As the release date for Bill & Ted Face the Music approaches, the nerdiness level at Commonplace Fun Facts Headquarters is rising exponentially. In anticipation of the sequel that has been almost thirty years in the making, we bring you these totally awesome fun facts about the first movie in the trilogy, in hopes that all who read them will be excellent to each other.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure hit the screens on February 17, 1989. It starred two relatively-unknown actors, Keanu Reeves (Ted) and Alex Winter (Bill), supported by well-known comedian George Carlin (Rufus).
In the film, we learn that society in the year 2688 is utopian, with no war, poverty, or problems. The reason for all this happiness is the unprecedented music created by Bill and Ted and their band, Wyld Stallions 700 years earlier. Rufus is given the responsibility to travel back in time to 1988 to San Dimas, California, to make sure that Bill and Ted do not fail their history class and derail their ambitions to make Wyld Stallions the greatest band of all time. The boys use a time machine to travel throughout history to collect notable people, such as Billy the Kid, Socrates, and Abraham Lincoln, and bring them back to their school to participate in their final report for history. The final part of their report can be seen in the following clip:
With a relatively modest budget of $6.5 million, the movie generated $40.5 million at the box office and sent Keanu Reeves off into megastar territory. Its success spun off a sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey two years later. More importantly, it created a fan base and following that demanded a third installment in the adventure — an effort that would come to fruition 29 years after the release of Bogus Journey.
Here are some things even the most devoted Bill & Ted fans may not know. Learn these fun facts, and you can join Bill, Ted, and their fans and “Party on, Dudes!”
- Much of the movie is set in San Dimas, California, but most of the filming took place in Arizona. Even so, the movie gave the community some unexpectedly good public relations. The city was incorporated less than thirty years prior to the movie’s release. When the city celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, the celebration’s slogan was “San Dimas, 1960–2010 – An Excellent Adventure.”
- The idea for the characters of Bill and Ted was born in 1983 at a student improv group at UCLA. Ed Solomon recalled the moment he and Chris Matheson came up with the idea. “One day, we decided to do a couple of guys who knew nothing about history, talking about history. The initial improv was them studying history, while Ted’s father kept coming up to ask them to turn their music down.”
- The skit originally involved a trio: Bill, Ted, and Bob. The person playing the third character was not as enamored with the concept as Solomon and Matheson, so the trio quickly became a duo.
- Solomon and Matheson took four days to write the script. They wrote it by hand on notepaper while sitting in coffee shops.
- Originally, Bill and Ted were to go back in time with the help of a retrofitted 1969 Chevy van. This was nixed out of concern that it bore too close of a resemblance to the time machine in Back to the Future. Director Stephen Herek suggested a phone booth, instead. Since then fans of Doctor Who have been quick to point out the similarity with the timelord’s TARDIS.
- The film’s original release date got pushed back a year when production company De Laurentiis Entertainment Group went bankrupt. Actor Bernie Casey (who played Mr. Ryan, the history teacher) was required to dub over one of his lines so that he said “1988” instead of “1987.”
- The band The Ataris paid homage to the movie with a song called “San Dimas High School Football Rules!” Curiously, the lyrics do not mention Bill, Ted, San Dimas, or even football.
- Two actors who unsuccessfully tried out for the title roles were Brendan Fraser and Pauly Shore.
- George Carlin was not the first choice of the writers for the role of Rufus. They would have preferred Sean Connery.
- Bill and Ted were originally thought of as a couple of outcasts who were too nerdy to have any friends. Solomon said, “We actually had a scene that was even shot, with Bill and Ted walking past a group of popular kids who hate them. But once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe.”
- Director Stephen Herek saved money during the flashback to Napoleon’s time period by reusing footage from the 1956 movie War and Peace.
- The movie created some spin-offs, such as “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal,” a video game, and a “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” at Universal Studios Orlando park.
- The telephone booth used in the movie was given away as a prize by the magazine “Nintendo Power” as part of the promotion for the “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” video game. The winner was Kenneth Grayson.
- Among the historical characters who were originally included in the adventure were Babe Ruth and Charlemagne. They were removed before the shooting began.
- The word “dude” is spoken no 70 times during the course of the movie.
- An urban legend says that the 1996 movie Bio-Dome was a reworked script from what was originally intended to be a third movie in the series. Alex Winter has publicly disavowed that rumor.
- Sci-fi and time travel enthusiasts delight in the paradox that occurs at the time Bill and Ted first meet Rufus. Before Rufus can introduce himself to the boys, future versions of themselves appear and call out to Rufus by name before telling their present-day selves, “Listen to this guy, Rufus. He knows what he’s talking about.” Since Rufus never actually gets around to telling the boys his name, it seems the only way they ever learned his name was by hearing it from their future selves. Where did they learn his name?
- Bill and Ted continued their adventures in an animated series that ran for two seasons in 1990 and 1991. Reeves, Winter, and Carlin provided the voices for the first season. Bill and Ted’s voices for the second season were provided by Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy. These two actors went on to star in the short-lived live-action television series that ran for 8 episodes in 1992.
- In 1991, Marvel Comics present Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.
- The villain in the 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, is Chuck De Nomolos. “Nomolos” is co-creator Ed Solomon’s name spelled backward.
- The building shown as “Bill and Ted University” in Bogus Journey (the upper picture on the right) makes another appearance in the future as Star Fleet Academy in Star Trek (bottom right). It is, in actuality, the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant (bottom left) in Van Nuys, California.
- Another Star Trek connection occurs in Bogus Journey when Bill and Ted give Death a melvin. The scene was shot at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park at the same location where the Star Trek episode “The Arena” was filmed.
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