Keanu Reeves Was Not the First to Play Ted In Bill & Ted – Showbiz Cheat Sheet

We can’t wait to see Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter return in Bill & Ted Face the Music. It has been 31 years since their Excellent Adventure and 29 since their Bogus Journey, but the characters date back even before Reeves and Winter played them.

Keanu Reeves and Alex WinterKeanu Reeves and Alex Winter
L-R: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter | Patti Perret/Orion Pictures

Reeves and Winter were on a San Diego Comic-Con@Home panel for Face the Music. Joining them were the creators of the characters, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. The screenwriters explained who played the excellent musicians before they even wrote the first movie. Bill & Ted Face the Music is in theaters and VOD Sept. 1.

Before Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, the very first Bill & Ted

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was Matheson and Solomon’s first produced movie screenplay. Solomon had written some episodes of Laverne & Shirley in 1982 and 1983. That’s when they created Bill & Ted together.

Bill & Ted screenwriter Ed SolomonBill & Ted screenwriter Ed Solomon
Ed Solomon | Araya Diaz/WireImage

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“It started in 1983,” Matheson said. “Ed and I did a little improv group with some friends, not for an audience, just to kind of play with characters and comedy. So the suggestion was two teenage boys studying history who don’t know anything about history. We just started playing these guys and liked them instantly. They struck us as really funny instantly. We just started playing them.”

Their one public performance of Bill & Ted

Solomon and Matheson created the characters in a private group. They only performed them publicly once.

“They’re such a fun character to inhabit that we were just doing it for fun,” Solomon said. “Once we did it in front of an audience at UCLA. We took questions as Bill and Ted and basically everything was either excellent or bogus as far as I remember. They were so much fun to play that we would goof around for like a year.”

They kept playing Bill & Ted before writing the screenplay

Most of the development of Bill & Ted continued in private between Matheson and Solomon.

Bill & Ted Face the Music behind the scenesBill & Ted Face the Music behind the scenes
L-R: Anthony Carrigan, Ed Solomon and direector Dean Parisot | Patti Perret/Orion Pictures

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“We just played with them,” Matheson said. “We would talk on the phone as Bill & Ted, we would write letters back and forth as Bill & Ted, we just loved them. They were just really fun to be, long before we thought of putting them in a movie or anything like that. We just enjoyed them.”

Letting Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter take over

By the time Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure filmed in 1988, Solomon and Matheson had been playing the characters for years. It was bittersweet to let them go.

“It was hard for us to imagine who would take the characters over,” Solomon said. “We were not involved in the casting process [but] we were in Arizona where the movie was about to shoot. We were in line at a McDonald’s and we were actually complaining to each other, ‘I bet whoever they cast is never going to be able to do it the way we hoped.’”

Keanu Reeves and Alex WinterKeanu Reeves and Alex Winter
L-R: Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves | Patti Perret/Orion Pictures

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When they finally met Reeves and Winter, they were happy with the choices.

“Then there were these two guys in line in front of us at McDonald’s just goofing off and talking to each other,” Solomon continued. “Chris and I were like, ‘Now those should be the people that play Bill and Ted.’ We ended up on set for the first rehearsal and it was Alex and Keanu.”