A nearly 30-year wait is almost over for Bill & Ted fans, as the release of the third film in the series, Face the Music, is quickly approaching the finish line. For this writer, who has been a fan of these characters and this world ever since she was 11 years old, I personally could not be happier to have this one last cinematic romp to enjoy, especially now.
I was even more honored to recently chat with one of the men behind the characters of Bill and Ted, co-writer Ed Solomon, who first dreamt up the time travelers back in the 1980s alongside Chris Matheson. During the recent press day for Bill & Ted Face the Music, I spoke with Solomon about the inspiration behind this latest story, the challenges of balancing the film’s ambitious storylines, and how he’s come to embrace his legacy as one of the creators of the characters of Bill and Ted after all these years.
Bill & Ted Face the Music will arrive in theaters, drive-ins, and on Digital providers beginning Friday, August 28th, courtesy of Orion Pictures.
I watched the Comic-Con panel for Face the Music, and I know you guys were talking about the fact that this is something you had tossed around years and years and years ago, but you didn't quite have an idea back then. I'm curious, at what point did you guys realize, "Hey, I think maybe we should take these characters in this direction"?
Ed Solomon: When we were at dinner at Alex’s house in 2008, it was Chris and me and Keanu and Alex, and we threw out this idea, "Wouldn't it be incredibly stressful for you guys to be told as teenagers that this adolescent fantasy that you had is actually the fate of the world, has the fate of the world at stake? What would happen if it hadn't happened yet? What would that feel like?" And we started talking about that pressure.
Once we had that notion, we knew we had something. Then, Chris and I went off and we started noodling around, “What would that be like?” And we said, "How would we tell that story?" And we thought, "Well, the guys were told they were going to write the song that was going to unite the world. The future told them that. So what if they realize they just must not have written it yet? So what if they get the idea, Well, we know we must have written it because they told us in the future. We just must not have written it yet. What if we go into the future to when we have written it and steal it from ourselves?" That gave us the idea of, "Well, we could do a Christmas Carol, then. We could do the guys seeing older and older versions of themselves and viewing their life along the timeline of what, if it never happened to them, and what that'd be like." That made us laugh, and we enjoyed that.
So, then we felt we had a spine. We went back to Alex and Keanu and pitched to them that idea, and they responded to that. Then we started a draft. We did a couple drafts in 2010 and 2011 before we went out to try to get it financed. Of course, because we're idiots, we wrote a spec script for a property we don't own the underlying rights to. There was one owner for the rights and they had other ideas they wanted to do for Bill & Ted. So we didn't really get to do it right away. It became this struggle that lasted a decade before we finally got this thing made.
I came into this wanting to see more Bill and Ted, but you really do a fantastic job of not only giving us this new generation through Thea and Billie, but I really also love the way that you expanded William Sadler's character, Death, too. Was it a challenge to also find the character beats and find that balance for everybody in this movie to really make sure everyone feels integral to this story? I definitely walked away completely in love with everyone in Face the Music.
Ed Solomon: Oh, well, thank you. It was definitely a challenge. We were always trying to walk the line between making sure that we didn't walk away completely from the first two movies and the expectations people might have, while at the same time doing something wholly original that intrigued us as artists, for lack of a better word, and also reflected that so much time had passed and culture has changed and we have changed. So what's the story that we want to tell and where do we start from?
We made a choice and I'm glad we did, to start from what we felt was just truth, rather than trying to come up with a conceptually funny way to begin. We said, "What if we start with emotional truth? What would it be like if you had been told this thing as a teenager, that something as delicate as your music is going to carry the weight of having to unite the universe, what would that pressure be like? And where would you be right now, emotionally, if it hadn't happened, what would be the situation with your kids and your marriage and your job and your life, where would you live and what would it feel like?" And we started from there.
I've always felt that comedy is best when it comes from one of the more negative, let's call it emotions: sadness, despair, anxiety, fear, whatever. And the guys were feeling those things. In a weird way, we said from the beginning, "Let's make a feel-good comedy about failure. Let's make an absurd, silly, ridiculous, funny movie about dashed dreams and disappointment. And let's have it end where you feel really good." That's where we started. Lord knows that might scare off your readers, but we didn't see it that way.
I mean, we really did want to start from that place of truth and pain. The guys are in a lot of pain, and they used to be these light, ebullient, beneficence spirits. When you actually look at their inner lives back then, you have Bill, who's got divorced parents and one of the worst, most lascivious, awful fathers imaginable. You've got Ted, whose father is unbelievably critical of him, who also hates himself. So, the decades of that inner life gestating inside of them come forward in Face the Music, and as Ted and Bill go forward meeting future versions of themselves, the Ted characters don't get along with each other that well. They're tormented, they're tortured, and they're struggling. The Bill characters are fighting harder to maintain that positive spirit. That made us laugh. That seems like a fun way into a comedy. Obviously, the movie is a comedy. It's ridiculous. It's silly, it's not heavy, and it's not to be even remotely pretentious, but that's where we started.
Back when you and Chris dreamt up Bill and Ted, all those years ago, I know you couldn't have imagined that you'd be sitting here talking about them in the year 2020 still, let alone celebrating another movie with them. So, how much does it mean to you to be able to still have these characters that have endured with fans throughout all of these years and ultimately being able to put this movie out right now? Especially because the world is a mess and I feel like we need this more than ever now.
Ed Solomon: I really appreciate that, thank you so much. I remember when Chris and I were writing the very first draft, I said something really stupid. The stupid thing I said was, "Can you imagine if we're 30 and we're still writing Bill and Ted? How pathetic that would be." We laughed because we were 23 and 24, and we were utterly ignorant young men who thought that they were immortal, and how wrong we were. I'm so grateful about how wrong I was. What it means to me now is incalculable, it's immeasurable, because it's gone from a fluke that we wrote following a divining rod pointing only to what made us laugh to now as I approach 60 years old, a life's work.
And the fact that people are still interested or interested at all in seeing the next chapter in the lives of these characters, that means so much to me. It has literally changed how I understand my career. It suddenly makes it feel like Chris and I created something that, at the end of the day, has a message to it. This was all something that came along as a fluke. It came one night in a coffee shop, from off the top of our heads without us even thinking about it. “Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes.” So, the fact that that this might be the one thing that we leave on the planet is enough for me, to be honest.
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