Freddy-Interviewing William Sadler (Death) for BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC.
I reviewed the film here.
There’s also a heartfelt “thank you,” via Keanu and Alex at the end of this article. Those guys find it easy to put a smile on my face.
First a chat with William Sadler.
Freddy Beans: What’s going on today, William?
William Sadler: I’m good. What’s up with you?
FB: Not much. Been a slow one for me.
I saw BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC and I just have to say, I love your death! Well that sounded wrong.
WS: (Laughs) I understand though. He’s pretty lovable.
FB: He’s so silly. It plays perfectly to the occupation obviously. What’s it like to play Death?
WS: I had a blast playing this guy. He’s unlike any other part I’ve ever played. He says the quiet parts out loud. I guess when you’re dead, you’re not a normal human character.
FB: Yeah, not at all. You don’t play him like that either. He’s outside of humanity, even if he’s ladled with a Czechoslovakian accent.
WS: Exactly. It allows for an awful lot of freedom. You can mold him into anything you want. He doesn’t need humanity.
FB: Everyone loves a unique character. You’ve made an unforgettable one. Here we are 29 years later and you’re repeating it. What was it like to work with this cast, nearly 30 years later?
WS: It was fantastic. After all these years, that was the most surprising part for me. You don’t know what to expect, when you get back on the set. What was cool, was it felt like no time had passed at all. We started doing the scenes and Keanu and Alex were there, like we’d never stopped. Obviously we’re all older now but the same spirit was all there.
FB: You can see Alex and Keanu have aged a bit but Death in all his makeup remains immortal. Seems appropriate. You can feel the group’s connection when watching the film. You come off interconnected and natural, as goofy and fun as it is. There’s a lot of ways this film could have gone wrong but I think it was exactly what it needed to be-humorous, dumb, and a lot of fun. I think it’s important that these characters are fun.
Do you think Bill and Ted will be fun and connect with the younger audience?
WS: I hope the generation that is seeing it now for the first time has as much fun as the generation that saw both the original BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY. The kids that grew up watching the originals are now bringing their kids to the franchise. I hope that sort of hopeful innocence is still contagious.
FB: I like that, “Hopeful innocence.” That encapsulates Bill & Ted better than anything I’ll write. (Laughs)
WS: I think that’s their charm. They’re murdered and go to hell and they’re like, “Whoa, dude. Buy one of our album covers.“ I really do hope that its infectious for the young people going to see these guys for the first time too.
FB: I think it’s got perfect timing, especially with this COVID stuff. You don’t have a lot of competition, which can’t be a bad thing.
WS: We need a bright spot in the middle of this year.
FB: Exactly how I worded it to my boys before I watched.
WS: And did you show them the first two before you showed them this one?
FB: (Laughs) I have the second one but not the first. Ya got me. Partial credit?
WS: Well, okay. That’s important!
FB: You’re in the one they saw, so the rest doesn’t matter. (Laughs)
WS: (Laughs) Are you satisfied with the way the new film handled Rufus (George Carlin) and do you have a story to share with our readers of working with that comic genius?
WS: I thought they handled that really nicely. A lot of respect and love.
I do have a cool George Carlin story. When we were doing BOGUS JOURNEY, I was playing guitar and writing songs. I’m playing my mostly humorous songs in coffee houses around L.A. Doing a one man show and I recorded it live at the Foglifter. I had a tape of maybe 15 songs and I made copies and gave one to George Carlin on set. This was way back when there was such a thing as cassette players. (Laughs)
FB: Unfortunately, I remember. (Laughs)
WS: He was so lovely on the set. He’s not really an actor. It’s not his craft or art to be an actor. We struck up this wonderful sort of friendship just hanging out on the set. Years and years later, right before he passed away actually, I was living in New York. I get a phone call from George Carlin. He says, “Bill. Bill. How ya doin?
I say, “Great.”
He’s like, “You remember that cassette of songs you gave me?”
I didn’t, but I said “yeah.”
“Well, I wore it out. I need you to send me another one.” At that time everything was on CD, so I sent him a CD of the Foglifter thing. He sent me signed copies of all of his books. Such a sweet guy. I don’t know if he wore out the tape listening to it and enjoying it or if it was just an excuse to reach out and talk to an old friend. We hadn’t talked in 10 or 15 years. It was lovely and that was the last time I spoke with him.
FB: That’s beautiful and full of heart. Thank you for sharing that.
WS: That’s what makes the world go around. You’re welcome.
FB: Right? It just takes a while to learn that if you’re full of testosterone. (Laughs)
WS: (Laughs) That’s why I’m not asked to be in THE EXPENDABLES, I think.
FB: (Laughs) Maybe the next one! We both know there’ll be another sequel there, in the future.
On Broadway you did BILOXI BLUES with Matthew Broderick and shortly after starred in one of your first films PROJECT X with him. Are you and Matthew still friends and what’s it like working with that guy?
WS: Matthew is lovely to work with. I haven’t stayed in touch with him but I remember I was older than him then and I’m still older now. He was cracking jokes with the other kids on BILOXI BLUES cracking one another up. After a year and a half of a run it makes it hard to keep it fresh. I think he’s a terrific actor. I’ve seen him go on when he was so sick he should have asked his understudy to go on but refused. He’d finish his scenes and go off in the wings and throw-up in a bucket and come back and do the next scene.
FB: He seems real simple and unassuming but it’s clear he’s a dedicated man to his craft. It’s very clear.
WS: That’s theater, ya know?
It’s funny, I spent the first eleven years of my career doing nothing but theater. It was hard to make the transition to the movies. There’s a work ethic and dedication to working in the theater. You work muscles you don’t normally work in the movies much. It’s a great place to hone your craft, I think.
FB: 100% I think the reverse is much harder. To do movies and then go into plays seems like a much harder transition.
WS: You’re doing 8 shows a week. No matter what is going on, you have to cook it up. There’s 1,100 people sitting out there who paid a lot of money to see this thing that they read about in the paper. If you can’t cook it up on cue, they’re not going to see it.
No one yells cut.
No one rescues you.
FB: I love that.
Early in your career you made DEMON KNIGHT and more recently you did VFW, which I think might be an even better thrill-ride. There’s a lot of similarities to these two films-There’s a great cauldron of actors, its shot on one location, the need to unite to survive the night. Is it as much fun to film with a great bunch of actors as it looks like it is? Both of those films feel like the experience making them was a lot of fun.
WS: I think that’s the case. Especially with VFW. I had worked with Stephen Lang in New York. We did SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK together in 1976. We worked together again in PROJECT X. I had worked with Martin Kove and David Patrick Kelly in New York too. We had already been in the trenches together for years and years. Then to get to play guys who literally were in the trenches fighting for our lives. It was easy. Anywhere you look, like in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. There’s someone who’s really listening,-who’s really there, who’s really engaged. That’s when the stuff really comes alive. Everybody in the room looks at one another and sort of goes, “Whoa.:” Did you see that? You just hope the guy with the camera caught it.
FB: Thanks for your time today Willliam!
WS: Fred, my pleasure!
I was cutoff here. Yeah, right before we dipped into Shawshank. Sigh.
As I promised, a thank you from Keanu and Alex.
I swear there’s not two more sincere dudes anywhere on the planet. I wish they partnered up for a buddy cop movie together, at this point.
As they said at the end:
Be excellent to one another and party on!
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC IS IN THEATERS AND ON DEMAND NOW!
Until the next one,