CS Interview: William Sadler Talks Death in Bill & Ted Face the Music
ComingSoon.net had the chance to speak with William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) about reprising his role as Death in Orion Pictures’ Bill & Ted Face the Music. You can 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: This movie’s been in the works for about a decade now. When did the talks with you first start coming about to have you come back as Death or the Grim Reaper?
William Sadler: Ed Solomon, one of the two writers called me maybe three years ago and said, “You know, we’re writing the script. We’re finally writing the script for the third one and we’d like to include Death. Are you still interested in doing it?” I was like, I guess if I’d told them no, maybe they would’ve left him out. But I said yeah. Of course I’m interested in doing it. I had such a fun time with Bogus Journey that I was glad. I was anxious to reprise the role. I was excited to do it again, and especially when he told me what had happened to Death’s solo musical career in the meantime that, he did never become the rock star that he thought he would after he joined the Wyld Stallyns.
CS: I was going to say, it sort of course-corrects in this one compared to the end of the second one. And that’s interesting, because in addition to giving Bill and Ted a new life path, it also gives Grim Reaper a new one. What was it like seeing that in the script and then helping bring that to life on the screen?
Sadler: Ed actually told me what they were planning to do, and where he was thinking of taking the Reaper. And I thought that was terrific, that you know, his solo career was on the rocks. He was really in a bad place by the time this third movie starts. Because you do have to sort of address what have these guys been doing all this time? But I have to say that I love the idea of a failed musical career for the Reaper. And then, to have them come back and engage him again was just like, really satisfying. I thought that was a great move.
CS: Did you find you had any creative challenges in stepping back into the role of the Grim Reaper after so long?
Sadler: It wasn’t creative so much. I’m a bit older now. I think I was 40 when I shot the first one, so you can do the math. It’s just a little more challenging this time around. Some of the physicality of the character was a little more challenging, but the acting was more I guess over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy it more. I think I’m a better actor now than I was back then. So that part was easier and more fun.
CS: That’s awesome.
Sadler: If that makes sense to you?
CS: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. So after getting the script and all that, what was that feeling like getting back on set and being in person with Keanu and Alex again?
Sadler: That was, well, it’s funny you ask that because they finished putting the makeup on for the first time, and I put on the [outfit] and the boots that make me 6’4” or something and I was standing around in my trailer. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror because there he was again, you know? It was like meeting an old friend. And then, when we got back together on the set with Alex and Keanu, the energy was completely right. It was like we’d never stopped doing it, you know? You know, you have friends that you don’t see them for a long period of time and then you meet them again and it’s like you were never apart, you know? You just pick right up where you left off. That’s sort of what it was like.
CS: I know that feeling very well. It’s a great feeling, when you get to just pick up like that.
CS: So then, even though you’re not in this one as frequently as Bogus Journey, did you find that you got to play around with the character a bit more or kind of improvise some of your moments on screen in this one?
Sadler: I did. Apparently this character can’t shut-up once he gets going, so I was adding little bits and pieces here and there, yes. Even though he doesn’t have as much screen time as I did in Bogus Journey, I think there was enough. He’s a strong flavor. You don’t need two hours of him. But yeah, I felt free enough to adlib here and there, yes.
CS: One of the things I found interesting, too, was with the introduction of Anthony Carrigan’s character. I almost saw a lot of parallels between his story arc and this one and yours and Bogus Journey, so then, it almost was interesting to see you two sort of interact in the scenes that you have together. What was that like working with him to sort of build that awkward rapport between you two?
Sadler: First of all, he’s lovely to work with. He’s terrific. He’s a really terrific actor and very funny. And I agree. I can’t help but think that it was deliberate, that they created this character who’s supposed to be dangerous and you know, a killing machine. And then, little by little he becomes likable and finally lovable. And you know, not scary at all. And I agree with you, that’s precisely what the Reaper’s job was in Bogus Journey. He starts as this really scary figure, and then little by little falls apart, as we see, oh, he’s just like all the rest of us, you know? This insecure little puppy. But yeah, so I thought Anthony was fantastic in this. I loved the weird costuming, he survived.
CS: Yeah, that was quite the unique design that they gave his character. So one of the things I’m very curious about, too, is that the last time we saw you portray the Grim Reaper wasn’t actually in Bogus Journey, but was actually in Tales from the Crypt. And so, I’m curious, can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be?
Sadler: I think I was playing some kind of a game with — yeah, that was the idea of the Tales from the Crypt producers. After I created the Grim Reaper for Bill & Ted, and they just wanted to use it. They wanted to use the character. So I did it. I’d actually played the Reaper before I did Bill & Ted. There was a show called The Salted Nuts, a sketch comedy show. And one of the sketches they wanted me to play the Grim Reaper who comes to this woman’s house to reap her. And she’s such a pain in the ass that he leaves in disgust. He doesn’t want to be any part of it. And I’ve used the accent. That’s where the character actually started. So I guess I’ve been carrying it around in my pocket for years.
CS: Oh wow. I had not even realized the true origin of it. That’s actually really cool, that you got to do this multiple times.
Sadler: You can Google it, The Salted Nuts.
CS: I will be sure to do so, because now that sketch sounds hilarious. And so, this movie, I mean, it was originally supposed to be just theatrical and now it’s going to get its simultaneous theater and video on demand release. How did it feel for you, when you first heard that news, about the duel release?
Sadler: I don’t really know what to expect, to be honest with you. During normal times, there would be a premiere. People would dress up and there’d be a big celebration to launch the film, that kind of thing. That’s what we used to do, anyway, in Hollywood. So I really don’t know what to expect. I just hope people get a chance to see it safely. You know, I really don’t know what to expect, this time around. I’m not sure this has ever been done before, release a movie in the theaters and pay-per-view or however online, however they do it. Do you know? Has it been done before?
CS: I believe you are the second one to do it this summer. I think the Trolls sequel that came out earlier this year was the first to do that, to try that out. But I don’t think they had much theater time before everything shut down.
Sadler: Right. I mean, who’s going to go to the movie theater? It’s a shame. I guess drive-ins. It could play in drive-ins all over the world. That’d be terrific.
CS: I think this would be a fun one for drive-ins.
Sadler: It’s not the same as sitting in a room together, laughing at this movie.
Sadler: And I don’t know. We’ll have to see how it goes.