With a career spanning over 30 years, Ed Solomon is one of Hollywood’s most beloved screenwriters, helming hits like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black, and Now You See Me. His films are known for their acidic wit laced with a heart and empathy that make them truly standout in the cinematic landscape. Since the release of the criminally underrated Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, fans have clamored for a third installment in the cult series and Ed Solomon has worked tirelessly to deliver it. Nearly 30 years later and the guitar shredding fight for the universe has finally arrived with Bill & Ted Face the Music.
In celebration of Bill & Ted Face the Music finally hitting theaters and VOD, we had the privilege of sitting down with Ed Solomon himself, series creator and co-writer. We reflect on making the first two films with stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, how Hollywood has changed since then, and dive into spoilery tidbits from Bill & Ted’s latest adventure – including the possibility of a fourth film! Spoiler warning for Bill & Ted Face the Music.
The filmmaking landscape, in general, has changed since Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey. I’m curious as to how this changed the process of making Face The Music?
ES: A big thing that changed, that’s more specific to the Bill & Ted movies than to film in general, is that when we made the first movie, there were no eyes on it. We didn’t even know if anyone would read the script, let alone that it would get made as a movie. Then when it came out, nobody was anticipating it. The second movie was a sequel, so it was generated by a studio, not us, but the third movie was a combination of both. In a way, it had even more eyes on it than either of the first two. It was both in that it was a spec script that we wrote in partnership with Alex [Winter] and Keanu [Reeves], Chris Matheson and I wrote it as a spec, but it took 12 years of fighting to get this thing made.
What’s really different about [Face the Music] is that there’s this giant wellspring of eyes and anticipation on the film that we didn’t have on the first two movies, even the second one. So that made me feel a lot more responsibility to the fans of the movie, to deliver something that they knew we made from the heart and for them – not something that we made out of some cynical, you know, let’s just crank out another Bill & Ted movie! Because, of course, that’s not even remotely true or how it happened. In terms of the filmmaking community as a whole, the other giant difference from when Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was made, it could be greenlit by a person who just believes in it and thinks it could be good. Nowadays, it has to be made by a committee of bean counters who run numbers that are based on domestic and foreign sale.
That was our enemy in the making of this movie because when Excellent Adventure came out, it did moderately well in a culty kind of way, but it had no foreign distribution. Bogus Journey did fine, not great, but again had no foreign distribution. The numbers that the so-called bean counters, the financiers, look at to determine whether a movie is worth financing did not support making a third movie. They were not able to take into consideration the fact that for over 30 years, the eyeballs on the film grew and grew and grew. The affection for the film grew and grew and grew – that was anecdotal. What changed for us was social media and the fans of the movie themselves, whose voices began to be heard by the powers that be and made them feel like it might actually be worth taking the risk.
No, for sure. I myself didn’t grow up with the movie, but I watched it when I was in middle school. I had just heard about it being really cool and ended up falling in love with it.
ES: Oh, I’m so grateful for that. Honestly, for people like yourself and those people, it means the world to me.
There are a decent amount of movies that have revisited characters many years later. Oftentimes like you just said, it can feel cynical or just not done in the best faith. But Face the Music is unique in that sense, it really recaptures the energy of the first two. How do you push these characters forward while keeping that youthful exuberance that made Bill & Ted so fun to watch in the first place?
ES: That’s a great question. The main thing we didn’t want to do is rehash the same old characters and just pretend that they’re older versions but are the same exact people. We really wanted them to grow into what we believed they would have actually become. So that was a big one for us. And to start with the truth of it… what’s the truth? Where would they be now, emotionally and for real, if they were the kids who were told that their adolescent fantasy, that their rock band was going to unite the planet and it hadn’t actually happened? Where would they be now? So that was the place to start. Then how do we make sure it’s still a Bill & Ted movie? Well, we wrote Bill & Ted, that’s me, you know? (laughs)
ES: Let’s try to blend that on a craft level with the other thing on an emotional level. Let’s try to make sure that we dive into not just the psychology of these guys, but the psychology of the movie itself. So that’s where we wrote it from.
One of the biggest things about Face the Music that I’m really curious about is the casting of Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine, who are both amazing as Bill & Ted’s daughters. I’m wondering what that meant to you thematically?
ES: Initially when we named them Little Bill and Little Ted at the end of Bogus Journey, we made the assumption, as everyone did, that they will probably have boys. We were also boys. We were young, adolescent boys basically writing those movies. But as we got older and as the culture changed – we changed. We struggled to make the boys interesting as younger versions of Bill and Ted and every draft that we tried to write them just fell flat. They felt either derivative or like we were rehashing stuff. Once we had the notion of “Well, what if we changed it? What if we made them daughters instead of sons?” the whole movie opened up for us. It also served another purpose: it rounded it out, which we knew we needed to do. We knew that the first two movies were very male-centric, but we didn’t like that feeling anymore. It’s not just that the world has changed, but we’ve changed. We felt that it was a weakness in the first two movies that we could overcome in this movie and Brigette and Samara are wonderful. I love the way they play those parts.
This is delving into spoilers, but towards the end when the big reveal happens, the line “Sometimes things don’t make sense until the end” comes into play and it’s just really beautiful and an awesome way of keeping George Carlin’s memory alive in the film.
ES: I appreciate that. You know, George’s absence was a giant presence for us throughout the whole movie. We really did want to honor that and keeping with the theme of parents and daughters and parents and kids. Once we realized that George’s character Rufus could have a daughter and that daughter could be called Kelly, named after George Carlin’s daughter Kelly, that made him even more present for us throughout the film. And Kelly Carlin is in the movie too. She has a little cameo in the future. Kristen Schaal plays Kelly, who is named after George Carlin’s real-life daughter.
Wow, that’s really cool. My last question for you is that I think a lot of people who watch the movie will see Billie and Thea and wonder if there could potentially be a spin-off or a fourth film? Has that run through your mind?
ES: It wasn’t when we were first writing it, but as we saw Brigette and Samara inhabit these roles, I thought for sure if there was interest and people wanted to carry this forward, the Bill & Ted spirit, I would absolutely let those characters carry it forward. I think we’ve finished with the Alex and Keanu Bill & Ted story. I think it’s done, but if people were interested in a Billie & Thea continuation, I think it’d be cool.
Awesome. Yeah, the ending where the universe unites and has a rock concert is some of the most sincerely joyful cinema I’ve seen in a while. I think particularly right now, it’s so needed and refreshing.
ES: Oh, I’m so happy to hear you say that. Thank you, it really means a lot.