How ‘Face the Music’ pays tribute to original ‘Bill & Ted’ star, comedy icon George Carlin

Warning! The following contains light spoilers for “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” so be careful if you haven’t seen it yet.

The late comedy icon George Carlin played a vital part in the first two “Bill & Ted” movies. The new film, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (available now on streaming and VOD platforms), found a way for him to come alive once again.

A hologram version of Rufus, the wise-cracking futuristic guy who sent Alex Winter’s Bill and Keanu Reeves’ Ted on an “Excellent Adventure” in 1989 and a “Bogus Journey” in 1991, greets them when the two dudes are brought to San Dimas circa 2720 to visit the Great Ones. A digitized Rufus emerges from the familiar phone-booth time machine as a tour guide of sorts, sharing a little bit of Bill and Ted’s history. As the two heroes are shuffled along, Ted gives him a sweet little nod and wave goodbye.

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A couple other tributes are included in “Face the Music.” Kristen Schaal plays Rufus’ daughter Kelly – based on the late comedian’s real-life daughter, Kelly Carlin (who has a small cameo in one of the future scenes). And Schaal’s character gifts Bill and Ted Rufus’ antique stopwatch, which has an inscription inside: “Sometimes things don’t make sense until the end of the story.”

In an interview with USA TODAY, Reeves remembers Carlin as “such a humble, hard-working, present, cool guy” from their films together.

“For me, there’s like the George Carlin before I met George Carlin, and then working with George Carlin and knowing him after,” Reeves says. “From the legacy of his thought and comedy as a performer, (he was) one of the greatest of all time and very impactful for my world view and humor.”

Winter adds that he and Reeves were “very strangely lucky” to see Carlin not long before he died in 2008 of heart failure at age 71. “Keanu and I were having dinner years after ‘Bogus,’ and George was in the restaurant. I remember having a really poignant conversation with him (and) Keanu outside. That was the last time that I ever saw him, the last time many people ever saw them, and I was really grateful to have kind of another circle back and have one more moment with him. It was like a mutual appreciation society.”

All three original stars had “a meaningful relationship,” Winter says, “and to work with him when we were at that age, he was a giant especially to people of that generation. He was a titan. So to have developed something like a friendship or a friendly rapport with him was very sweet and profound.”

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