Bill and Ted Face the Music director Dean Parisot has explained why he thinks the characters – played by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in three films – have endured, despite being slightly preposterous.
“They are ludicrous characters, but they also have some qualities that are universal to all of us I hope,” Parisot tells Yahoo. “There’s this incredible friendship and their indomitable spirit, in spite of things going wrong. Those things are really universal stories to tell in a comedy.”
The 68-year-old filmmaker said the two leading men were immediately “brilliant” in the roles they last played way back in 1991 for Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
He says there’s a considerable amount of Reeves and Winter material, shot for the film which hits UK cinemas today, that had to be consigned to the cutting room floor.
“We stuck to the script and we did improv once we had got our material from the script,” he said.
Parisot pointed specifically to the scenes in which the characters travel forward in time to visit themselves in the future, including as old men.
“That last bit with them as old men is complete improv,” Parisot added.
Read more: Bill and Ted writers reveal origin story
He said: “There are about five others that are just as funny, which we loved. They wouldn’t stop.
“We finally just couldn’t afford it any more and had to pull the plug. It was the very last day of shooting.
“But they were always coming up with stuff on the set. The entire cast was that kind of cast where you could throw stuff at them and they would come back with moments that were delightful.”
As well as Reeves and Winter, the film stars Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as the protagonists’ daughters, with Jillian Bell, Kristen Schaal and Jayma Mays also filling key roles.
Parisot said his two leading men “found the voices” of the characters again almost immediately when they began filming.
He said: “Eventually they had to come on to a set and be those characters and they were brilliant at it.
“They rehearsed a lot and they were those characters the second they walked out. All I had to do was watch.”
Read the full interview with Dean Parisot in which we discuss the challenges of making a belated sequel, its incredible cast and the possibility of a fourth Bill and Ted movie...
Yahoo Movies UK: What was the process like, having been a fan of these movies, to get the nod to come in and do this revival that fans have been waiting for for so many years?
Dean Parisot: It was a little daunting, mostly because it was so hard to get it financed. Also, I think it’s daunting because the challenge of it is to contemporise it in some way but not lose the essence of those characters and that humour.
That’s interesting, because these characters do feel very rooted in the time period in which they were born.
Yes, like we all are. They are ludicrous characters, but they also have some qualities that are universal to all of us I hope. There’s this incredible friendship and their indomitable spirit, in spite of things going wrong. Those things are really universal stories to tell in a comedy.
One of the things that’s so joyous in this movie is seeing Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves back in these characters again. Obviously, they own these characters in such a material way. Did they bring a lot of ideas to set about where they wanted to take the characters?
Well, because I was on it for seven years, we talked a lot about the characters. They are incredibly talented actors and filmmakers. It was a constant dialogue with all of us who stuck with it about who these characters were. But eventually they had to come on to a set and be those characters and they were brilliant at it. They rehearsed a lot and they were those characters the second they walked out. All I had to do was watch.
Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson [the writers] said recently that Alex and Keanu refused to do the full Bill and Ted voice and mannerisms until they were on the set. So what was it like the first time you saw them be Bill and Ted again?
Of course we all cracked up and it was like “well, here we are”. But also, we were kind of worried about whether they were going to get there. But they were there the second they walked out on to the set. They didn’t just find those voices; they found the voices of Bill and Ted in middle age.
And alongside those two, you’ve got an incredible cast of some of the best comic talent today. What was it like to build a film around such incredible performers?
The fun of this was casting it. There’s so much goodwill for Bill and Ted that it made what could’ve been really difficult, because we had so little money, much easier. We were getting all kinds of great people showing up and saying ‘I’ll do it, don’t worry about it’ and ‘I’ll fly myself down, don’t worry about it’. It was quite heartening and it made it quite a bit of fun actually.
I imagine that, with so many funny people on the set, there was a lot of improvisation and a lot of ideas flying around. Was there anything that it really hurt you to have to consign to the cutting room floor?
Yes, well there’s always that. We stuck to the script and we did improv once we had got our material from the script. There is a lot of improv. For example, that last bit with them as old men is complete improv and there are about five others that are just as funny, which we loved. They wouldn’t stop. We finally just couldn’t afford it any more and had to pull the plug. It was the very last day of shooting.
But they were always coming up with stuff on the set. The entire cast was that kind of cast where you could throw stuff at them and they would come back with moments that were delightful.
Do you think we’ll get to see more of old man Bill and Ted on the DVD release?
Probably. [laughs] Who knows?
You’re coming in to this franchise for the third movie, with so much already established. Did you find it difficult to stamp your own impact on it?
No, but it wasn’t my job to do that really. It was my job to contemporise it and tell this story with those characters. I can’t help but have a point of view and an aesthetic and my own tastes applied to whatever I do. But hopefully I applied things that people are good with. History will tell out the rest.
This film is coming out in the UK a couple of weeks after it premiered in the USA and we’re going to be able to see it on the big screen. How important do you feel that is?
Well to me, especially with a comedy, the group experience of a theatre is what you’re all working towards, right? The unfortunate thing that has happened to us with COVID is that we can’t do this — especially here [in the USA] — without putting people in danger. Hopefully you get a choice of also seeing it at home at some point, but clearly the theatrical experience is the best way to see a comedy, I think.
If you were to get the call from Ed and Chris to do another Bill and Ted, would you be keen to do it?
And do you think that’s something that is likely to happen?
Anything could happen, as we’ve seen — as I look out at the smoke-filled atmosphere in front of me.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is in UK cinemas now.