ted's massive success than the cast. 

  • "It surprised all of us—and I don't mean that in a lame Hollywood, false modest way. I mean, we really did not expect it at all," Alex Winter told WIRED. "We really didn't think it was going to be a phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. Let's be honest, it's not Citizen Kane, you know what I mean? And it's not Star Wars. It isn't that magnitude of movie, and yet it seems to last; a lot of other similar movies from that era didn't."
  • "I was so surprised at how good it was, because it seemed so goofy when we shot it," Jane Wiedlin said. "Then, it sat around for years, so I thought, I guess it wasn’t good. I have to give credit to the editing!"

Why Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure struck a chord and still holds up today.  After thought, members of the cast have tried to identify what makes the film so resonant.

  • "It’s more about being a kid and not diving into adulthood at that age that I think is really attractive to people," Alex Winter said in the Making Of documentary.
  • "It’s funny, but it’s funny in a really sweet way and a goofy way. A lot of movies are funny in a mean way, where they’re putting someone down. Bill and Ted are such nice guys and goofballs. It’s just very endearing," said Jane Wiedlin. "I love the thing about the Circle K parking lot. It’s just so American."
  • "It’s a fun movie all around, it doesn’t take itself too seriously," said Dan Shor.

The movie became an instant franchise. Kids really loved Bill and Ted at a time when merchandising to kids was at its height. It spawned:

  • a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
  • a cereal
  • a video game
  • a cartoon Fox Kids TV series, "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures," with Winter and Reeves voicing their characters.
  • a live-action, short-lived Fox comedy series, also titled "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures," recasting Bill and Ted.
  • a Universal Studios theme park stage show for their Halloween Horror Nights. 

August 21, 2020 will see the release of a third film, Bill & Ted Face the Music. In May 2018, it was announced a third film was in the works, although all admit the financing has been tough. The idea came out during the making of Bogus Journey, a joke about making a film when Bill and Ted are 45 or 50, to show these characters as middle age men. The joke became more serious in the last decade. "The idea was hatched by the four of us about 10 years ago – Keanu and myself and Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon," Winter said. "Most films aren’t easy, but a comedy sequel 25 years later wasn’t a slam dunk for most studios. While they loved the script it took us time to convince the financiers. And when they came on board they really came on board. And you know, they’ve had plenty of time to make the script great. The upside of it taking so long is the script is really good!” 

The appetite for a third Bill and Ted movie seems to exist. “The fan response has been enormous. It helped us get the financing because there was an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea of us doing this. Even in the age of internet comment trolling, we haven’t really encountered any pervasive negativity," Winter said. The concerns that I’ve encountered are totally valid — don’t screw up the tone of the first two, make it a real Bill & Ted movie. And the question of how you revisit these characters so much later, that I’m not concerned about, because we think the comedy works great. Not that I want the film to stall any longer, but in a way, given the plotline, the older we get the funnier it gets.”

A group of people dressed up in costumes.


Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were instantly famous. Life changed overnight for Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. Winter told The Guardian, "The day it came out I remember walking into a restaurant and everyone in there freaked out when they saw me – I'd never had anything like that before," he says. "And my life's never been the same. There hasn't been a day since then that someone hasn't come up to me to ask about Bill & Ted."  

Winter brought his child to "Waterloo's Water Park." Big mistake. As an adult, Winter took his kid to Raging Waters, the waterpark in San Dimas that is used for the exterior shot. “I made the mistake of going to Raging Waters once with my son. We didn't shoot in San Dimas so I forgot the connection. Needless to say I was mobbed,” he said on Reddit.

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter met for dinner during Halloween – it didn’t go as planned. “Once we accidentally stepped out of a restaurant into the middle of the NYC Halloween Parade," Winter recalled on Reddit. "Someone walked past us and said (without irony) "hey look, it's two old fat guys trying to be Bill and Ted."

The roles affected Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter careers differently. Keanu Reeves felt playing dimwit Ted was something he had to overcome in his acting career. On the other hand, Alex Winter felt playing Bill was an asset to his post-Bill & Ted pursuit. Winter wrote in his Reddit AMA: “Starring in a hit franchise is only good for your career. It opened a lot of doors that allowed me to move into writing and directing, my first love.”

By the wrap party, the cast was tight. "Everybody was staying at the same hotel, I think it was the Holiday Inn -- it wasn’t a fancy hotel. We were there for at least six weeks. All the character actors, who played historical figures, we all bonded right away, we’d all be at the bar every night. It was like summer camp for adults, it was really fun," Jane Wiedlin said. "There was no drama, it was an easy, fun experience. Working with the historical figures, those actors were all character actors and voice-over actors, those kind of people are always a ton of fun to be around…they don’t have ego or anything."

The fun atmosphere led to a more willing cast. "It was one of the only movies where I’d ever been on where we’d do anything. The whole shoot was a party," Dan Shor said. "We really liked each other."

The friendships that blossomed are still intact:

The friendship between Bill and Ted was real. Dan Shor explained what he witnessed, "Keanu and Alex loved each other: that’s a real bromance. No one loves each other like those two guys – you don’t lose that, it doesn’t go away."

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are still best friends. “He's like my brother – we hang out all the time together," Winter said about Reeves. "We go on holidays together and our families are very close. He is one of my very, very closest friends."

Friendships led to future work together. "Terry [Camilleri] is one of my old friends," said Dan Shor. "We actually did a play together in Los Angeles right before Bill & Ted: "Drums of the Night." Then, I directed him years later in Kafka's "The Trial" in LA. Terry’s a great guy.

Some of the historical figures go to conventions together. Dan Shor said, "I did one of these signing things with Al Leong and Jane. We have so much fun together!"

Despite all the great musicians on set, none of them pulled out a guitar, a sax or a mic: it was Wyld Stallyns, all the time. "[Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's] was in acting mode, so she didn't play at the wrap parties. Reeves and I played," Alex Winter said.  "We were both really bad musicians and we had that wonderful combination of overconfidence and under-ability that makes for very entertaining performances. We both played bass, which is quadrupally pathetic. Yeah, we played with the Wyld Stallions drumkit, with the princesses on them. We went totally bananas, but none of us could play worth a damn."

Fate brought Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin together one last time. Winter and Reeves were dining together when they ran into Carlin at a restaurant. Soon after, Carlin passed away. “No idea he was that sick. Feel lucky we got a moment with him," Winter wrote on Reddit.

A group of young men standing on the sidewalk.


Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were instantly famous. Life changed overnight for Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. Winter told The Guardian, "The day it came out I remember walking into a restaurant and everyone in there freaked out when they saw me – I'd never had anything like that before," he says. "And my life's never been the same. There hasn't been a day since then that someone hasn't come up to me to ask about Bill & Ted."  

Winter brought his child to "Waterloo's Water Park." Big mistake. As an adult, Winter took his kid to Raging Waters, the waterpark in San Dimas that is used for the exterior shot. “I made the mistake of going to Raging Waters once with my son. We didn't shoot in San Dimas so I forgot the connection. Needless to say I was mobbed,” he said on Reddit.

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter met for dinner during Halloween – it didn’t go as planned. “Once we accidentally stepped out of a restaurant into the middle of the NYC Halloween Parade," Winter recalled on Reddit. "Someone walked past us and said (without irony) "hey look, it's two old fat guys trying to be Bill and Ted."

Bill and Ted speak mainstreamed, to the chagrin of all. Alex Winter said, “I remember once I was in Paris between the first and the second Bill & Ted films and there were all these French kids talking like Bill and Ted and I thought, holy crap, what have we done?"

The roles affected Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter careers differently. Keanu Reeves felt playing dimwit Ted was something he had to overcome in his acting career. On the other hand, Alex Winter felt playing Bill was an asset to his post-Bill & Ted pursuit. Winter wrote in his Reddit AMA: “Starring in a hit franchise is only good for your career. It opened a lot of doors that allowed me to move into writing and directing, my first love.”

A long tail of lights in the sky


For a film about going back in time, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was oddly metaphoric if not prophetic about the Technology Age that was still a decade away. WIRED had an interesting observation: The internet wasn't widely available when the movie was released in 1989, but in retrospect Bill and Ted's could be viewed as an allegory about it. Think about it: young people who put codes into a phone line so they can pull up historical information they're too lazy to look for in books? (The flick also eerily foreshadowed Reeve's career as Neo, who basically schlepped in and out of the Matrix in phone booths.) This analogy rings especially true for Winter, who made the Napster documentary Downloaded and is now working on a doc about Bitcoin. It also can help explain why the film has been as popular on the internet as a whole. "In the same way that Doctor Who has had such a massive resurgence because of internet culture I think that Bill &Ted absolutely has a connectivity with internet culture," Winter says. "Because it's all about these guys who can go wherever they want really fast, with ease, which is sort of like what the internet is."

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is really about the hope that the future will be better than the current circumstances. The Nerd King points out that all of the historical figures live or die tragically, but through Bill and Ted, they "got a brief glimpse of a world they had only dreamed of.  Some marveled over wondrous experiences and technologies, while others saw the future of their work and knew their work was not in vain.  And when they met their tragic fates, perhaps their minds flashed back (or forward) to a place and time that was full of promise, a world they helped to create."

The film demonstrates the Novikov self-consistency principle in quantum physics and the theory of relativity. The theory, in a nutshell, says that Bill and Ted would be able to travel back in time and temporarily pull their heroes out of their era and expose them to the future without altering future events because they can't - the future events are already laid out, so there's no way to change what will be.


Surely, the Wyld Stallyns curated the soundtrack for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. It had a respectable soundtrack featuring '80s hair bands, like Extreme, Power Tool (really Nelson and Dweezil Zappa), and Sunset Strip band Shark Island. The key is that the soundtrack was released by A & M Records in 1989 and nearly all the acts were on label -- except one. Nelson had made a splash on "Saturday Night Live" but was in the process of signing a deal with Geffen; not wanting to create an issue for the record deal, they created the band name Power Tool for the release of "Two Heads are Better Than One."

Director: Stephen Herek

Screenwriter: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon

Release date: Feb. 17, 1989

Rating: PG

Opening weekend rank: Opening Weekend Rank: #3 (#1 was Tom Hanks comedy The ‘Burbs)


Opening Weekend Box Office: $6.17 million

Lifetime Gross: $40 million

Budget: $10 million

Production Company: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG)

Distributor: Orion Pictures