The long saga of Bill and Ted 3 is full of hope and optimism, but it sounds like the sequel may finally, actually be coming close to happening. A press release went out recently touting Bill & Ted Face the Music, with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprising their roles in a new story written by Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. The project has Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) onboard to direct, and MGM’s Orion Pictures set to distribute domestically.
This is a sequel that’s a decade in the making, as Solomon and Matheson first came together with Reeves and Winter 10 years ago to start hashing out what another Bill & Ted sequel might be. We’re thisclose to the follow-up finally happening, and Solomon was kind enough to hop on the phone with me recently to exclusively talk all things Bill and Ted 3. The screenwriter has been active on a variety of projects since Bogus Journey, from Men in Black to Now You See Me to his excellent Steven Soderbergh collaboration Mosaic which was released last year, but through it all Bill & Ted has maintained a special place in Solomon’s heart. He regularly keeps fans up to date on his Twitter page, and memorably shared the first script pages for the first Bill & Ted along with an emotional story of the franchise’s optimistic roots—something that will certainly be present in Bill & Ted 3.
During our interview, Solomon gave a pretty meaty tease of the story for Face the Music, which not only picks up 27 years later but features Bill and Ted’s daughters in prominent roles. Solomon explained how this Christmas Carol-esque story came together, why Parisot was the right choice to direct, what Steven Soderbergh’s involvement as an executive producer entails, and when filming might begin. Solomon also recounted the long road Bill & Ted 3 has taken, the reboot that almost was, and how this joyful and unabashedly non-cynical comedy will stand out in the current moviegoing landscape. If you’re a fan of the Bill & Ted franchise I have no doubt you’ll be happy to hear what Solomon has to say. Party on, dudes.
Check out the full interview below.
What’s the story of Bill & Ted Face the Music?
ED SOLOMON: Bill and Ted were told at 16 that they were going to be the greatest people who ever lived. That they were gonna write a song that is going to save the world, and it hasn’t happened. And now they are middle-aged men. They’ve got wives who used to be princesses in medieval England who are now working double shifts at Denny’s, they’ve got teenagers that are about to leave home, money is tight, and they’ve been chasing this dream, writing song after song, when somebody from the future shows up and says, “You have 24 hours. The fate of all of space/time depends on it – and if it doesn’t happen now, it’s never gonna happen.” Bill and Ted are confused because they know they had to have written it, because after all the people in the future told them they did.. so they just must not have written it yet. So in their desperation they decide their only option is to go into the future – to when the have written it – and to steal it from themselves. What follows is a kind of utterly absurd, Christmas Carol-like journey through their lives past, present, and future. Their daughters (Bill has a daughter named Thea, Ted’s daughter is named Billie) are also very involved in trying to help them.
It’s a total comedy, but I think it’s really, really grounded in the sweetness that is Bill and Ted and the emotion of where they would be at this point in their life.
It sounds like a pretty interesting twist on what a sequel to Bogus Journey would be.
SOLOMON: After we did the first movie and the financiers came to us and said can we do a second, the powers that be wanted to do a sequel that was like a rehash of the first movie. It basically was like, “Now Bill and Ted have to pass an English test, so now they go into fiction and books!” and we were like, “Um… okay… that sounds like the same old thing.” Neither Chris nor I wanted to do that, so we were like, “What if we kill them and send them to Hell and bring them back?” Well we’re trying to take the same approach here which is to say we’re not reshashing anything—although there’s time travel and some of our favorite people from the movies are in it—we’re trying to really go: it’s been 30 years. Let’s be real about the passage of time. We want to maintain the tone, the sweetness, the absurdity and we want it to be a movie that is not just for fans of the first movie but hopefully for people of any age who haven’t seen the movies. But most importantly, we want it to be something unique – something people haven’t seen before. Also, we think it’s really cool to take characters you last saw as teenagers and explore them again as middle aged men. What would that be like? That was one of the main draws for Chris and me.
Our hope is that it has a story and adventure that would appeal to anyone, but also under that hopefully themes and humor that would appeal to both kids and adults. But the main thing was we were trying to make ourselves laugh.
So when did this all begin? How did Bill & Ted 3 come about?
SOLOMON: I don’t remember who brought it up first, whether it was Alex and Keanu or whether it was me and Chris, but one thing we were really, really determined about after the second movie was we’re not gonna come back to this unless there’s a real reason to, because the characters meant way too much to all of us. So about 10 years ago we stumbled onto something and we started throwing ideas around with Alex and Keanu, and we talked about what we did not want it to be, which was any kind of a cynical thing at all. We refused to do that. We wanted it to be about something that meant something to all of us. Something we could be proud of artistically – regardless of whatever happens with it financially, which ultimately is out of our control. And mostly we wanted something that was fun to write and seemed like fresh ground.
Gradually, we all really connected on this idea of, “What does it mean to be in the middle of your life when as a youth you had dreams that haven’t become fulfilled? How do you do that and keep your spirit, or in this case your ‘Bill and Ted-ness?’” That became our central theme, and then Chris and I started working on some ideas and we met back up with Alex and Keanu, and then as partners—honestly the four of us have been in lockstep on this—we did what some people would say is the stupidest business decision you could ever make: write a spec script for a property you don’t own. So in a weird way it was almost like us writing fan fiction, because we wrote it on spec with no idea if they would ever wanna do it. So again, it wasn’t like we thought we could get a lot of money. We didn’t own it, so it’s not like we could take it and then get a bidding war. There’s one entity that owns the characters, which is MGM.
So we did quite a few drafts trying to get it right. But in the middle of all this—we didn’t even know it—the studio had basically commissioned a script (from someone else) for a reboot version and they were about to make it, and thankfully that didn’t happen. I think it was like an “updated” one or something – where, you know, they have cell phones instead of a phone booth. I’m not sure, I never read it. So for quite a few years there was a lot of pushback because there has always been a lot of interest in a reboot of Bill & Ted, new young kids. We’ve always pushed hard against that because for us, that just feels literally by definition like a retread. So we really held our ground, and we kept revising the script, trying to make it as good as we could make it. But finally, and I owe a lot of this to fans of the movie and also the people in the press who have been writing about it recently, I think people started to see that maybe there was more of an audience for a direct sequel (as opposed to a reboot). Or at least an audience for the one we were trying to do.
Because this is the movie that we really believe in, and if we can make it for a price that won’t break the bank, we really believe that there would be an audience that could come see it. Especially if we can do our jobs right and make it good, I mean obviously we have all the right intentions and do all the hard work, but then it’s up to the movie gods. It’ll either live or die based on whether we fulfilled the promise of it or not. But our intentions are in the right place, I think.
I know the daughters are part of the story. What can you tease about their characters? Is that potentially a way of continuing this franchise without Bill and Ted after this movie?
SOLOMON: Yeah I mean if this movie works out and people come to see it, yeah then it could go on with Bill and Ted’s daughters, I guess. But that’s not something that we’re really focused on right now. We want to do this first.
What can you tease about the daughters’ personalities? What are they like as characters?