Two years after Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter taught the world how to play air guitar in time-travelling comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the two wannabe rock stars destined to save the universe returned for a sequel.
Armed with a bigger budget and an even more audacious concept, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey doesn’t send our heroes on another adventure through history: instead, it sends them crashing headfirst into the afterlife, where they find an unlikely (and largely unwilling) ally in the Grim Reaper himself, memorably portrayed by William Sadler.
Recently we saw our dim-witted heroes return to screens for the first time in nearly 30 years with Bill & Ted Face the Music, making this as good a time as any to reflect on their previous outing. Did you know the following most triumphant truths about Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey?
30. Excellent Adventure’s director turned the film down for being too “mean-spirited”
The original 1989 film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, was directed by Stephen Herek.
Naturally, when talks began for a follow-up film, Herek was at first poised to return to the director’s chair.
However, there were problems immediately because Herek didn’t like the story screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson had come up with.
Herek says he passed because he thought the script was “sort of mean-spirited” and “a parody of a parody.”
When Matheson and Solomon would not agree to Herek’s suggested changes, they parted ways, clearing the way for new director Pete Hewitt.
Herek would go on to direct Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, The Mighty Ducks and The Three Musketeers.
29. The studio originally wanted Bill and Ted to meet famous literary characters
Stephen Herek wasn’t the only one unsure about Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson’s ideas for the Bill and Ted sequel.
At first, studio Orion Pictures were pushing for the sequel to be far closer in tone and content to the original.
Their suggestion was that Bill and Ted should travel around collecting famous characters from literature to help them write an English paper.
This, of course, would have made Bogus Journey very similar to Excellent Adventure, in which they collect historical figures to help pass their history exam.
Matheson and Solomon weren’t convinced by this idea, but attempted to write a script along these lines.
However, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter much preferred the idea of Bill and Ted exploring the afterlife, and pushed for that direction to be taken instead.
28. The title was changed from Bill & Ted Go to Hell because US TV wouldn’t have been able to advertise the film before 9pm
Originally, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey had the working title of Bill & Ted Go to Hell.
This title immediately threw up a red flag about the studio’s ability to market the film.
With the word ‘hell’ in the title, they would only have been able to advertise the film on US network television after 9pm.
As this was a PG-rated sequel aimed at all ages, execs didn’t want to risk alienating the wider audience.
Because of this, the title was changed to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, which was both less objectionable and more evocative of the previous film’s title, Excellent Adventure.
This may also in part explain why many of the hell-bound scenes were excised from the final cut: as scripted and shot, the film originally spent a lot more time in the Devil’s infernal domain.
27. Joss Ackland is embarrassed about being in the film
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey features a memorable bad guy turn from Joss Ackland.
The English actor (who also took a villainous role in Lethal Weapon 2) co-stars as as Chuck De Nomolos.
The dastardly De Nomolos plans to rewrite history by killing Bill and Ted and wiping out their legacy, with the help of their evil robot replicas.
Sadly, as much as we may have enjoyed his performance, it seems Ackland himself doesn’t look back on it with much fondness.
Discussing his experience on the film, Ackland told the BBC in 2001, “I can’t tell you how embarrassing that was,” and implied that he only agreed to make the film to settle a bet with a friend.
Bonus fun fact: ‘De Nomolos’ is simply the name of co-writer Ed Solomon spelt backwards.
26. “Station” was actually a drunken typo by the film’s writers
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey sees our heroes add “station!” to their repertoire of adjectives expressing elation or agreement.
On top of this, Station is also the name of the two martian scientists whose help Bill and Ted enlist along the way.
For many years, the origins of this were unclear, as the term had no such popular usage beforehand.
Alex Winter himself recently confessed that he had always been confused by ‘station’ – prompting an amusing confession from screenwriter Ed Solomon.
Solomon admitted that ‘station’ was originally a typo that wound up in the script while he and Chris Matheson were working on the script whilst drunk.
The writers had cut out a scene that was set in police station, but inadvertently left the word ‘station’ behind.
In their inebriated state, Solomon and Matheson started saying ‘station’ in an alien voice, and found it so hilarious that they made it a recurring gag.
25. Battle of the Bands contestants Primus went on to perform the South Park theme
The climactic showdown of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey takes place at the Battle of the Bands concert.
Before Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns take the stage, we briefly see an appearance from Primus.
Unlike Wyld Stallyns, Primus are indeed a real band from California, playing their song Tommy the Cat.
The band have gone on to enjoy a long and successful career as an eclectic, experimental rock group.
Six years after Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Primus became most famous for composing and performing a certain TV theme tune.
- Credit: Flickr
That was, of course, the opening music to the top-rated but controversial animated comedy series South Park.
Launched in 1997, South Park is still in production today, and Primus’ theme music is still used in most episodes (although it’s been remixed and re-recorded a few times).
24. The initial director’s cut was considerably darker
From its concept alone, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is clearly a darker film than Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Even so, the version that went on general release is reportedly milder than what was originally shot.
Director Pete Hewitt says, “the first Bogus Journey cut was far darker than it is now… The humour was black comedy almost.”
Hewitt explains, “The Evil Us’s were really evil! I went for it and had them running riot doing despicable things. But test screen audiences couldn’t take it.”
One particularly creepy deleted scene saw Evil Bill and Evil Ted disguise themselves as each other, then reveal their true identity by stepping out of their skins.
There were also originally more scenes set in Hell, snippets of which can be seen in the original theatrical trailer.
23. The original ending featured an army of Bill & Teds
As originally scripted and shot, the Battle of the Bands climax played out rather differently.
In order to defeat the evil robot Bill and Ted, good human Bill and Ted hatched a characteristically audacious plan.
They used time travel to bring back every Bill and Ted from every minute in the future for the following ten years, leaving them with an army of Bill and Teds.
Get it? Don’t worry if the answer’s no; the film’s initial test audiences couldn’t get their heads around it either, hence it was scrapped.
Leading up to this, there was also originally a car chase in which our heroes came under attack from their nightmare figures from Hell: Colonel Oates, Bill’s grandmother and the Easter Bunny.
This didn’t go down well with test audiences either, so the bulk of the conclusion was completely reshot. They also changed the fate of Joss Ackland’s De Nomolos, who originally died and went to Hell with the Robot Bill & Ted, who annoyed him for eternity.
22. Alex Winter quit acting afterwards due to PTSD
However, for many years a great many fans of the Bill & Ted movies may have wondered why they haven’t seen more from Bill actor Alex Winter.
After Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Alex Winter took one more notable film role – the lead in his directorial debut, Freaked – before largely abandoning acting in favour of a directing career.
Winter only revealed recently the true reason why he made this move: he was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, having been abused as a child actor.
In 2020 Winter told The Guardian, “I [needed] to stop doing this thing where these eyes are on me all the time and I don’t feel safe or comfortable.” It was only for the recent Bill & Ted Face the Music that he chose to make an exception.
Winter has 37 credits to his name as a director, including many documentaries, music videos and TV episodes.
21. Studio Orion Pictures went bankrupt not long after the film came out
There was a time when the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure didn’t look likely to get released.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, the company behind the original film, went bankrupt shortly before the film was released, and it was stuck in limbo for a while until Orion Pictures bought it.
Uncannily, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey came close to meeting an almost identical fate to its predecessor.
Studio Orion Pictures also found themselves on the brink of going bust just before releasing the film, and briefly considered selling it off to another studio to help with their financial struggles.
Happily, the studio managed to stay in business long enough to successfully put the film in cinemas worldwide.
The Orion Pictures brand has since been revived, and the studio co-financed the recent Bill & Ted Face the Music.
20. Production was delayed because Keanu Reeves was busy becoming a major star
In the aftermath of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves was quickly on his way to becoming a major star.
After taking supporting roles in Dangerous Liaisons and Parenthood, Reeves landed one of his first major dramatic leading roles in My Own Private Idaho.
Reeves starred in the indie drama alongside River Phoenix, with whom he became close. (In October 1993, Reeves was shooting Speed when Phoenix died, and was deeply affected by the loss of his friend.)
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey had initially been scheduled to start production earlier in 1990, but had to be put on hold to allow Reeves to complete work on My Own Private Idaho.
Reeves then followed these two very different movies with another equally different role in action classic Point Break, all of which established him as a major leading star in the 90s.
Reeves’ next films included Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and an uncredited appearance under heavy make-up in Alex Winter’s directorial debut Freaked.
19. Alex Winter also plays Granny S. Preston in the Hell sequence
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey casts both Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in dual roles, as both good human Bill & Ted and their evil robot counterparts.
However, you might not have known that Winter actually takes on another role in the movie.
When Bill and Ted are banished to their own personal hells, Bill finds himself forced to relive a traumatic childhood experience.
As viewers of the film will remember, little Bill is at a birthday party for his grandmother, who wants to give him a kiss.
It’s actually Alex Winter himself playing Bill’s Granny, under heavy make-up complete with chin hairs and off-putting false teeth.
The young Bill, meanwhile, is portrayed by child actor William Thorne, who later appeared in the early 90s horror movies Demonic Toys and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5.
18. William Sadler had “more fun than I’ve ever had” playing the Grim Reaper
Aside from Reeves as Ted and Winter as Bill, the other most memorable performance in Bogus Journey comes from William Sadler as the Grim Reaper.
Sadler was a jobbing 40-year old actor at the time, whose highest profile role to date had been a villainous turn in Die Hard 2.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey gave Sadler his first real opportunity to show off his comedic abilities, and he didn’t let this chance go to waste.
Sadler recalls, “I had more fun doing Bill and Ted than I’ve ever had making anything I’ve ever shot.”
The actor himself suggested the use of a Czech accent and the slightly effeminate mannerisms which help make his performance so hilarious.
Sadler also ad-libbed a lot of Death’s funniest lines, such as the climactic ‘Reaper Rap,’ and when he mentions that “reaping burns a lot of calories.”
17. Satan is voiced by Scooby-Doo actor Frank Welker
The small but obviously rather significant role of The Devil himself is taken in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey by actor Frank Welker.
Welker’s name may not be immediately familiar, but we guarantee you’ve heard his voice more times than you know.
- Credit: Super Festivals via Wikimedia Commons
He’s one of the most prolific voice actors in the business, applying his remarkably varied vocal mannerisms to all manner of films and TV shows.
Most famously, he has voiced both Fred and Scooby in the Scooby-Doo TV cartoons and animated movies for decades.
Welker also voiced several characters in The Transformers including Megatron, a duty he repeated on the big screen Transformers movies.
16. Future Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson appears as an extra
- Credit: Stefan Brending via Wikimedia Commons
The Bill & Ted movies have always had a big rock music connection, and all the films feature appearances from well-known rock stars.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey co-stars former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin as himself, and blues musician Taj Mahal as the gatekeeper of Heaven.
However, there’s also an appearance from another notable rock guitarist who had not yet found fame when the film was released.
Brad Delson, later the guitar player for nu-metal pioneers Linkin Park, appears in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey as an extra.
- Credit: Ronald S Woan via Flickr
Delson formed the band that would become Linkin Park in the mid-90s, and the band released their debut album Hybrid Theory in 2000.
Linkin Park became a huge success, going on to sell over 100 million records around the world and winning two Grammy awards.
15. Keanu Reeves was hospitalised by a mysterious arm infection during shooting
Shooting on Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey had to put on hold unexpectedly when Keanu Reeves was hospitalised.
The actor was struck down by an arm infection, which one report claimed was down to the actor having injected an unknown substance.
According to this report, Reeves had to be rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in his trailer.
Reeves himself is quoted as saying at the time, “I just have an infection in my arm, it’s not too bad. I’ve been responding well to antibiotics they’ve fed intraveneously.”
However, the actor was by all accounts back to work within a week, and the unfortunate incident did not put the film too far behind schedule.
Reeves has always been reticent to talk much about his personal life, but he has admitted to having dabbled in drug use in his younger years.
14. Critics and audiences didn’t love the film on release
Today, many fans look back on Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey as one of the greatest comedy sequels of all time.
However, neither audiences nor critics were quite sold on it when the film was first released.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey received mixed reviews, with many feeling it didn’t equal the charm of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The sequel did get one notable admirer in Roger Ebert, who praised “the originality that went into creating this hallucinatory slapstick.”
It under-performed at the box office too, earning only $38 million worldwide – not a great return on a $20 million budget.
Still, like so many films of the era it went on to enjoy a longer life on video and television.
13. Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson cameo in the seance scene
One pivotal scene in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey comes when the duo are inadvertently banished to Hell by their joint stepmother Missy (Amy Stoch).
We see that Missy leads a new age group attempting a seance, which proves successful for the first time when the ghosts of Bill and Ted arrive.
While the group is primarily made up of women, there are two male members present.
These are played by none other than Bill & Ted creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, who are credited as ‘Stupid Seance Member’ and ‘Ugly Seance Member’ respectively.
There’s an extra in-joke in the scene, as when the group start a chant to banish Bill and Ted, they are in fact saying “Ed and Chris rule the world” backwards.
The screenwriters previously made a cameo appearance in the ice cream parlour sequence of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, credited as Stupid Waiter and Ugly Waiter.
More recently, the duo also popped up in the Hell sequence of Bill & Ted Face the Music, appearing as – you guessed it – Stupid Demon and Ugly Demon. Clearly these guys have a very high opinion of themselves.
12. First-time director Pete Hewitt ‘doesn’t know why’ he was hired to make the film
- Credit: Orion Pictures
No one was more surprised than director Pete Hewitt himself when the unknown filmmaker was hired to call the shots on Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
The British director was only 28 years old with no credits to his name aside from a 30-minute short film entitled The Candy Show.
- Credit: Orion Pictures
However, on the strength of this and an interview, the producers and screenwriters were convinced he was the right fit for the Bill & Ted sequel.
Asked about why he was given the job shortly after the film came out, Hewitt responded, “to this day I don’t know why.”
The director pondered that the producers may have “admired my honesty and the fact I wasn’t scared to speak my mind,” as he says he made various script suggestions which were taken on board.
Hewitt went on to direct such films as Garfield, The Borrowers and the Adam Sandler comedy Zoom.
11. The famous Star Trek rock formation has an illustrious history
Early on in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted watch a famous episode of the original TV series Star Trek, entitled Arena.
Not long thereafter, our heroes are driven out into the desert by their robot dopplegangers, and thrown off the very same rock formation featured in that Star Trek episode.
The formation in question, Vasquez Rocks, has a long history on film dating back to before the classic Star Trek episode.
It was first used as a location in the 1930 horror movie Werewolf of London, for which the rocks doubled for the mountains of Tibet.
- Credit: Flickr
Later, Vasquez Rocks popped up again in the Star Trek universe, in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and more recently in an episode of Star Trek: Picard.
Other movies with scenes shot there include Blazing Saddles, Dante’s Peak, The Flintstones and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.
10. Bill and Ted’s guitar duet was performed by guitar hero Steve Vai
Famously, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey ends with a hard-rocking rendition of God Gave Rock and Roll to You, as performed by Kiss.
However, it’s not Kiss performing the initial guitar duet intro that segues into the song.
Nor are Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves playing the guitar part themselves, although both men can play guitar in real life.
- Credit: Vento di Grecale via Wikimedia Commons
Instead, the intro is performed by celebrated guitar hero Steve Vai, famed as one of the most technically proficient guitarists of the 80s.
Vai also performs The Reaper Rap, the track that plays over the end credits complete with many quotes from the movie.
- Credit: Anthony Nowack via National Rock Review
The guitarist is known for his work with such rock legends as Frank Zappa, Ozzy Osbourne and David Lee Roth. He also briefly appears in the 1986 film Crossroads.
Kiss had a hit single with God Gave Rock and Roll to You, although the version featured in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey with Vai’s intro has never been officially released.
9. The board game scene is a reference to classic Swedish film The Seventh Seal
The character of the Grim Reaper, and Bill and Ted’s interactions with him, owe a great deal to a revered cinematic classic.
These sequences are a parody of The Seventh Seal, the 1957 film by Swedish writer-director Ingmar Bergman often considered one of the greatest films ever made.
In the film, a deceased knight (played by Max von Sydow) challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a game of chess, in the hopes of returning to his mortal life.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey has fun with this by having our heroes beat Death at games they know how to play, including Battleship and Twister.
This isn’t the kind of reference point generally used in a seemingly low-brow, kid-friendly comedy. As such, some critics were impressed.
Dave Kehr of the Chicago Tribune described the film’s Seventh Seal homage as “a genuine pleasure.”
8. William Sadler appears out of make-up as a different character
Alex Winter isn’t the only cast member of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey to sneakily appear in a second role.
The same is also true of William Sadler – although by contrast with Winter, Sadler got to play his other role out of make-up.
Sadler’s second performance appears during the Battle of the Bands sequence, after De Nomolos sends out the transmission to every TV set in the world.
Sadler is the Englishman who sees the broadcast at his breakfast table and remarks to his wife, “my word!”
The Englishman’s wife and daughter are portrayed by Marni Joan Bakst and Sadler Colley Bakst.
Touchingly, these are in fact William Sadler’s very own wife and daughter in real life.
7. The third film took so long to get made because of George Carlin died between sequels
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey sees Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter once again joined – albeit briefly – by George Carlin as Rufus.
The legendary stand-up comedian played the duo’s time-travelling mentor in the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and reprises the role in two key scenes at the start and end of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
- Credit: Flickr
Sadly, Carlin passed away in 2008 at the age of 71 – and his loss was the principle reason it took so long for a third Bill & Ted movie to happen.
Reeves, Winter and writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson had for many years discussed making a third and final film in the series.
However, all of them were affected by the loss of Carlin, and for a time struggled to envisage how to make another one without him.
Ultimately, actress Kristen Schaal was cast in 2020’s Bill & Ted Face the Music as Rufus’ daughter Kelly, a character named after Carlin’s own daughter.
6. The soundtrack features several songs recorded specifically for the movie
Fittingly for a film so closely associated with rock music, the soundtrack to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey features several major rock acts of the time.
A number of the tracks featured in the movie were specifically commissioned for inclusion on the soundtrack, and intended for specific sequences.
Megadeth wrote and recorded the original track Go to Hell (this would not be included on an official release of the band’s until a 1995 EP).
To return the favour, the movie references the band by name, with Bill telling Ted, “if I die you can have my Megadeth collection.”
Other original recordings include Winger’s Battle Stations, Slaughter’s Shout it Out, and Faith No More’s The Perfect Crime (a fitting inclusion, as Faith No More’s Jim Martin appears in the movie).
Meanwhile, Kiss recorded God Gave Rock’n’Roll to You for the movie, and also wound up including that on their album Revenge.
Kiss’ version was so successful that it became one of the few songs from Kiss’ “non-makeup era” that the band continued to play once they returned to their signature look in 1996.
5. Bill & Ted University is also Starfleet Academy
According to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Bill & Ted University was formed in 2425, many centuries into the distant future.
Within the events of the movie, we visit the university in 2691, another two centuries after it was founded.
- Credit: rye’n via Wikimedia Commons
Interestingly, the location that was used to represent Bill & Ted University during shooting was actually a water reclamation plant.
Specificially, the outdoor university scenes were shot at The Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California.
This particular water plant is notable because it was also used as the location for another futuristic utopian school.
In both Star Trek: The Next Generation: The First Duty and Star Trek: Voyager: In the Flesh, The Tillman Water Reclamation Plant stood in for Starfleet Academy.
4. The Riddance of Evil book is actually just a Stephen King novel
In Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Bill (and later Ted’s) stepmother Missy attempts to send the two best friends to Hell.
Missy does so by reading from a book named The Riddance of Evil, which is a kind of play on the Evil Dead’s Necronomicon Ex-Mortis.
Many Bill and Ted fans have attempted to track down The Riddance of Evil since the release of the movie, only to find out that no such book exists.
Instead, the art department working on Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey removed and replaced the cover of a normal book with one with the correct title.
So the only question left is: what book did the prop department settle on to be repurposed into The Riddance of Evil?
The answer is that despite the cover, the pages of the book are actually from the Stephen King short-story collection Four Past Midnight. Excerpts from one story named Secret Window, Secret Garden, can even be seen in some shots of the film.
3. Bill and Ted visit the mall from Back to the Future
We’ve already discussed the fact that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey shares many of its locations with the Star Trek franchise.
From the famous alien cliffs to Starfleet Academy itself, there are many overlaps between Bill & Ted and the sci-fi giant.
As it happens, Star Trek is not the only science fiction property to share locations with Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Science fiction comedy and iconic 80s movie Back to the Future also has some shooting locations in common with Bill & Ted.
Specifically, while Bill & Ted spend time inside the mall showing Death around the Building Emporium, Marty and Doc Brown spend time just outside.
The famous scene in which Doc Brown shows Marty that time travel exists happens in the car park of the same mall, just a few years apart!
2. Bill & Ted were originally supposed to die at the Battle of the Bands
As with many sequels set the difficult challenge of following up incredibly popular original properties, the script for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey went through many changes.
Originally it was set to follow the friends as they met Romeo and Juliet and other literary icons, in order to get help with their English homework.
However, even once the broad strokes of the plot were finally agreed on, the finer details of how things would turn out were still up for debate.
The biggest example of this is the outcome of the Battle of the Bands, which originally had a much more grisly tone.
For a long while, Bill and Ted were set to lose the Battle of the Bands, and be killed by the evil robots.
It was only by redeeming their many gaming victories over Death from the earlier part of the movie that Bill and Ted would have been allowed to come back to life.
1. The film makes fun of The Terminator, whose sequel would beat Bogus Journey to no.1 at the box office
Despite a lukewarm reception from critics, and many fans believing it didn’t capture the joy of the original, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey snagged the number two spot at the American box office.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey found itself just behind Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the second instalment in the Terminator franchise.
The irony of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey landing behind Terminator 2 in the box office listings is that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey takes several jabs at the Terminator franchise.
Most obviously, the movie follows evil robot duplicates of Bill and Ted, who are sent back through time to prevent a certain future from happening through destruction.
Even more specifically, when the evil Bill and Ted robots time travel in their stolen time machine, they even wear sunglasses.