Warning: spoilers for Bill & Ted Face The Music are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, make sure you travel to the point in the Circuits of Time that you did. Otherwise, what we’re about to tell you is most heinous.
Resurrecting the most excellently joyful franchise that started with 1988’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the release of Bill & Ted Face The Music has been inspiring fans to react to the return of William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves.) But for as many callbacks and in-jokes as this latest film brings back to the table, there was one party that sadly could not be involved: the late, great George Carlin, whose time traveler Rufus helped straighten out Bill and Ted. The legendary comic, who passed away in 2008, is definitely referenced and paid tribute to within Bill & Ted Face The Music, Carlin’s character almost came back in a much bigger, more complicated manner.
During co-creator/co-writer Ed Solomon’s interview on our ReelBlend podcast, he shared some huge changes that were made throughout the history of the Bill & Ted series. But some of the greatest changes came from the deviations that Bill & Ted Face The Music took from what was originally on the page what we saw in the finished product. And one of those changes was the removal of the following sequence:
Initially, we had a bigger scene. Initially, we had one of my favorite scenes in the movie, which was in the second act, when Bill and Ted are trying to figure out what the hell went wrong with [them], they visited themselves at the Circle K on the night when their other selves arrived with George Carlin. And we had a whole scene where Ted interacted with young Ted, and Bill and Ted interacted with George Carlin.
This proposed scene sounds absolutely wild, as Bill & Ted Face The Music is definitely tinged with that sort of melancholy that Solomon described above. With Bill & Ted struggling to find out why they haven’t written “the song” that will repair all of time and reality, there’s naturally some misadventures through the Circuits of Time that see them attempting to find those answers. So naturally one of the moments that would have been keen to revisit would have been that fateful night in the Circle K parking lot, when two young dudes from San Dimas met a stranger from seven centuries in the future:
Of course, a lot of questions, and a hell of a lot of digital trickery would have been required to make this Bill & Ted Face The Music moment happen. And that, in turn, would have added a lot of hurdles of time and money to a film that already had its own history of ups and downs before getting in front of cameras. And as Ed Solomon continued to discuss with the ReelBlend boys, the limitations on this new sequel helped unveil an even deeper reason for scrapping the even bigger return of Rufus.
Aside from the fact that we just didn't have the money -- we had very little money to make the movie, so we couldn't actually afford to shoot that scene. And part of the reason we couldn't afford to shoot it was it cost so much money to do all the digital manipulation of George Carlin. And we thought to ourselves, ‘Is that really what we want to do? Do we really want to manipulate George?’ No. that felt weird. To make it appear that the guys were interacting with him. That just didn't feel right. So we jettison the scene, and we put George in the hologram, as he is in this movie. So you see him for a moment.
As Bill & Ted first arrive in the future in Bill & Ted Face The Music, they actually see a replica of the original time machine they took in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure standing amid a new version of the futuristic San Dimas, California. When walking by the phone booth, a hologram flickers, showing Rufus’ likeness from his first appearance in 1988, with a pre-recorded message showing it off as a sort of museum piece. In place of the digital manipulation that Ed Solomon originally wrote into the script, a mix of archival footage, and new dialogue provided by voice actor/impressionist Piotr Michael, are used to invoke the spirit of a dearly departed companion.
The moment is still an emotional touchstone for Bill & Ted fans, and it also ties into one of the running threads that’s sewn this series together. Emotion is one of the greatest driving forces of the entire Bill & Ted saga, but it especially influenced how Bill & Ted Face The Music eventually turned out. Both the retconning of “little Bill & Ted” into the characters of Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), as well as changing an ending that sounded way sadder to a much more upbeat affair, were decisions made to enhance the story that eventually came out of the threequel. Which lead Ed Solomon and co-creator/co-writer Chris Matheson to make one more lasting contribution to the series’ potential future:
And then we named the Emissary from the future, who was going to be a character based on like a Henry Rollins type character … we were like, ‘No, what are we doing? This movie needs to open up. It's [Rufus’] daughter. Of course it's his daughter. It's Kelly.’ George had a daughter named Kelly. So we named the character Kelly. And that felt like a much more, I don't know, truthful and on theme way to do it. And Kelly Carlin’s in the movie. She got a little cameo in the future.
With Kristen Schaal acting as the new emissary from the future, her character was named Kelly for the very special reason you saw above. Taking a scene and story that could have been more standard in how it pays homage to the future, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson changed a long awaited sequel into a proper return to a world that is most non-heinous. While George Carlin's Rufus may not appear in an extended capacity, his spirit is still invoked in such a reverent fashion that even the man himself would probably approve, when all was said and done. You can see this for yourself when you watch (or re-watch) Bill & Ted Face The Music, which is currently available on VOD and in select theaters.