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Here's Why It Took Almost 30 Years For A Third Bill & Ted Movie To Happen

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure sat on a shelf for a year until it's release in 1989. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey was released only two years later — very quickly, by comparison. After that there was nothing. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey ended on a musical montage showing how the Wyld Stallyns become rock legends and — presumably — save the world.

The story could've ended there, and for a while the story did end there. Between 1991 and 2009, we didn't really hear anything about a Bill & Ted 3 beyond the general notion that completing a trilogy would be most triumphant. But you can't really do a Bill & Ted threequel without Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), and those dudes would never set foot in a time traveling phone booth without the work of originals scriptwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. Those are a lot of expensive pieces to get in place.

In 2007 the possibility of a third Bill & Ted changed from "nah" to "...maybe?" Let's talk about how that happened and why it took another 13 years to finally get us to Bill & Ted Face the Music.

How TV Bill & Ted killed the Bill & Ted movies

The first thing to acknowledge is the obvious: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey was not the financially righteous success that Excellent Adventure was. While the sequel may have generated only $2 million less than its predecessor, it also cost $13.5 million more. Bogus, indeed.

Bogus Journey also wasn't the only way the Bill & Ted franchise attempted to branch itself out. There was also an animated series first produced by Hanna-Barbera in 1990 that — believe it or not — featured Winter, Reeves, and even George Carlin reprising his role as Rufus (for the first season anyway). After Bogus Journey failed to truly deliver, everyone — including Hanna-Barbera — soured on the property, leaving a new cast working with production at DiC to make the second season. The changing of the guard had major creative ramifications, and season 2 of the Bill & Ted cartoon only lasted 8 episodes.

But that didn't stop the Bill & Ted train from thinking it could. A live-action series followed the cartoon which did not involve Matheson or Solomon even though they did pitch for it. No, it was Darren Star (Sex and the City) whose pitch won the day and became a TV series in 1992. Without any of the original talent involved the show was not a success and lasted only 8 episodes. Carole Kucharewicz of Variety summed it up saying, "Taking one-dimensional teen time travelers and making a weekly series is not a good idea and it's not a compelling enough reason for parents to let their youngsters take over the TV from 60 Minutes reruns." Alex Winter even denounced the series on Arsenio Hall.

In short: no cereal, video game, or Halloween show at Universal Studios could rally what had become an ailing franchise. So it died in August of 1992 and stayed unresponsive for 18 years.

Bill & Ted's careers sped on

Even if there was a desire to make more Bill & Ted the chance to bringing back one of its stars was fading. Keanu Reeves became one of the world's biggest action stars when Speed was released in 1994. Winter moved behind the camera and became a director (his dark comedy Freaked is a must see for every Bill & Ted fan). Life moves on, the world moves on — even Bill & Ted moved on.

As the years passed, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure remained one of the most beloved time travel stories and Bogus Journey gained a dedicated cult following. While both Matheson and Solomon continued to work steadily just like Reeves and Winter, these are people who all remained friends because of Bill & Ted. Their enduring connection meant that, over time, a seed of an idea began to grow for a third Bill & Ted. In 2010 Winter confirmed rumors that Matheson and Solomon were working on a script for Bill & Ted 3. Turns out, the writing duo had approached Winter and Reeves as far back as 2007 with their ideas.

But there's a major difference between "starting a script" and making a movie, so what (multiple things) made Bill & Ted 3 take a whopping thirteen years to make its way to theaters?

Bill & Ted 3 was a speculative creative venture

That's right. Despite their industry experience, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon wrote Bill & Ted 3 on spec. "On spec" just means the script was neither commissioned nor solicited by any studio. They essentially wrote it for free, which no writer will do unless they're truly passionate about a project. Matheson, Solomon, Winter, and Reeves were all interested, but four people wanting to make a movie doesn't mean a movie gets made. And working on spec also means, in order to eat, you work on other projects and dip into the Bill & Ted pet project when there's time.

The script for Bill & Ted 3 went through many iterations. There were conversations about what to do with Rufus after the passing of George Carlin. Bill and Ted's kids were originally sons instead of daughters. Another big question that had to be grappled with was about how to deal with a song that brings the world together in peace and harmony — do you play the song or not? If you do play the song that saves the universe, doesn't it have to sound incredible?

If you put all that together, it makes sense that the script didn't find its way to the finish line until 2018. And by 2018, the television and film landscape had changed quite a bit — we'd gone from remakes being the big thing to revivals being the big thing — Fuller House, The Conners, Will & Grace, The X-Files, and Veronica Mars just to name a few. At last, Bill & Ted 3 seemed perfectly positioned for the moment.

Bill & Ted finally face the music

From 2018 to the release date of 2020 is not terribly long in terms of filmmaking. They had to work around tight schedules. Reeves has got that little, teeny-tiny John Wick franchise that he works on from time to time. There's also The Matrix 4 — a minor commitment. Winter, too, was busy directing his documentary Showbiz Kids

The only other major obstacle that Bill & Ted Face the Music had to contend with was COVID-19. Like with a lot of films right now, there was the question of when and how do you release a major motion picture at a time when people can't really go to the movies. After all, the biggest reason why financiers agreed to put their money behind this project was the potential box office return. They had to figure out a release strategy that would get the film to as many fans as possible, while protecting the financiers' investment.

In the end, the only other delay was an additional two weeks (from August 14 to August 28 2020) to avoid squaring off against the Christopher Nolan film Tenet, which was also ultimately delayed because of COVID-19.

After 13 years of gestation, Bill & Ted Face the Music is available on VOD now.