For the longest time, a third Bill & Ted movie seemed like a most excellent pipe dream. The type of thing pals would joke about over some far out herbal pairings and good vibes. Screenwriter Ed Solomon, who co-created Bill & Ted with Chris Matheson for 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure certainly seemed surprised when last year’s threequel, Bill & Ted Face the Music, actually came to fruition. And when we caught up with him for this month’s theatrical and HBO Max release of No Sudden Move, his appreciation of the fans who he credits with getting the third movie made is also why he remains undecided about doing a fourth adventure… even as he leaves the door cracked open.
“Will there be another?” Solomon tells us. “I’m not sure. I initially thought we were done on Face the Music, but if we could come up with something that was really worth doing, that made us all laugh and felt like we were honoring not just the characters, but the fans of the movie again? Because they’re the real reason this thing got made. I think if we could come up with something that’s worth doing, I think we’d all be up for doing it, but it really depends.”
As Solomon notes, the characters were creations that he and Matheson came up during a rough patch, at least in Solomon’s case. He never dreamed they would have such endurance in pop culture.
“Bill & Ted has never been a cash grab for any of us. We’ve never made money. Chris and I have made almost nothing on all three movies. It’s not about the money for us on Bill & Ted. It’s more about these characters that have become lifetime characters for us. We came up with them in our early 20s. So we wouldn’t do another one unless we felt like it’s really, creatively worth it, because I love those guys way too much. I love Alex [Winter] and Keanu [Reeves]. I love the characters of Bill and Ted.”
Indeed, during Solomon’s wide-ranging conversation with culture editor Tony Sokol—which ranged from his first professional writing gig on Laverne & Shirley to the time he was briefly suspected to be the Night Stalker—he talked candidly about how important Bill and Ted were to his career, and how unexpected its legacy turned out to be.
“When [Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure] first came out, it was eviscerated by critics. It was pummeled. Every serious critic, and in particular, the non-serious critics, [pulled their knives out]. So I was like, ‘Why did it sustain?’” Solomon’s answer has more to do with the humanity of the characters than the humor of them.
“What Chris and I were always really attracted to in Bill & Ted was this ebullience, this sweetness, this lightness of spirit and this sort of ‘yes!’ quality to them. They feel things deeply but they adjust quickly and come up with a plan and move forward with the best, best, best of intentions at all times. That’s a really lovely place to inhabit as a writer. And then when the baton was passed to Alex and Keanu, they took it over so beautifully. I think there is a beneficence of spirit, of kindness to the characters, a sweetness, that I think floated to the surface and kept Bill & Ted alive over the decades.”
He goes on to note that while the first movie did fine enough to (barely) warrant a sequel, he thinks it was the fans as well as Keanu’s recent career resurgence in the John Wick films that finally brought the characters back to the screen.
“It’s not like it did that well, but over time people discovered it. And it’s what made it difficult to make a third movie, because there were no ‘numbers’ to support it. ‘Why should we make a third movie? The first two didn’t do all that well.’ It was more anecdotal. ‘But everywhere we go, people seem to know it and people seem to want a sequel. And couldn’t we do it for them?’”
After Reeves’ proverbial comeback, the unlikely happened, and Bill and Ted again had a most bodacious journey, even once again matching wits with the totally uncool Death. If the unlikely could happen once, why not again?
Solomon and Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max now.