It all started with a friendship: a connection between two UCLA students named Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson.  Chris and Ed had become friends before they became writing partners.  They would hang out and make each other laugh and come up with silly stuff with no plans to ever write it down.  They were in their twenties acting like kids; feeding off each othersí energy and talent and generally having a good time.  There's no doubt that their friendship was the underlying inspiration for Bill & Ted.

Bill and Ted actually sprang from an improv workshop held in 1983 (with a total of five members) which Chris and Ed attended at the Gardener Stage in on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood (the group would each pay a small amount to rent the stage sans audience.)  Ed explained how Chris came up with the idea of three guys sitting around trying to study when they had no idea what they were talking about.  "Really, really, really ignorant teenage boys who know nothing about anything trying to talk about world affairs," as Chris would explain.  Although the focus then was current events instead of history, the basic concept was there.  Essentially, the teenagersí reaction to everything was either "Bogus" or "Excellent."  While performing the skit, Ed called Chris Bill, Chris called Ed Ted and the third characterís name was Bob.  Ted even had a father (named Mr. Williams . . . Ted was Ted Williams at the time.)  Ed and Chris enjoyed doing the characters very much, but the guy doing Bob didnít enjoy it as much and opted out, so it came just Bill & Ted.  What started as a five-minute sketch became the basis of a lasting legacy, and it should be noted that Ed and Chris were the original Bill and Ted!  Scott Kroopf recounted that at some point, when Ed and Chris actually performed the characters in front of an audience, they would encourage the audience members to shout out questions which they would answer as Bill & Ted.  They had such fun being the characters that after finishing the night of improv they went to Ships coffee shop (which sadly no longer exists . . . L.A. residents still long for their chicken pot pies!) and acted like Bill and Ted for three hours.

Over the course of time, Ed and Chris created Missy and the backgrounds of Bill & Ted's families and rounded out the characters.  Originally, Ted had an older brother named Dan who was a complete pseudo-intellectual that was supposedly away at college but more likely had been kicked out of the house by their dad and was living in a car somewhere writing letters to Ted.  Ed pointed out that while Dan was a stoner, Bill and Ted were never stoners.  Ed explains that their voices were not consciously lifted from surfer speak, stoner speak, valley speak or even California speak, but was a unique dialogue where the characters used words that they didnít really understand.  Chris expanded on this by saying he felt the voice was a natural way of projecting the naturally accepting quality of the characters and their willingness to be open to everything.  Chris went on to point out that even the bogus stuff to them isnít really that bogus . . . itís all kind of excellent.  They agree that the characters are essentially nice to everyone, be it Napoleon or the nerd sitting next to them.  "We considered Bill and Ted to be these innocents who would wander wide-eyed into any situation and treat everyone exactly the same - completely open, completely friendly," Ed Solomon explained in an interview with Cinefantastique.  "Theyíd treat the guy sitting next to them in math class the same as Abraham Lincoln, with no sense of the context in which they lived."

While Matheson attended graduate school in San Diego, focusing on theatre arts, Solomon stayed in Los Angeles to become executive story editor on It's Gary Shandling's Show.  But they stayed in touch via phone calls and wrote letters to each other as Bill and Ted, formulating the premise that would eventually lead them to write Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.  The original idea behind Excellent Adventure wasnít necessarily based in fantasy, but rather the concept of having Bill & Ted come face-to-face with some of the greatest people who ever lived and treat them all equally and without any previous conceptions or prejudices.  As Chris explained to Starlog Magazine, "After I went off to grad school, Ed and I were talking on the phone and cracking up about the idea that these guys had gone back into history, and through sheer bumbling, were responsible for everything bad that ever happened to mankind, including the Plague, world wars, the Titanic.  The implications of that were a little dark, however Ė such as the Holocaust Ė but we got a big kick out of sending them back into history.  We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, ĎThat sounds like a whole movie.í  And he was right!"

Chris Matheson explained to Starlog Magazine that while time travel was a large part of the movie, he didnít set out to write a science fiction film.  His father, Richard Matheson, was already very famous for that genre.  "I try to consciously fight it, out of a desire to break away Ė but maybe I have a predilection toward that because of my dad. Heís a great writer and craftsman, and always has suggestions."  Many of the elements which became so synonymous with Bill & Ted were in place from the very beginning, while other elements changed with time and rewrites.  Neither Ed nor Chris knew anyone who ever actually did air guitar.  It apparently sprang from Bill & Tedís jubilation and a need to express that.  They laughed at the fact that they really didnít care in the outline stage which character said what . . . they would write snippets of dialogue and then place the names "Bill" and "Ted" above them.  The character of Rufus was originally a 28-year-old high school sophomore with a van that just happened to go through time with no real explanation.  In that version the story began at school and not in the future, and they donít understand why Rufus has been in their lives for a couple of weeks.  In that early outline, it ended at the prom with the history teacher (then Mr. Davis) asking how Bill & Ted managed to get all the actors to play the parts.  After being told they werenít actors, he asks how they got all those people.  Bill & Ted tell him they went back in history and got them, then air guitar.

It was now 1984.  The original outline of the movie was written in Lake Tahoe in three days.  They wrote the actual script by hand on note paper during meetings at Ships coffee shop and Normís coffee shop in four days.  They then split the handwritten script in half and each of them typed up their half and put it together to create the first typed, presentable script.  Ed noted how between the original handwritten outline and the finished script there were few revisions and very little crossing-out of things.  Both described the experience as unique, in the sense that writing a script in that short of a time is practically unheard of!  A crucial part of the story, the fact that Bill & Ted will have a major impact on the future of the world, turns out to have been a last minute addition to the script, and one which caused a point of contention on the part of executives which the writers couldn't have foreseen.  The powers-that- be apparently missed the joke about this part of the script and kept asking for a logical explanation to justify such events.  Ed Solomon explained, "We had to fight at every turn the thinking ĎDonít we need to see how theyíre going to become the greatest people who ever lived?í  No!  The point is: they have no idea why thatís going to happen, and we have no idea why."

So Bill & Ted were born and ready to wow the world . . . but was the world ready for Bill & Ted?

CONTINUE TO PRE-PRODUCTION PAGE


Article Sources: 

Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection - Non-Bogus Disc: In Conversation with Screenwriters Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection - Non-Bogus Disc: The Most Triumphant "Making-of" Documentary
Cinefantastique, August 1991 - Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon on the birth of a phenomenon
Starlog - May 1988, Number 130