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13 Excellent Facts About Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon invented the characters William "Bill" S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan way back in 1983, while performing improv with their UCLA classmates. Two years after Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure hit theaters in 1989, Matheson and Solomon decided to put their creations in front of brand new hurdles and challenges in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, a sequel that some regard as the superior movie of the two. In the latter, our heroes are murdered by their evil robot selves from the future and must go through hell and heaven to get their vengeance. Here are some facts about the film, which was released 25 years ago today.

1. ORION PICTURES INITIALLY INSISTED ON BILL AND TED KIDNAPPING CHARACTERS FROM FAMOUS BOOKS.

While Matheson and Solomon wanted to write about Bill and Ted dying and going to hell, the studio wanted the leads to enter famous works of literature to pass an English test. "The literature idea sounds different from time travel," Solomon said, "but it ends up being the same thing: Bill and Ted go into historical settings and meet famous characters, except now the characters are fictional." The two tried to write that version before telling Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter their initial idea, which the actors preferred. Reeves and Winter told the studio that Matheson and Solomon's movie was the one they wanted to make.

2. IT WAS PETER HEWITT'S FEATURE DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.

Despite never having directed a feature film, British director Peter Hewitt beat out 50 other directors for the chance to replace Excellent Adventure director Stephen Herek (who directed 1991's Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead instead). "To this day I don’t know why," Hewitt admitted in a 1992 interview. "I think I never imagined they’d consider me so I decided to say exactly what I thought about their script ideas: what I didn’t like and would want to change as much as what I wanted left in to build on. Perhaps they admired my honesty and the fact I wasn’t scared to speak my mind."

Though he had never directed a feature film, Hewitt had plenty of veteran help. Special effects supervisor Richard Yuricich (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner) teamed up with Kevin Yagher, who designed the Chucky doll in Child’s Play (1988) and who was also responsible for designing and applying make-up in three of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, to help Hewitt execute Matheson and Solomon's vision.

3. PRODUCTION WAS DELAYED TO ACCOMMODATE KEANU REEVES' BUSY SCHEDULE.

Orion wanted the film to be released in the summer of 1991, but the 10-week shoot had to be delayed until January 7, 1991. Reeves couldn't make it until then because he was working on My Own Private Idaho (1991). They stuck to the 10-week schedule by editing the movie as they went along, shooting five days a week and editing on Saturdays.

4. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS BILL & TED GO TO HELL, WHICH POSED A MARKETING PROBLEM.

Producer Scott Kroopf explained to The New York Times why they ultimately decided against using a title with the word 'hell' in it: "The problem was—and it was a real one—we couldn't advertise on TV until after 9 o'clock."

5. THE WRITERS FOUND THEIR WAY INTO THE FILM.

Solomon (with glasses) and Matheson (white shirt) appear as New Agers at Missy's seance. The Nomolos in the character name of the evil Chuck De Nomolos is Solomon spelled backwards.

6. THEY KNEW THEY WERE PARODYING INGMAR BERGMAN AND THE SEVENTH SEAL.

"The biggest set piece in the movie is that in order to get back to life, Bill and Ted have to play Death in games," Kroopf explained. "And the games they play are Battleship, Clue, Twister. So your life is on the line; you're playing with Death, but you're playing games that Bill and Ted know how to play. This is a clear parody of Bergman."

7. WILLIAM SADLER HELPED WITH SOME OF THE LINES.

"I think I had more fun doing Bill and Ted than I’ve ever had making anything I’ve ever shot," William Sadler, who played the Grim Reaper, said in 2015. "It was, once I came up with the Czechoslovakian accent and had the funny make-up done, and the idea that he’s almost effeminate. He starts off as a scary dude and almost immediately it all unravels and he becomes this kind of insecure doofus who all he really wants is for them to like him. At the end it was so sweet. I also got to be creative, I wrote the Reaper Rap. I kept having ideas, like when he goes by—I said to Peter Hewitt the director, 'Wouldn’t it be great if he walks past somebody who’s smoking and says ‘See you real soon’ as he goes by, and the person who’s smoking goes ah and puts it out?’ Peter liked the idea and said bring the camera over here, that’s Peter Hewitt as the smoker. We didn’t have an actor to play it, the idea happened on the set, while we were shooting other stuff."

8. THERE WERE STAR TREK CONNECTIONS.

Bill & Ted University was at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California. It was later used for Starfleet Academy in Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001). Bill & Ted give Death a melvin at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park near Agua Dulce Springs. It was shot there because shooting the scene in Utah was too expensive. When Hewitt first came across the jagged rock at Vasquez he turned to his first assistant director and said, "Isn’t this the alien planet in every Star Trek episode?" Hewitt rented a VHS of the "Arena" episode from the original series, froze the shot, and worked out the exact place for the crew to place the camera.

9. THERE WAS A CIRCULAR MOTIF THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE.

Production designer David L. Snyder and Hewitt worked it out so that 25 sets were built on three soundstages and other outside locations, each with circular shapes. "I chose a through-line of curves and circles in a desperate need to tie it all up stylistically," Hewitt explained. "Each place is instantly recognizable, but not stereotypically otherworldly. Otherwise Bill and Ted would have had to have said at some stage, ‘Where are we?,’ as they aren’t the smartest guys in the world."

10. AN ALTERNATE ENDING INVOLVING A CAR CHASE BETWEEN BILL AND TED AND THEIR BIGGEST FEARS WAS CUT.

Alex Winter said it was "insanely funny." It was storyboarded. To get rid of their reanimated "Personal Hells," Bill gives his Granny a kiss on the cheek, Ted calls his brother and apologizes for stealing his Easter candy, and both of them are nice to Colonel Oats.

In the original ending, Bill and Ted brought themselves back from the future every minute for 10 years to make full armies of themselves. Preview audiences didn't like it, and a new ending was shot over 10 days.

11. THE DIRECTOR'S CUT WAS MUCH DARKER.

Hewitt claimed the first cut of Bogus Journey was much darker. "That’s a definite British trait," he added. "The humor was black comedy almost. The Evil Us’s were really evil! I went for it and had them running riot doing despicable things. But test screen audiences couldn’t take it ... My original cut would have played well in Britain."

12. JOSS ACKLAND REGRETS BEING IN IT.

Joss Ackland played Chuck De Nomolos. He said that many of the roles in his 50-plus-year acting career were taken just for the money or to settle bets. "I do an awful lot of crap, but if it's not immoral, I don't mind," he explained. "I'm a workaholic." As for Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey? "I can't tell you how embarrassing that was," he told BBC News.

13. ALEX WINTER SAID A THIRD MOVIE IS COMING SOON.

In April 2016, Winter said that a third film was imminent—and that both he and Reeves would be reprising their roles: “We have a script, we have a director, we have a studio—we’re just trying to nail down a start date.”

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter. She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: no team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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