Bill & Ted's Alex Winter: When people see Keanu and me together it completely blows their minds
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are back as Bill & Ted, more than 30 years on from their Excellent Adventure. Laura Harding jumps into the phone booth
It didn't sink in for Alex Winter that he was making a third Bill & Ted movie until he and his friend Keanu Reeves were in the famous time travelling phone booth together, 30 years after their last outing.
He first rocketed to fame in 1989 as one of half of the teenage duo in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, swiftly followed by Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – and has been known as Bill to legions of fans the world over ever since.
Three decades later, and he and Reeves are back on screen together, now as middle-aged dads, for a long-awaited update, Bill & Ted Face The Music, in which the pair of aspiring rock stars are tasked with writing a song that will save civilisation.
“We had a lot of time to think about the characters because it took us a long time to get the film made,” Winter, now 55, says over Zoom from his home in the US, where he was woken up early by his own young children.
“We have had many many conversations over the years while we were off doing other things, then we started to prep quite seriously in the run-up to the shoot, but even then we never really fully went Bill and Ted.
“Then eventually we had to do it, we had to stop talking about it and the very first shoot on the very first day just coincidentally happened to be us in the phone booth, which we hadn’t been in in 30 years.
“I have a Circuits of Time book in my hand, which I hadn’t had in my hand for 30 years, if not longer – I’m not sure I even use it in the second movie – and I am looking at Keanu and he looks at me and we are like ‘Oh wow we are actually making a third Bill & Ted movie.’ It kind of all came home to roost, in a very joyful way.
Like the other two films, the new instalment is written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and is directed by Dean Parisot, best known for his work on the sci-fi comedy classic Galaxy Quest.
“We didn’t expect to want to make another one, not just Keanu and myself, but the writers Chris and Ed too, but I think they just got inspired,” Winter says. “They had this idea that they brought to us a good 10 years ago, that we just thought was really hilarious and had a lot of potential.
“I think that it’s always a good time to revisit a message of inclusivity and compassion and the inherent messages of the Bill & Ted friendship and the innocent and open way of approaching the world.
“But I think for us the thing that made us want to actually do this was the ability for us to go back to these characters as grown ups, not try to pretend they are kind of stunted bro adolescents, but they are legitimate family men, love their wives (the medieval princesses they met in Excellent Adventure, now played by Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes) love their daughters, but at the end of the day they are still Bill & Ted and what does that look like?
“Everyone really wanted to make a film that has some integrity and had a little bit of depth underneath the whimsy and silliness, and we really genuinely wanted to explore some of the notions of mortality and what your hopes and dreams are, but through the very un-serious lens of Bill & Ted.”
Reeves, who is now 56, might be recognised for a number of his hugely popular roles, including The Matrix’s Neo and John Wick, as well as Ted, but Winter says he is recognised as Bill every day of his life.
This is increased exponentially when he and Reeves are together, as they frequently are since their friendship continues off screen too.
“I got used to it week one of the release of the first movie,” he admits. “I realised ‘This thing is huge and it it just never going to stop, OK I will assimilate that into my life and move on.’ And Keanu and I are together a lot and so that completely blows people’s minds, which we are used to and we take it in some degree of stride.
“I think what has made that easy is Bill & Ted has an infectious joyful quality and so the fans tend to be very nice and not really invasive and very polite and very sweet and little kids come up to you because it has expanded into other generations.
“And Keanu is just a close friend I’ve had my whole life and I’ve watched him go through life, he’s watched me go through life, he’s known my kids since they were born.
“It’s a different relationship that we have off screen and it was quite nice for both of us to come back and get to perform together again. It is a bit like a band coming back because while we hang out a lot, we don’t play, as it were.
“We just got right back into a groove on day one and we were finishing each others sentences and all of that affinity we have.”
Despite that, it took Winter a bit of time to find his way back into a role he has not played for so long.
“I had to find his body again, I had to find his voice again. I didn’t want to watch the original movies and try to imitate who he was, I really wanted to figure out who is this guy in middle age, who is this guy as a dad and a husband and who is a little world weary, just very different than who we were then.
“But there was a point in which you put on the clothes, you get in the booth, you’re with your friend and a lot of stuff just comes back naturally.”
The fact these men are now fathers, trying to hold their families together, was the cornerstone to the story for Winter, and their daughters are played with aplomb by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine
“Everything about who they are and the journey that they go on, the impetus for that is really their families and their relationship with their wives and their daughters.
“We really didn’t want to make this movie if it just felt like a weak retread of the other two and for us, what gave it some substance was the fact that we had these very deep relationships with our kids.”
:: Bill & Ted Face The Music is out now in UK and Irish cinemas. The 4K restoration of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is available now