On Saturday, Comic-Con turned into Keanu-Con.
Keanu Reeves held court on two virtual panels at the Comic-Con@Home event, pairing up with longtime co-star Alex Winter to discuss the upcoming “Bill Ted Face the Music” while also remembering a chain-smoking, demon-busting comic-book antihero in a “Constantine” 15th-anniversary presentation.
Reeves even got a little emotional talking about working with Winter, whom he befriended during auditions for their 1989 time-traveling comedy hit “Bill Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
“I can’t feel or laugh or do anything like the way that working on ‘Bill Ted’ does and working with Alex. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world for me,” said Reeves, the Ted to Winter’s Bill.
Moderated by director Kevin Smith, the panel for the third “Bill Ted” film (in theaters and on streaming platforms Sept. 1) – the third in the franchise – had its original stars reminiscing about what Reeves called a “very vigorous” casting process. “I recall in the end, there were 10 artists and it was a revolving door and we’d sometimes play Bill and sometimes play Ted and interact with each other.”
Winter said it was “more an athletic tryout than an actual acting audition. It was a grueling and I would say somewhat unnecessarily prolonged experience.”
The first “Bill Ted” became a pop-cultural phenomenon, and Reeves knew its effect “as soon as people started yelling in the street,” he said. “People would like, ‘Be Excellent!’ and ‘Party on!’ And I was like, ‘Cool.’ “
Directed by Dean Parisot, “Face the Music” catches up with the teenage best friends now in middle age, as Bill and Ted have to race to write the song that will unite the world. Along the way, they run into other versions of themselves – as well as Death (William Sadler) – and get an assist from their daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving). Smith also revealed during the panel that the movie will include an appearance from the late George Carlin, the comedian who starred as futuristic helper Rufus in the first two “Bill Ted” film.
Winter said that the threequel’s plot spawned out of the Dickensian idea of “seeing every iteration of your life was worse than the previous was.”
Neither Lundy-Paine nor Weaving had seen a “Bill Ted” movie before they auditioned. Lundy-Paine remembered watching “a two-second clip” to get a sense of the original characters’ voices “and went in and was as goofy as possible.”
To play Thea, Weaving “watched Alex’s performance and tried to study his physical way that he held himself as Bill.” Her favorite moment of the film is the first scene in “Face the Music,” with the two daughters watching their father perform: “I’ve never laughed so hard, just seeing Keanu Reeves go from John Wick to dancing around holding these insane instruments.”
Reeves revisited a comedic character on Saturday as well as a very serious one: He played paranormal detective John Constantine in the religiously tinged horror thriller “Constantine,” which has garnered a cult following since its 2005 release. In a retrospective Comic-Con panel alongside director Francis Lawrence and producer Akiva Goldsman, Reeves recalled fighting for an L.A. shoot and loving a scene where he had acted alongside a cat (which Constantine uses to enter hell).
“I was not hesitant but I’m not English and I’m not blond,” Reeves said about taking the role. (Dying his hair was never an option, he confirmed.) “It’s such a beautiful character, this humanitarian cynic, tired, world-weary (and) tired of all the rules and morals and ethics and angels and demons but still a part of it.”