In 1989, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves closed out the ’80s with the cult time-travel classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Then, two years later, they doubled-down on their brand of excellent-dude hijinks with Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. While Bill and Ted firmly found their place in pop culture, the duos work was presumed done. But it isn’t. And in the brand-new film, Bill and Ted Face The Music — directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) — Bill and Ted basically catch-up with their fanbase. The new movie begins with these radical former rockers, living their lives as hapless, and pretty uncool suburban dads. They’re playing prog rock at weddings. They’re in couples’ counseling. Their daughters are totally rad, but Bill and Ted are not exactly the rock and roll dudes we expected them to become.
For Alex Winter, returning to the role of Bill wasn’t a joke. Bill and Ted Face the Music is a lighthearted, silly movie, designed to deliver some late ’80s/early ’90s comfort, sure. But, underneath that layer is a slightly more serious movie about growing old and growing up and being a dad.
Fatherly caught up with Winter just before Bill and Ted Face the Music hits digital download. He told us that this movie is a love letter to suburban dads everywhere. In addition to giving us some good recommendations for new records to spin inside, he also got real about how fathers manage their expectations when the dreams of their youth are clearly behind them.
I guess the first sort of, kind of maybe obvious question is, what did it take to sort of get back into character? Or was it not the same character?
It was a little of both. It was a return to those characters for sure. And yet, what I responded to when this idea was first pitched to us was that Bill and Ted were not going to just be cardboard cutouts of themselves from that ’90s era. They were going to be their own people with their own lives and their issues. It’s fun. But it’s challenging, to try and find a character that you played 25 years ago and wrap your head around how they would have evolved. What do you want to keep and what you want to discard and what you want to communicate? From an acting standpoint, it was very intriguing for both me and Keanu.
So, no like method acting where you and Keanu felt like you had to start like dressing like it was the ’90s or whatever?
No, we really didn’t want to feel like that. We were already throwback just by being ourselves. We wanted to inhabit who these guys would be like, absolutely right now, with their families and as dads and husbands. That was really the challenge but it was you know, it was one that we embraced.
You were not a dad when you made the other two films, and you are one now. Did that inform this movie?
A lot of me being a dad informed it. A lot. It really helped me figure out who Bill was, in this day and age. I’ve got kids, that are Billie and Thea’s age. [Bill and Ted’s teenage daughters in the movie.] I have a son who’s literally their age. And then I’ve got younger kids. So it informed it a lot. And I think for both of us, our life experience as adults and what we’ve been through in our lives, we really wanted to bring that to the characters and not in a literal way, but in an abstract way to the performance. But we wanted to bring that to the characters. So that was also very, very important to us — and to figuring out who these guys were.
Bill and Ted are not where they want to be in their lives. I feel like this is a reality for a lot of dads. People who thought they were going to be rock stars. I think the movie got real about that. Can you speak to that?
Yeah, I think that that one of the things that I was referencing for myself when I was working on finding this guy because obviously I wasn’t looking at who Bill was in the early ’90s. And I wasn’t looking at, you know, who would someone be who had the time travel, because, those things are unplayable as an actor. What I was looking at as, was friends I knew who are musicians who — or are still musicians — some of whom were successful, some of whom didn’t want to be successful. Some guys my age that like playing music still, but they weren’t looking to do it as a career. And then there are guys who, you know, are older, but still clinging to a dream that was clearly not going to resolve itself the way they wanted. I looked at all these things.
So this movie is a love letter to those dads. Right? Like the dads who still play guitar in the basement or the garage?
Yes. I mean, that’s, that’s really who Keanu and I are playing. It’s for the first 20 minutes of the movie. I mean, that’s who we are. We really, we really wanted them to just feel like grounded dads primarily and husbands, who are then thrust into this crazy adventure and forced to look at like an inverted version of It’s a Wonderful Life. They are forced to look at iterations of themselves; some positive versions of themselves, but also ones that were terrifying. And I think a lot of dads do that soul-searching.
Silly question, if you could travel back in time to visit your younger self, is there anything you would tell yourself?
That’s a good question! I mean, I think that that, at that age, I, you know, I’ve been acting as a child actor for a very long time and, and, and was getting a little mentally fatigued for having been in the public eye for so long. And I think, I think my older self would, would have told my younger self to just go live some regular life for a while, which I eventually did. It took me a minute to figure that out.
Why is that so important? Why is it important for dads to live some regular life?
It’s very easy in this culture to get sort of swept away and in a career or you know, within the kind of ecosystem of whatever your job is, or kind of a world that your job and you end up missing out on a lot; including being father specifically. You know a lot about being a dad is about being really present when you’re with your kids and it’s hard to do that. If you don’t relate to the world in any way you’re not really kind of in it. And I’m really grateful that I did what I did. And I’m really, you know, I love being a dad. You know, I’ve got three boys and I really, it matters a lot to me to be present.
What music are you listening to?
Um, gosh, I mean, what I call one of the two greatest COVID albums in my household is the new Fiona Apple album. [Fetch the Bolt Cutters] We all love it. Even my kids love it. But we’re also playing that new Bob Dylan album, too. [Rough and Rowdy Ways.] Dylan has been getting the second most airplay here.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is out now for digital download.