Just as Rufus (George Carlin) predicted, Bill and Ted have had a profound influence on our culture. Maybe not as the rockers who would inspire a utopian global society by the 27th century, but look at how many other dumb-duo movies there have been since the release 25 years ago this week (on February 17, 1989) of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" -- there's "Dumb and Dumber," "Beavis and Butt-head Do America," "Dude, Where's My Car," "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," "Dick," and all of Kevin Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob" offerings, for starters. Plus, "Bill & Ted" launched a franchise and made a leading man out of Keanu Reeves.
Orion, courtesy Everett Collection
Still, as often as you've traveled back in time and revisited the "Excellent Adventure," there's probably still plenty you don't know about the movie, including where it was filmed (hint: NOT in San Dimas, California), which historical figures almost found their way into the film, which debonair superstar was originally sought for the role of time-traveling mentor Rufus, or how financing hassles caused the filmmakers to do a little time-traveling of their own.
Read on, and be excellent to each other.
1. In the original screenplay, along with the likes of Napoleon, Beethoven, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, and Joan of Arc, Bill and Ted were also supposed to recruit Charlemagne and Babe Ruth for their history class presentation. Just as they mispronounced Socrates as "So-crates," they would have mispronounced Charlemagne as "Charlie Mangay." Yet another medieval character they'd have brought back to the 20th century was a peasant called John the Serf, whose name you can still see listed in the credits.
2. Although the movie takes place in San Dimas, California, it was shot largely in the Phoenix, Arizona area, including such locations as Coronado High School, the Metrocenter mall, and the AMF Tempe Village bowling alley.
3. The Waterloo waterpark actually does use footage shot in San Dimas, at the Raging Waters park, combined with shots from Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, Arizona.
4. The time machine was initially going to look like a 1969 Chevy van, but the filmmakers decided that was too similar to the DeLorean from "Back to the Future." Instead, they made it look like a vintage phone booth. Guess they didn't think enough Americans were familiar with "Doctor Who" to note the similarities to the TARDIS.
5. To play Rufus, who travels back from the 27th century to guide Bill and Ted, the filmmakers initially thought of Sean Connery. It was only after shooting began that they approached comedian George Carlin instead.
6. The movie was filmed in early 1987, a full two years before it was released.
7. The filmmakers did a little time-traveling of their own after the film's initial distributor, the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went out of business. The movie sat in limbo until Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights a year later. As a result, dates mentioned as "1987" in the film had to be redubbed "1988."
8. When he was cast as Bill S. Preston, Esq., Alex Winter was a 21-year-old Broadway actor with few Hollywood credits, save an appearance in "Death Wish 3" and a guest spot on "The Equalizer." He'd also shot a role as a vampire in "The Lost Boys," but that eventual hit film wouldn't be released until the summer of 1987, after "Bill & Ted" was filmed.
9. Reeves was 22 when he was cast as Ted "Theodore" Logan. In 1986, the year before "Bill & Ted" was made, he'd broken through in Hollywood and appeared in no fewer than eight movies, most prominently, as a bewildered teen in the indie drama "River's Edge." Four more of his movies, notably, "Dangerous Liaisons," would be released before "Bill & Ted" finally arrived in theaters.
10. Director Stephen Herek, then 28, had made only one prior feature, the cult horror hit "Critters" (1985).
11. Yes, that's Go-Gos rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc.
12. "Bill & Ted" was the first produced screenplay for Chris Matheson, who came by his sci-fi cred honestly: he's the son of "I Am Legend" author Richard Matheson.
13. It was also the first produced script for Ed Solomon, who went on to write three more screenplays with Matheson.
14. Matheson and Solomon have cameos in the film. They are credited, respectively, as "Ugly Waiter" and "Stupid Waiter." They would reprise the characters in the 1991 sequel, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey." In another in-joke, the villain in that film is named De Nomolos, which is "Ed Solomon" spelled backward.
15. The hands of Rufus, when he's shown playing a guitar solo, actually belong to famed session musician Stevie Salas, who composed all the guitar licks heard in the film.
16. "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" reportedly cost just $10 million to make.
17. It earned back a solid $40.4 million at the north American box office.
18. Besides the sequel, "Bill & Ted" spawned an animated TV series, a live-action TV series, video games, and even a breakfast treat, Bill & Ted's Excellent Cereal.
19. It was rumored that the 1996 film "Bio-Dome," starring Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin as a pair of Bill & Ted-like slacker idiots, was a retooled version of a script for a third Bill & Ted movie. Alex Winter, however, has said this rumor is false.
20. The movie made a reliable leading man out of Reeves, and while he eventually graduated out of dopey teen roles into action hero parts (most notably, "Speed" and the "Matrix" trilogy) and romantic dramas ("A Walk in the Clouds," "Sweet November," "The Lake House"), he's never entirely shed the whoa-dude persona he embodied so perfectly as Ted. As for Winter, he went on to become a filmmaker known for cult favorites from mutant spoof "Freaked" (1993) to file-sharing documentary "Downloaded" (2012).
21. Director Herek went on to direct other movies about teenagers ("Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead," "The Mighty Ducks") and musicians ("Mr. Holland's Opus," "Rock Star"). His most recent project was the 2013 Nickelodeon cable film "Jinxed."
22. After "Excellent Adventure," Matheson and Solomon went on to write "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," the sic-fi spoof "Mom and Dad Save the World," and the Eddie Murphy comedy "Imagine That." Matheson's most recent solo screenplay credit is for the 2013 apocalyptic comedy "Rapturepalooza." He is on the faculty of the Northwest Film Center's School of Film in Portland, Oregon.
23. After the "Bill & Ted" movies, Solomon continued to write or co-write sci-fi comedies, including "Men in Black" and "What Planet Are You From." He co-wrote last year's sleeper caper hit "Now You See Me." He is married to actress Cynthia Cleese, so his father-in-law is Monty Python's John Cleese.
24. There is a Matheson-Solomon script for a long-awaited third Bill & Ted movie, one that would see Winter and Reeves playing middle-aged Bill & Ted. Dean Parisot, who directed the sci-fi parody "Galaxy Quest," is attached as director. The movie still does not, however, have a studio greenlight from rights-holder MGM; Reeves has said the current script would cost a prohibitive $400 million to shoot.
25. Winter says he and Reeves are still close buds. In a Reddit AMA last year, Winter recalled, "Once we accidentally stepped out of a restaurant into the middle of the NYC Halloween Parade, and someone walked past us and said (without irony), 'Hey look, it's two old, fat guys trying to be Bill and Ted.'"
categories Best Movies Ever