Back To The Future's DeLorean Caused A Major Change In Bill & Ted's Script

Original "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" scribes Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson are almost extensions of their characters. They've written all three movies in the series, maintaining their close friendship for over forty years. From the script's first draft, the idea was less about a time-traveling history lesson and more about making a buddy movie with two lovable rockers (who definitely aren't stoners, according to Keanu Reeves). The SoCal duo, known as the Wyld Stallyns, didn't necessarily have to go on a grand adventure through time to be compelling. Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) wandering around the quiet suburban streets of San Dimas, California, jamming guitar and hanging out at the Circle K could've been a great mumblecore movie all on its own. 

The same could be said for "Back to the Future." When Marty McFly plugs into that Gibson GA-5T and sends himself flying through the air in a sonic blast, he already seems like your new best friend. The Robert Zemeckis classic could have just been a sequel to "High School, U.S.A." and Michael J. Fox would have probably still gone on to stardom. 

The inclusion of time travel into both storylines made "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Back to the Future" stand out above the typical high school movies of the early '80s, adding a sense of adventure that raised the bar for what a typical teen movie could be. The DeLorean has literally withstood the test of time, and so has the time-traveling phone booth that beams Bill and Ted throughout history. 

When the screenplay was first being written for "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," their time machine looked very different until "Back to the Future" forced Solomon and Matheson to come up with a new idea. 

Bill & Ted's Time Van

By the time "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" landed in theaters in 1989, a lot of details had changed from the original version, including the title. "Bill and Ted's Time Van" doesn't exactly have the same ring to it. Not wanting to be accused of copying Doc Brown's time-traveling DeLorean, the van was scrapped in favor of a phone booth outside the Circle K convenience store. 

That small tweak facilitated the title change to "Excellent Adventure" and served as an unintentional homage to "Doctor Who" and the TARDIS timeship. The new time-traveling vessel also just made the original film even more of a time capsule of the 1980',s considering you would have to travel all the way to London to find a working phone booth today. 

The first complete draft of the script already had Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan gathering up historical figures to help them pass their history final. The second draft added the crucial change that transformed two skinny, bell-bottom-wearing teens into the legendary music duo that had the power to unite all of mankind through the power of song. "We thought, 'What if Bill and Ted were actually the most important people who ever lived?'" Solomon told Rolling Stone. "That really cracked us up."

The idea that a song could save the world carried over to the long-awaited third film "Bill and Ted Face the Music," which was finally released On Demand during the pandemic in August of 2020. That story finds the older (but not necessarily wiser) versions of Bill and Ted who have been procrastinating for years and still haven't written the song that will change the future. 

What else changed after the Time Van became the Time Booth?

The Time Booth also changed the character of Rufus considerably. Originally, Rufus was a 28-year-old sophomore that owned the time-traveling van that would have sent them through the annals of history. The character was reworked considerably to compliment the comedy stylings of George Carlin. Carlin's version of Rufus was transformed into an older, cooler, pony-tailed history teacher from the future who taught at Bill & Ted University. 

Ed Solomon also previously said that other historical figures were considered at one point, including Adolf Hitler who would have filled the role of Napoleon. Some of Bill and Ted's classmates were also in earlier versions that trapped the jocks from San Dimas High in ancient Egypt. Bill and Ted were supposed to become more intertwined with famous historical events as well, even becoming indirectly linked to the death of Julius Caesar. Instead, they move through history unscathed, avoiding the dreaded butterfly effect while still managing to pull off a great concert with Billy the Kid, Genghis Kahn, Joan of Arc, Napoleon, and M.C. Abraham Lincoln. 

"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" avoided unwanted comparisons to "Back to the Future" by sidelining a time-traveling vehicle. It also separated itself by removing any chance that Bill and Ted could alter or damage the timeline, a stark contrast to "Back to the Future" and Doc Brown's constant warnings about interfering with the past. Bill and Ted can only change the future for the better, if they ever get around to it. Thankfully, they did in "Bill and Ted Face the Music."

There are so many changes that could've altered "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" immeasurably. Luckily, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group bought the script, cast Winter and Reeves as the leads, and the rest is movie history.