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Bill & Ted Face the Music had to scrap its plans for a CGI George Carlin

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The filmmakers wanted to reunite him with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter for an emotional moment

George Carlin opposite Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Image: Paramount Pictures

The new feature film Bill & Ted Face The Music was in development for more than a decade. The third movie in a trilogy that started in 1989 with the sleeper hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure hits VOD and American theaters on Aug. 28, but it’s faced a long road to screens, and a series of studio changes and necessary revisions along the way. One of the most significant: director Dean Parisot tells Polygon that the filmmaking team had to scrap a sequence involving a computer-generated re-creation of George Carlin.

In the original Bill & Ted, teenage burnouts Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) are emerging from a Circle K convenience store when they’re confronted by Rufus (Carlin), a time traveler from 2688 who tells them they’re meant to unite the world with their rock music. To help out, he introduces them to their own time-traveling selves, and sends them on a trip through time to help them pass a history class. In Bill & Ted Face The Music, the doofy duo realize they’re middle-aged musical failures who still haven’t written the song that’s supposed to bring about world peace and a magical utopia, so they head out on a new time-traveling trip to solve the problem. Parisot says that journey was supposed to include a jump back to the Circle K, where they would ask Rufus for insight.

George Carlin in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Photo: Orion Pictures

George Carlin’s death in 2008 was a limiting factor on that plan, but as of 2018, original Bill & Ted co-writer Ed Solomon was still talking up plans for a scene that used excised footage from the 1989 movie to let Winter and Reeves interact with their past selves, and with Rufus. But Parisot said the plan had to change because of the film’s budget and shooting schedule.

We probably could have afforded to build the Circle K set,” he says, “but we were using footage from the original Bill & Ted. We would have had to create a CG George Carlin, which is incredibly expensive, and very difficult to pull off in a convincing way. We didn’t have the time or the money. But we had a great scene where they went back to talk to Carlin.”

Parisot says the scene was intended both as a tribute to Carlin and a way to launch the quest that forms most of the movie. “From a story point of view, they’re they’re trying to figure out what happens, right?” he says. “‘How do we solve this problem?’ Because nobody really knows the future, and they don’t know what’s coming. So initially, they’re going back in time to ask questions.”

Ultimately, Parisot is philosophical about having to lose the sequence, which ended up being replaced with a plot device — Bill and Ted wind up with a keepsake of Rufus’ that holds the same advice he would have given them in the cut scene. “From a story perspective, it didn’t change all that much,” Parisot says. “It was a bittersweet moment between them and Rufus. It was sweet, and I think it would have been fun but, you know, things fall by the wayside.”

And he points out that the movie still includes a brief Rufus cameo. “They still got to see Carlin!” he says. The actor appears as a hologram, created with archival footage, and with a line of dialogue provided by animation voiceover artist Piotr Michael. It isn’t exactly the emotional reunion Solomon envisioned, but it does nod to the past without kicking off the kind of uncanny-valley debates that followed other recent CGI actor re-creations, like the appearance of Peter Cushing and young Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.