CS Interview: Director Dean Parisot on Bill & Ted Face the Music
ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to talk with Oscar-winning filmmaker Dean Parisot about directing Orion Pictures’ Bill & Ted Face the Music, including how he stayed true to the already established characters and tone. Check out the interview below and click here to purchase Bill & Ted Face the Music!
Bill & Ted Face the Music centers on Bill S. Preston (Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Reeves), who are now fathers and have yet to fulfill their rock ‘n’ roll destinies. Their lives change when they are visited by a messenger from the future who warns them that only their song can save life as we know it.
Joining Winter and Reeves are Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) and Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical) as Bill and Ted’s daughters, respectively. The film will also feature Anthony Carrigan (Barry), Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Kristen Schall (Toy Story 4), Holland Taylor (Gloria Bell), Kid Cudi, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, and Beck Bennet. William Sadler is also set to reprise his role as Death alongside franchise returners Amy Stoch and Hal London Jr. Newcomer.
ComingSoon.net: You have actually been attached to this project for a long time, at least since 2012.
Dean Parisot: That is unfortunately so, yes.
CS: Yeah. How precarious was it? Like did you lose out on other work while you were waiting? Were there times when you almost had to bail?
Parisot: Yeah, you know, Ed and Chris wrote this on spec. They were not commissioned by anyone, so it was a labor of love for sure. And it happens a lot, where you try to get a project going and it’s up, it’s down, we’re doing it, we’re doing it, oops, oh, we’re not doing it. So it does occasionally get in the way of trying to actually do any jobs, yes. But I don’t know. It felt like this moment in history, and this is pre-COVID, could benefit from “Bill & Ted”. I always loved the themes of it, and I love those characters and their unbridled optimism. And yeah, what can I say? It’s a long time.
CS: When they first announced you, I thought that you were a perfect fit because Ed and Chris’ domain is absurdism and you’ve done a lot of that in your early shorts and the movie you did with Vince Gilligan and in “Galaxy Quest”. You fit right in.
Parisot: Well, first of all, I’m glad you know that much about me, but I guess you can’t hide everything. I’ve known Ed since the early 90s and we both share a sense of humor. And so, that helped, obviously. We worked together on other projects and have kept trying to work together. This is the first movie we’ve actually completed from the beginning to the end. But yeah, that sense of humor is for some reason built into my psyche and I can’t get rid of it, so there you have it.
CS: I’m just curious, what were some of the other projects that you tried to work on with him?
Parisot: “The BFG”. I wanted to do a Marc Davis book Called Dirty Money. He did a rewrite on “Fun with Dick and Jane”. And I brought him on other things where I thought something was going to happen. I mean, we share a sensibility.
CS: Right, exactly. That’s interesting that you almost did “BFG” because I remember talking to Frank Marshall about that in 2005. He was trying to get that off the ground for a long time. Was that the same iteration over at Amblin?
Parisot: Yes, yes, it was. Yeah, when I was doing it, first it was Terry Jones from Python and then I brought Ed on. And then, I ended up leaving that project for “Fun with Dick and Jane”.
CS: Getting back to “Bill & Ted”, but I was told it was your idea to have hell be modeled after that Zdzisław Beksiński painting.
Parisot: Yes. I guess it was my idea. Well, you know, as you’re trying to find an aesthetic, you’re tearing through magazines and you’re grabbing stuff off the internet and for whatever reason, that grabbed my attention. And there’s a collection of them, too.
CS: Yeah, no, I’m a huge fan of his paintings. They’re very surreal. They’re very expressionistic and quite scary. But it was funny that you picked probably the scariest painter of all time to put in this light, frothy comedy.
Parisot: Well, hell has to be scary and bad down there. I love putting ludicrous characters in seriously dangerous places because it’s more fun I think to make a believable setting as you can in comedy world rather than a goofy one where you know everything is going to be successful. So yeah, I mean, it also was based on some of the photographs by Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian photographer of the gold mines in Brazil. There’s a giant open pit mine in Brazil with literally tens of thousands of people covered in mud carrying bags of mud up and down ladders into this pit.
CS: I also noticed in that sequence when they go into Death’s office, there’s a game of Battleship in the background. Are there any other fun Easter eggs like that that people should look out for?
Parisot: Yeah, well, spoilers, but yeah. Search the frames. You’ll find things.
CS: This film feels very much of a piece with the other two. What were the biggest guiding rules you felt you had to adhere to in order to sort of stay true to the characters and the tone that was already established by the other two directors?
Parisot: I mean, you can’t get around the things that were established in the first two. Rufus was there in the future, but I had the challenge of trying to make it feel contemporary. It was made easier by the fact that it was 29 years ago, so I could change the future. I could create a new time traveling booth. I could elaborate on hell. And so, it allowed me to create a more grounded environment for this time. But you couldn’t lose those characters. That’s the key to “Bill & Ted” is how they deal with each other and the world. And that’s still the same. It’s just addressed by the fact that they’ve been trying for 29 years and they’re middle aged now. So they have the problems of middle aged relationships, children, you know, not fulfilling their destinies, all of those things. But it’s still in context of an absurdist comedy.
CS: What I think this movie really slams home is even though it goes to some dark places with the characters, the fundamental thing is these guys don’t want to live without each other. And even when they’re at their darkest, they’re still together.
Parisot: I think that friendship is never in question. But Alex and Keanu just wanted to be able to… really all I had to do was watch. I didn’t do anything. I just gave them a nice environment to play in.
CS: Alex has become a very accomplished director in his own right in the intervening years, and he’s credited as an executive producer. How did you collaborate with him specifically, as an executive producer?
Parisot: Alex is a brilliant filmmaker. When they asked me to do this, I said, “Why doesn’t Alex direct it?” No, seriously. It seemed like it would be a perfect fit. He said, “Dude, I can’t. It’s like, I can’t. I need to be in it and concentrate on being those characters. I can’t do it.” But it was really fun with this group of people because they’re all incredibly collaborative. They’re all filmmakers. Even Keanu made a movie. Alex has made movies. They’ve all produced. They’ve all directed. They know it backwards and forwards. We were all like a band that kept making this thing together. And it was quite fun to make, actually. I have a big place in my heart for this group of people.
CS: This was not your first sequel. You’d also done “RED 2”. What do you enjoy about coming into a franchise that’s already established?
Parisot: Well, I actually don’t. You know, sometimes, you don’t think about that. For the most part, I don’t think I’m somebody who wants to do a franchise. But in this case, it wasn’t really a franchise. It’s 29 years later. It’s a continuation of a story. And I had the room to create a new thing. In “RED”, it was a franchise, and that was a little more difficult.
(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images)