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Alex Winter claimed that he gets two types of letters from teachers; positive ones from history teachers for encouraging students to learn about history, and negative ones from English teachers for affecting the way students speak.
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The phone booth time machine was given away as a contest prize by Nintendo Power magazine, which was promoting Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure (1991).
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For years, Keanu Reeves lamented that his epitaph would be "Here lies Keanu Reeves. He played Ted."
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In the original script, the time machine was a 1969 Chevy van. The filmmakers thought that was too similar to Back to the Future (1985), so they changed it to a phone booth (apparently unconcerned that Doctor Who (1963) uses a police telephone box as a time machine). Bill and Ted picked up more historical figures than they did in the final film.
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In the film, Bill and Ted claim that they need Edward Van Halen in their band to make it better. After the film was released, he jokingly said he would have joined their band if they had asked.
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When Napoleon finishes his "waterslide" presentation at the end of the movie, Ted looks up and says, "I don't think it's gonna work." He is actually diagramming Napoléon Bonaparte's most disastrous defeat, the French invasion of Russia.
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In 2010, the city of San Dimas, CA, celebrated 50 years of incorporation. The celebration's slogan was "San Dimas, 1960-2010 - An Excellent Adventure."
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Originally, the plot was to have Bill and Ted visit, and accidentally cause, all of history's greatest tragedies, including the sinking of the Titanic and the crash of the Hindenburg.
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All of the figures that Bill and Ted pick up through history are shown on the blackboard on the opening scene.
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Bill and Ted began as a stand-up act, in which the characters would discuss current events without knowing what they were talking about. It originally included a third character named Bob, but the comedian who played him lost interest after a few performances.
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According to Alex Winter, Bill and Ted's iconic arm gesture (holding one hand on the chest while raising the other arm in the air) was a spontaneous reaction, as it felt natural to him and Keanu Reeves.
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Characters say "dude" 70 times, and "excellent" 30 times.
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In April 2013, Alex Winter called casting George Carlin "a very happy accident. They were going after serious people first. Like Sir Sean Connery, and someone had the idea, way after we started shooting, of George. That whole movie was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day."
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The German dub has gained cult status in Germany. It is credited with coining the words "Hoschi" (for "dude") and "granatenstark" (for "excellent"). The quote "Be excellent to each other" is replaced with a more philosophical line which translates as "Colorful and excellent is the being." Some of the German-dubbed catchphrases (e.g. "Volle Kanne, Hoschi") became so popular that they became part of the language.
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Principal photography was completed in 1987, but the film's original financiers, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt. The film was in danger of being dumped onto cable television until Nelson Entertainment bought the rights in 1988, and released it in 1989.
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Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson wrote the script by hand, on note paper, during a series of meetings at local coffee shops. They finished in 4 days. The 2005 box set, Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection, features some of their handwritten notes.
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When filming began, Keanu Reeves was 22 and Alex Winter was 21, much closer to high school age than typical Hollywood productions.
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In a 1991 interview, Ed Solomon said the characters of Bill and Ted were originally envisioned as "14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bell-bottoms and heavy metal t-shirts" who were despised by the popular kids at school. Casting Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter changed the filmmakers' images of the characters. "Once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe."
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The textbook used by Bill and Ted in the film was a real high school history textbook used in California schools in the late 1980's.
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Bill says "Let's reach out and touch someone" before they use the booth for the first time. It's an old slogan for Bell System Phone Company, associated with the advertising campaign that introduced touch-tone telephones in the late 1960s. It resulted in massive sales, which coincided with a major upgrade to telephone systems throughout the U.S., and eventually the world.
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According to Alex Winter, filming in the phone booth was so unpleasant that he and Keanu Reeves nicknamed it "The Death Box."
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Originally, Alex Winter auditioned for the role of Ted, and Keanu Reeves auditioned for the role of Bill.
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Stevie Salas is the "guitar hand double" for Rufus during the jam session at the end of the movie.
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The film takes place in 2688, May 1988, 1805, 1879, 410 BC, the 1400s, 1901, 1810, 1429, 1209, 1863 and 1,000,000 BC.
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In the book "The Producers: Profiles in Frustration," producer Scott Kroopf recalled pitching the script to Dino De Laurentiis. According to Kroopf "Dino had no idea what the film was about. He didn't understand what dudes were until someone said to him that 'dudes' meant guys who had big dicks. Then he said 'Oh, great, now I get it.'"
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The film features Extreme's song "Play With Me." Soon after, Alex Winter directed the video for Extreme's follow-up hit, "Decadence Dance."
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The Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix, Arizona, which was used as the San Dimas Mall, closed down in June 30th, 2020, after 47 years in business.
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When Bill and Ted get Beethoven, the film shows they are in Kassel, Germany, in 1810. At the time, Kassel was the seat of the court of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoléon Bonaparte's younger brother.
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At the beginning, Mr. Ryan asks Ted who Joan of Arc was, and Ted replies "Noah's wife." In the German dubbed version, he asks who Hannibal was, and Ted replies "The uncle of Football."
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Most of the historical figures Bill and Ted brought back with them died horrifically. Several, including Socrates, Joan of Arc, Billy the Kid, and Abraham Lincoln, were either executed or assassinated. Sigmund Freud died by assisted suicide. Some people believe Napoléon Bonaparte's death under house arrest was the result of arsenic poisoning. Historically Genghis Khan and Ludwig van Beethoven died of natural causes
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Napoleon "pigs out" on a Neapolitan sundae at Ziggy Piggy's that he calls "La glacé". Despite the similarities between the ice cream and his name, the dessert originated in Naples, Italy. Historically, Napoléon Bonaparte was fond of it.
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In an interview with Starlog Magazine, Chris Matheson said he didn't intend for this to be a science-fiction movie. "I try to consciously fight it, out of a desire to break away, but maybe I have a predilection toward that because of my dad," Matheson said of the fantasy elements that emerged. "He's a great writer and craftsman, and always has suggestions." In fact, it was his father Richard Matheson's idea that the time travel story be its own movie. "We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, 'That sounds like a whole movie,'" Matheson recalled, "And he was right!"
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The exterior shots of Bill and Ted's high school are of Coronado High School in Scottsdale, AZ. The striking mosaic on the school's auditorium facade was designed by art teacher Mr. Gatti and the students in the early 1960s. The auditorium was torn down during renovations, between 2005 and 2007. The mosaic and roof, visible when Bill and Ted leave school in a red Mustang, were saved and moved, piece by piece, to the new auditorium.
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The song "Two Heads are Better Than One" is credited to Power Tool. It's actually the work of Matthew Nelson and Gunnar Nelson, sons of rock and roll icon Ricky Nelson, who would later form their own band, Nelson. Coincidentally, the film was released by Nelson Entertainment.
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Bill's "philosophy" to Socrates, "All we are is dust in the wind, dude", is a line from "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas . Socrates' response is, "Like sands of the hourglass, such are the days of our lives." For decades, that was the opening credits voiceover for Days of Our Lives (1965). Amy Stoch appeared on 26 episodes of Days of Our Lives in 1986.
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The scene when Napoleon slides down the water slides at "Waterloo" was filmed at the Golfland/Sunsplash water park in Mesa, AZ.
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In the original outline for the movie, Rufus was a 28-year-old high school sophomore who befriended Bill and Ted. There was also a character named John the Serf, whom Bill and Ted picked up in medieval England.
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During filming, Dan Shor was 31, and Jane Wiedlin was 29. In real life, Billy the Kid was killed at 21, and Joan of Arc was executed at 19.
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The Circle K in the film is in San Dimas, CA, at the corner of Walnut and Bonita Avenues. The convenience store scenes were at least partially filmed at the Circle K in Tempe, AZ, at the northwest corner of Southern and Hardy.
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In the original script, Babe Ruth was among the historical figures.
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The film was originally going to end with Bill and Ted taking the princesses to the prom. When they first meet, Ted asks them to the prom. A photo on a British VHS cover from 1997 suggests this scene was filmed but deleted.
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The centermost "future dude" was played by Clarence Clemons, who was the saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band during their heyday. He is best remembered for his solo on the song Born to Run.
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The bar fight scene is parallel to the girl scout fight scene in Airplane! (1980). Both begin over a poker cheat (extra ace), have the same punches and bar stool hit, and end with one being slid across the bar until breaking through a wall or juke box.
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The Australian band "Space Desert's" EP "Forrest Gump II" is about Bill and Ted. It quotes lines from the film, and includes a snippet of an interview with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter explaining the meaning of the word "Bodacious".
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The picture on Ted's T-shirt is the cover photo for Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love?" single, sold during the Van Halen 5150 tour, and very popular with Van Halen fans in the late 1980s. It was Sammy Hagar's first tour with Van Halen after replacing David Lee Roth.
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The punk band The Ataris wrote a song based on Ox's report. It's titled "San Dimas High School Football Rules!", but it has nothing to do with the film.
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This is one of three productions in which Genghis Khan and Abraham Lincoln appear together as characters, even though Lincoln was born 582 years after Khan died. The others are Star Trek: The Original Series: The Savage Curtain (1969) and Clone High (2002).
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The bowling alley was a Fair Lanes during filming. It's now the AMF Tempe Village Lanes, on Rural Road at U.S. Highway 60, three miles south of Arizona State University.
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The mall scene was filmed at the Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix, Arizona, between Peoria and Dunlap Avenues at Interstate 17. It has since been renovated, and no longer looks as it did in the film. Some of the extras were students from Cortez High School on their lunch break. Cortez High School is Alice Cooper's alma mater.
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Sean Penn and River Phoenix auditioned for the role of Bill. Phoenix would appear with Keanu Reeves a year after the release of this film in I Love You to Death (1990) and My Own Private Idaho (1991).
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Steve Jackson Games released Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game in 2016 based on the movie characters.
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Terry Camilleri who plays Napoléon Bonaparte, is actually Australian with Italian heritage, and was born in Malta.
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Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq.), Keanu Reeves (Ted "Theodore" Logan), George Carlin (Rufus), Hal Landon Jr. (Captain John Logan), Amy Stoch (Missy) and J. Patrick McNamara (Mr. Preston) are the only actors to reprise their roles in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991).
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Sigmund Freud is seen with phallic objects in several scenes.
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Despite the discomfort of fitting nine people in a phone booth, it is entirely possible. The world record was set in South Africa in 1959 when 25 people successfully crammed into a single phone booth.
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The song "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by Power Tool, which can be heard in the movie's closing credits and also serves as the closing track on the soundtrack album, was co-written by Frank Zappa's son Dweezil Zappa. Steve Vai, who was the guitarist for Zappa's backing band from 1980 to 1983, contributed to two songs for the movie's sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991): "The Reaper" and "The Reaper Rap". Alex Winter (who claims to be a huge fan of Frank Zappa) also directed the documentary Zappa (2020).
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When Bill and Ted leave Napoleon with Deacon, a balloon in the background has "Party On Dude" written on it.
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In an April 2019 interview for the Sway's Universe podcast, Brendan Fraser said that contrary to popular rumor, he never auditioned for the role of Bill.
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Ringo Starr, Sean Connery, Roger Daltrey and Charlie Sheen were considered for the part of Rufus before George Carlin was cast.
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Diane Franklin and Kimberly La Belle who played the princesses also read for the role of Missy and Franklin read for Joan of Arc but learn that she doesn't say a word in the entire movie.
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Lincoln's speech at the end is a paraphrase of the real Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
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Rufus wears a pendant with what appears to be the neck of a guitar. The Great Leader in Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) wears the same pendant.
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The concerned expression on Ted's face, from the scene where he and Bill try to escape from England via phone booth, has been used for an internet meme. This has been referred to as "Conspiracy Keanu" and the memes usually start off with "What if...".
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When Bill and Ted arrive in Germany to grab Beethoven for their report, Beethoven is the only person in the room not to hear the time machine arrive, because he was severely deaf at that point in time.
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The number that Rufus dials to take Bill and Ted to Austria in 1805 is 1-323-459-4303. The 323 area code split off from the 213 area code on June 13, 1998.
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When Joan of Arc is praying to the God and Bill and Ted arrive at the cathedral, Ted reaches out to her in the same manner as God reaches out to Adam in "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo.
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The keyboard shown in the ending scene is an ARP Omni 2. The Omni 2 is an analog synthesizer that was manufactured by ARP Instruments, Inc. from 1978 and 1981.
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Viewers actually hear as much of Mozart's music in this film as Beethoven's. Beethoven plays part of Mozart's Rondo alla turca aka Piano Sonata No. 11 (1783) when he is in the store. Mozart himself is kidnapped in the sequel Face the Music.
Ted addresses Joan as "Joan of Arc" but she never used that title during her lifetime, and was not from a town called Arc. During her trial, she called herself Joan the Maid and said she did not know her surname. She later explained her father was Jacques D'Arc and her mother was Isabelle Romée, adding that in her hometown daughters often took their mothers' surnames. In late medieval France, family surnames were little used.
Matt Adler, of North Shore fame, was a finalist for Bill, but ultimately lost out to Alex Winter.
The album's soundtrack was released on A&M Records. That is the same label that released albums by half of the artists on the soundtrack: Extreme, Glen Burtnick (who later became the singer for Styx, who also had albums released by A&M), Tora Tora, Big Pig (for distribution outside of their native Australia) and Bricklin.
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There was no playback used during filming when Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter did their air guitar gestures. The electric guitar sounds were added in post-production.
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Bill (Alex Winter) persistently introduces himself as Esquire, despite this title being normally reserved for practicing lawyers who have graduated from law school.
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Rufus never introduces himself to Bill or Ted. The future Bill and Ted introduce him to their past selves at the Circle K.
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The original ending had Bill and Ted delivering their history report in class, with all of the historical figures displaying their views via blackboard.
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The "Ziggy Pig" in the ice cream parlor is a reference to a comic book character created by Timely Comics (now Marvel) during World War II. In 1987, the character was public domain. The award put on Napoleon's chest is based on the ribbon patrons of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor received if they ate an entire "Pig Trough," a double-sized banana split. Farrell's was a large restaurant chain in the 1970s, but few remained by 1988.
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On the cover of the British VHS re-release of the film (by BMG Entertainment International U.K. and Ireland Ltd. by Canal+ distribution) in 1997, there is a picture of Bill and Ted wearing tuxedos, linking arms with the Princess Babes. This seems to be from a deleted high school prom scene, which would have appeared at the end of the film.
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When Bill and Ted leave Napoleon in Ted's younger brother Deacon's care, an electric football game is in the background. Assuming Ted grew up playing the game, it helps explain why Bill and Ted are good at it, and beat the Grim Reaper when they play in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991).
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In Germany, one piece of dialog has been altered in the scene when Bill and Ted meet their future selves. They are asking "If you guys are really us, of which famous toothpick (celebrity) are we thinking right now?", and their future selves reply "Arnold Schwarzenegger!".
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