Bill and Ted adapt to 2007

Special to The Times

Dude, did you hear Bill and Ted are climbing back into the time machine?

No way!

Yes way.

MGM is developing a straight-to-DVD revisiting of the late-’80s cult classic “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” for producer Frank Mancuso Jr. at 360 Pictures. Although their deal is still being worked out, writers Gabe Grifoni and Suzanne Francis (“Wieners”) have already turned in an outline for an updated take on San Dimas’ most excellent native sons.

(Insert air guitar trill here.)

But is there still an audience for Bill and Ted’s pre-culture-of-irony straightforwardness and unshakable positivity in a world that has since given us “Wayne’s World,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “South Park”? Or will the boys be Stiflerized for today’s market?


Several attempts at a spinoff TV series in the early ‘90s, one animated and one live action, misread the boys’ appeal -- no matter what your memory tells you, they weren’t actually stoners, surfers or Valley dudes -- and sparked cries of betrayal from devoted fans who felt that the sensibility of the original films’ writers, Ed Solomon (“Levity”) and Chris Matheson (“Mr. Wrong”), had been corrupted.

While in UCLA’s film school 20 years ago, Solomon and Matheson would rent a stage on Sunset Boulevard for $20 and crack each other up by improvising the two lovable doofuses. The two “Bill & Ted” films -- the sequel was “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” in 1991 -- then became their first feature credits.

More than a decade later, they actually tried to get a third “Bill & Ted” feature made, with the idea of checking in with the guys as middle-aged men. Actors Keanu Reeves (Ted “Theodore” Logan) and Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq.), now both in their 40s, were reportedly game until Reeves’ manager advised his client, by then a major movie star (although still on-screen climbing in and out of phone booths), against revisiting the material.

Solomon and Matheson, who have only recently re-teamed for the comedy “NowhereLand,” now in pre-production at Paramount, were not asked to participate in the new film.

“We loved Bill and Ted,” says Solomon. “They were created out of complete innocence. We had a lot of fun with them, and we wish them well.”

Let’s hope they retain that innocence. As the boys would say: Be excellent to each other.

Guilty, until proved innocent

As we all know, the patriotic vigor of homeland security has its dark side. This is the overzealous, obsessive terrain of D.V. de Vincentis’ new screenplay, “Person of Interest,” a black comedy that tries to take stock of the human fallout when the government and the media implicate an American in a terrorist act.

Participant Productions is developing the original screenplay, which De Vincentis also hopes to direct, with Richard D. Zanuck (“Jaws”) producing and Miramax distributing. De Vincentis is known for “Grosse Point Blank” and “High Fidelity,” his collaborations with actor John Cusack and writer Steve Pink (good friends from high school).

The story line takes its cues from notorious recent cases, such as security guard Richard Jewell, who was falsely accused of planting a bomb during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; Taiwanese-born scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was accused of leaking nuclear secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Steven J. Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert accused of sending anthrax through the mail that killed five people in 2001.

All three filed lawsuits against various publications and organizations, with Hatfill accusing former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft of defamation for using the phrase “person of interest” to identify him in a Justice Department probe (the anthrax crimes remain unsolved).

Participant launched its filmmaking/social activism brand with “Syriana” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” in 2005 and scored huge last year with the Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” It has two heavy hitters coming at the end of the year -- “Charlie Wilson’s War,” written by Aaron Sorkin, and “The Kite Runner,” adapted by David Benioff (“Troy”).

“Interest” may be its boldest provocation yet.

The effects of technology

In the era of MySpace, iChat, BlackBerrys and YouTube, are we becoming closer as a world community or more distant from one another?

In his earliest features, “Family Viewing” and “Speaking Parts,” writer-director-producer Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”) was fascinated by how ever-present video technology informed and recorded the interactions of his characters. The Oscar-nominated Canadian filmmaker is about to take an updated snapshot of how far that technology has advanced -- and how families and the concept of community have adapted along with it -- in “Adoration,” an original screenplay he begins shooting in Toronto on Sept. 17.

“ ‘Adoration’s’ basically about kids redefining themselves through the Internet,” Egoyan says. “This whole phenomenon of being one personality in school and being able to use technology to create a whole alternate identity.”

In “Adoration,” a high school student claims to be a tragic figure from recent history, becomes absorbed in creating the persona online and draws a group of schoolmates and survivors into a “community of people mourning a catastrophe that never happened,” as Egoyan puts it.

The slightly futuristic setting makes use of what could be considered a three-dimensional Internet, a communal technology with unlimited video-communication potential that Egoyan believes will be active around the time his film is released next year. To research the possibilities, Egoyan rigged up makeshift facsimiles of the impending technology in six Toronto-area high schools labs that allow eight separated students, each in front of a camera, to interact (though not through the Web).

“When I started exploring technology in the ‘80s, I always thought that these instruments distanced us from each other,” says Egoyan. “But now I realize actually it’s about putting us way closer to each other than we ever would have expected.”

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