[Editor’s Note: The following article and corresponding podcast contain spoilers for Bill and Ted Face the Music.]
Bill and Ted Face the Music is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year. The sequel is somehow continually joyous and compassionate and uplifting for the entirety of its runtime, which was exactly what we all needed in 2020. It’s been no secret that this third Bill and Ted movie was difficult to get off the ground (and took a decade to get made), but the project also went through different script permutations during its road to release as well.
Co-writer Ed Solomon, who with Chris Matheson has written every Bill and Ted movie, recently joined us on The Collider Podcast for an exclusive conversation about Face the Music and his career, and during the course of our discussion, Solomon revealed the very different Bill and Ted 3 original ending that he and Matheson cooked up for their first draft of the script. As it stands now, Face the Music reveals at the end of the film that it was Bill and Ted’s daughters who wrote the song that united the world all along. This revelation precedes a big concert on a freeway, resulting in a really triumphant and moving ending during which humanity is united in song.
But as Solomon revealed, the first draft of the script had a pretty different backbone to the story:
“Our first draft that we wrote in 2010, the ending of the movie was really small. We had a scene at the beginning where 20 years ago they had put $100,000 down to rent the Rose Bowl for their triumphant 20th Reunion Tour, and when we meet them in the movie when it opens they have sold literally zero tickets. We had a scene where they went to negotiate with the guy to try and get their money back and the guy was like, ‘No, you’re stuck’. The whole movie was moving towards this ending, and the guys were thinking, ‘Well obviously it must be at the Rose Bowl. Obviously we’re gonna fill the Rose Bowl with this triumphant song, we just don’t know how.’ And the whole movie happens like it happens [in Face the Music], they go into the future, their lives get worse and worse, and they arrive at the Rose Bowl and it’s empty. There’s no instruments there. It didn’t happen. They failed. And they go home and they sit down in their living room, and you’re like one minute from the end of the movie. And they realize they failed, they feel like they failed, and then they hear music coming from the other room and they walk in and they look and see their kids and they realize it was never them, and the movie’s over.”
That ending is certainly different, and kind of a downer – which is exactly what Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves said:
“That was the first ending that we had, and Alex and Keanu were, I think correctly, like, ‘Uh, that’s sort of a bummer’ (laughs). We’ve had this experience on the first two Bill and Ted movies, where I thought a smaller ending [would be better]. In Excellent Adventure the movie ended in the classroom, [with Bill and Ted bringing the historical figures in]… We went in and we reshot with the rock concert-y ending, and we rewrote the ending scene to make it bigger and more triumphant. And then we had to reshoot the ending of Bogus Journey as well, so we thought, ‘Alright, here at the end of Face the Music, are we gonna walk into this knowing we’re gonna have to reshoot it or are we actually gonna make it bigger and better?’ So we did.”
Solomon said he and Matheson had difficulty actually writing a song that would save the universe, but they eventually cracked how to relieve some of that pressure:
“The script transitioned quite a few times over the years, especially the end. The irony of it all was figuring out what the song was came down to the final minute as well… We always knew that writing a song and making the song ‘so good that it will unite the world’ was an impossible task and we’re setting ourselves up for failure. So we gradually started to realize, when we were trying to figure out how do we get out of that idea gracefully, that okay it’s not gonna be about the quality of the song per se, it’s gonna be about the fact that everyone plays it together.”
Another alternate ending that was briefly considered involved a cameo from a very famous figure that I think would have been incredibly fun:
“We had a version that I really loved that did not last very long, it lasted for one draft. Bill and Ted had to get instruments to everyone in the world throughout all space and time in one evening, and they were like, ‘How are we gonna possibly do that? We have no way to do that!’ and they say, ‘Well we can’t, but there’s one man who can,’ and then we cut to, ‘Ho ho ho!’ and a sleigh, and it was Bill and Ted and the Princesses on Santa’s sleigh using Santa magic because Santa can go around the world in one night. They were actually going down chimneys and they were having a great time, and it was this crazy montage that we had written. That did not last. I thought because the antecedents to this movie were A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, so maybe it’s a Christmas movie and we have Santa at the end? I think Alex Winter liked it briefly, but I don’t think anyone else thought it was a good idea, then we ended up scrapping that.”
Good luck getting the image of Bill and Ted and the Princesses riding around with Santa Claus out of your brain. Once they (unfortunately) moved off this idea, Solomon said they then hit upon the idea of using the phone booth to get instruments to everyone around the world, but added that they had planned on shooting additional footage for this portion fo the film before COVID hit:
“We realized well we have the answer in the movie, it’s the phone booth. And we’re already dealing with multiple futures and pasts entwined, so maybe we can use that idea. We had some plans to shoot more of Alex and Keanu all throughout time handing out instruments all over the place, but it was not something we were able to logistically due once we had the COVID situation.”
Indeed, Solomon revealed that their original plan was to do some additional photography after the initial editing phase was over, but COVID meant this was no longer possible, so it was on the editorial team to tighten the film up:
“Once the third act was edited, we were gonna see what we needed and add in a few things to add more context to it, and have a wrap-up for the characters. We had all this planned and written, but with COVID we were unable to do any of that so we had to work editorially to get what we were hoping to get from a narrative level.”
This makes it all the more impressive that Bill and Ted Face the Music works as well as it does. Seriously, this is a miracle of a movie, and will certainly go down as one of the best comedy trilogies in movie history – if not the best (or the only good one?)
For much more from Solomon on the making of Face the Music as well as his experiences in screenwriting on films like X-Men and Men in Black, check out our latest episode of The Collider Podcast — either in audio form on your favorite podcast app or in video on YouTube below.