What if Bill & Ted‘s Excellent Adventure had a different title? And featured a smart pup named Dogrufus? And introduced Adolf Hitler(!) into its time-twisting adventure?
All of that could have happened in some parallel reality, at least based on Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson‘s original notes for the movie, which they hatched on spec. Solomon shared a look at his handwritten notes from 1984 (*great* record-keeping) on Sunday in honor of Bill & Ted star Keanu Reeves‘s birthday.
You can thank the “Keanu Reeves TheClub” fan account for Solomon‘s generous peek at the genesis of this classic time-travel story. It was a request from there that prompted him to share it.
Let‘s start with the title: Bill and Ted‘s Time Van.
That‘s what is printed at the top of the first page. Many of the fine details that follow push in different directions than you may remember, but the original synopsis that appears at the end of the document is pretty much a perfect top-level description of Excellent Adventure:
Bill and Ted have a huge history project due. They‘re failing. What‘ll they do? They go back into history and bring things & people back. They get an “A”. Many complications.
They also still had their band — described in the notes as an “air guitar band” (YES). They called themselves Wyld Stallyns, though the original idea for the band‘s logo was a lot more… involved: “A rearing horse w/ a witch face, a phallic guitar, and scores of girls surrounding it, on their knees.”
(Remember kids, this was 1984.)
Some of the story setup was very different in the original thinking. For example: Rufus, the time-traveling futureman so memorably brought to life by the late George Carlin, was initially conceived as a “28-year-old sophomore” with a dog named “Dogrufus” who would‘ve been “very smart.”
The titular time van belonged to Rufus, and Bill and Ted would use it to get to school. One night while they‘re driving to 7-11 (NO, NOT CIRCLE K) to get some food, they somehow end up driving back in time, right into Nazi Germany.
They cause a bunch of trouble there and end up bringing Hitler back to San Dimas. He‘s now stranded there as the two protagonists go back in time again. If you‘re thinking this sounds a lot like what happened in the actual movie with Napoleon Bonaparte, well, you‘re right! Solomon himself confirmed it.
Definitely a smart move.
The documents get a little more scattered from there, running through a list of possible ideas to explore and laying out a rough blueprint for the story. Again, some of it is very recognizable: Bill and Ted philosophizing with ancient Greeks and having famous figures deliver their history report, for example.
But there are plenty of surprises, too. In the original idea, Bill and Ted‘s schoolmates would have played a larger role in the story. One idea had them bringing a fellow student named Randolph and his football jock friends — bullies, from the sound of it — to ancient Egypt and then getting stuck there with no gas.
Other story points would have seen the guys visit Caesar in his palace, and in the process inadvertently causing his death, then making a speech to the Senate. Another idea would have deposited the van on the deck of the Titanic in what surely would have been an epic “car destroys all the things” scene.
They also would have traveled back to the stone age at one point, befriending a caveman in the process. That would have led to them using the ancient human‘s fire to light a joint. After that, they were all going to play charades. L-O-L.
I love this. It‘s so rare that we get to see the genesis of big ideas, especially ones that have been around for so long and become such an integral part of our pop culture experience. Kudos to Solomon for preserving these papers, and for sharing them with the world in this way.
UPDATED Sept. 2, 2018 7:03 p.m. ET An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Solomon and Matheson‘s notes as a pitch. In fact, the writers came up with it on their own, hoping it would get made (a practice referred to as writing it “on spec.”) Solomon himself on Twitter.