Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why You Don't See Alex Winter On Screen Much Anymore

Alex Winter found mega-fame early in life. He went from Broadway to Bill & Ted to co-writing, co-directing, and starring in Freaked in 1993. But that quick rise to prominence also forced the actor to grow up way too soon.

Winter is best known today for playing Bill S. Preston Esq. in the Bill & Ted films and animated series. The 1989 comedy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure launched both Winters and his co-star, Keanu Reeves, to the A-list, as well as spawning catchphrases aplenty. Later, the characters (no longer played by Winter and Reeves) even had a long-running, bicoastal, and highly controversial show during Universal Halloween Horror Nights (via Vice).

Winter also had a role in 1987's The Lost Boys as one of the rowdy teen vamps menacing a family in the seaside town of Santa Carla. His last big-screen project for several years was Freaked, a black comedy Winter co-wrote and co-directed. Based on a sketch from MTV's The Idiot Box, Freaked also co-starred Brooke Shields. But that was decades ago. Here's why you haven't seen much of Alex Winter in front of the camera since the limited release of Freaked.

Alex Winter grew disillusioned with Hollywood

Throughout Alex Winter's Hollywood acting career, he was battling PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. As he told the Guardian, Winter compartmentalized his abuse: "There was The King and I – eight shows a week, happy face – feeling genuinely happy in that role. Great relationship with my mom and dad; great relationship with the co-workers around me ... and then this nightmarish other existence." Winter has not named his abuser, who he says is now dead. 

Stepping away from acting was a conscious choice on Winter's part. After Freaked was pulled from wide distribution, Winter decided to become a more private person in part so he could heal. "I was just like, I need to stop doing this thing where these eyes are on me all the time and I don't feel safe or comfortable," he told the Guardian. "I just want to go ride the subway and help raise a family and do my writing and directing."

Dude, Alex Winter's a documentarian

Alex Winter has become a serious documentary filmmaker in the intervening years. One of his most recent documentaries, 2020's Showbiz Kids, is about child stars. The film deals with, among other things, the type of abuse child actors are vulnerable to. NPR lauded Winter's sensitivity toward his subjects and the nuance with which he tackles issues of teen sexuality and agency. 

Back in 2013, Winter explored the rise and fall of Napster in the film Downloaded, which premiered at South by Southwest. In 2015, he directed Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road for Epix and Smosh: The Movie, starring the YouTube comedy duo Smosh. Winter has also made documentaries about the Panama Papers, experimental rocker Frank Zappa, and blockchain currency. Many of Winter's documentaries focus on the internet and how its "Wild West" of commerce bumps against established law. That makes sense since Winter has also become an advocate for privacy rights over the past 20 years.

Alex Winter spends more time on activism than acting

Through his documentaries, Alex Winter has brought attention to issues of internet privacy and potential government overreach in controlling the web. As he wrote in Esquire, the early internet gave Winter the anonymity that Bill & Ted's success took away: "I was coming to prominence as an actor in the movies around this time, and was feeling the sting of losing (for good as it happens) any degree of normal anonymity in the physical world. Perhaps I was particularly drawn to the fully anonymous communities online." According to IndieWire, the internet was the first place where Winter addressed his childhood abuse.

As a web 1.0 user, Winter saw the way sites of dubious legality such as Napster and the Silk Road were quickly quashed by governments. He has used his platform to speak out in defense of the Dark Net and the right to privacy on the internet. He even got his Bill & Ted co-star, Keanu Reeves, to narrate Deep Web. Besides his documentaries, Winter also gave a TEDx talk on the subject.

Bill and Ted finally faced the music

But Alex Winter hasn't fully turned his back on acting. In 2020, Winter and Reeves reunited with Bill & Ted creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon on Bill & Tell Face the Music. The film had been in development since 2008, according to Rolling Stone.

Reeves, Winter, Solomon, and Matheson came up with the kernel of the film at a barbeque, but studios weren't interested. "They were cult-y movies," Matheson told Rolling Stone. "To the degree that there was any interest, it was more like, 'Well, now their kids need to [do] a history report, so it's a big family adventure to help the kids pass the history class.' We could have gotten that off the ground, but we didn't want to do that."

Rather than sacrifice their creative vision, the group went to Winter's beloved internet. They made the idea of a Bill & Ted 3 known to the public, who created huge fan campaigns. Things didn't really take off, however, until Reeves starred in the ultra-successful John Wick series. 

Bill & Ted Face the Music came out during the COVID-19 pandemic, which hurt its box office performance. The film was well-received critically, however, holding a "generally favorable" rating on Metacritic. A fourth movie hasn't been ruled out, so we may yet see more of Alex Winter on the screen.