You can be excellent to each other at any age, but as Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) find in Bill & Ted Face the Music, it’s hard to feel excellent about yourself when you feel like you’re not living up to your potential. Of course, most people weren’t told in high school that they’d eventually save the world.
At a recent virtual group interview attended by io9, Winter and Reeves—who are both 55 years old—chatted about what it was like slipping back into the much-loved characters of Bill and Ted, with necessary adjustments made to address how the passage of time has affected the duo.
“The film...went through a lot of iterations with the script that we all worked on together and [writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon] put a lot of effort into,” Winter said. “During that time, it gave me a chance to wrap my head around who this guy was at this age, and Keanu and I spent a lot of time talking about those things. So it wasn’t like I just had to suddenly turn it on like a switch. I had time to prepare. And then, there was also a familiarity to working with Keanu...the instinctive nature of the way we riff on the dialogue, and that stuff just kind of did kick in on its own.”
Of course, Bill and Ted aren’t just regular guys—as their movies have been telling us since 1989, they’re destined to save the world through the power of their music. But when we catch up with them in Bill & Ted Face the Music, we see how that’s weighed on them over the years, especially since it’s nearly three decades later and the world still hasn’t been enlightened by their musical works.
“It’s been many years since we’ve seen them last, and during those years they’ve lived life and, you know, they’ve...been...together with this kind of pressure of this destiny that they were given, and responsibility of uniting the world through music that they haven’t been able to do,” Reeves said. “Just how did those pressures [affect them], what does that look like? So to play these guys who are still familiar—but not caricatures of themselves—from the past, and [also] be present so that we feel the weight of these guys, as well as their joy and their lightness and their spirit.”
Not (yet) living up to their fate has affected every aspect of their lives, including when it comes to relating to their families, as Winter explains. “In typical Bill and Ted fashion, they’re very kind of simple guys who’re always facing these gigantic challenges. In this case, since we have not succeeded in writing the song that will save the world—and ultimately, turns out, reality as we know it—that could be ascribed to any challenge one faces at a certain point in their life, only not writ quite so large. So that’s really what’s impacting us—how do we relate to our wives and our daughters? We’re having some trouble with our wives...our daughters love us very much but they know that we’re having a hard time. And you know Keanu and I just leaned into the grounded stuff, so did [director] Dean Parisot; it was very important for him to kind of find a grounded foundation from which to launch into this completely insane narrative.”
Though the plot of the movie follows Bill and Ted as they travel to the future in search of the version of them that did succeed in writing that song, Reeves couldn’t pinpoint a favorite version of the characters. “I can’t choose that,” he said. “I think it was more just emotionally, just the characters...got kind of dark, so it’s nice to play this darkness against the lightness of it. They’re almost like exuberantly darker.”
Bill and Ted Face the Music comes out August 28.
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