Styling Ted's Hair In Bill & Ted Was No Easy Task

02/07/2024

The appeal of Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in Stephen Herek's 1989 sci-fi hit "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" is their persistent ability to remain upbeat and relaxed. The characters may be a pair of none-too-bright wastoids from San Dimas, California, more interested in playing in their crappy metal band than, y'know, reading books, but they seem completely comfortable with themselves, confident with their surfers' patois and thimble-deep perception of the world. The characters only come to appreciate world history when they're given a time machine and meet famous historical figures — Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Genghis Khan, et al — in person. Through films like "Bill & Ted," mass audiences learned that metal fans weren't Satan-worshiping bullies, but affable, silly, generally nice dudes.

Bill & Ted spoke like L.A. surfers, but weren't part of the beach scene. As such, their costuming needed to denote their characters specifically, and not necessarily their adherence to an established "scene." Indeed, the only thing on their persons indicating that Bill & Ted were into pop metal was Ted's Van Halen T-shirt. Although, it's a T-shirt for Van Halen's 1986 record "5150," with Sammy Hagar on vocals instead of David Lee Roth, so maybe he's not a real Van Halen fan.

One might also take notice of Ted's hair, a froopy, shaggy mane that looks simultaneously unkempt and meticulously coiffed. It was also a hairdo that Reeves loved. One can watch one of Reeves' more recent films and see that he might be capable of growing Ted Hair, but also that he has never quite recaptured the shaggy glory of 1989.

In a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Winter and Reeves commented on Reeve's Ted Hair, and how glorious it was.

'Ted Hair was really hard to do

Winter (jokingly) explained how complex the hairdo was, explaining that it was Reeves' idea:

"Ted Hair was really hard to do. I have to give Keanu credit for that. Ted Hair had to be out like — and this was all his design — it had to be out of this kind of physically impossible level. Like, not too high. 'Cause the makeup people would be like, 'Oh, I'll just spray it. I'll put it up in the air.' He'd be like 'No, that's not what I want.' It needs to be between 'down here' and 'up here.' [...] It is kind of genius. You know, I had to suffer for months with him trying to get it where it needed to be. We'd be waiting for the camera to roll, and Ted Hair would ask for a mirror."

Winter was, of course, exaggerating. He did, however, find Reeves' look to be genuinely funny. "It does make you laugh your butt off," he added.

Winter then noted that the perfect shot of Ted's hair came near the film's climax. After receiving psychoanalysis from Sigmund Freud on stage in front of his high school class, Ted sits up from the therapy couch and simply says his trademark "Woah." Reeves was lit from the back, silhouetting his hair, which was still a little frizzy from having laid down. It was a moment of beauty.

Winter and Reeves reprised their roles in the 1990 "Bill & Ted" animated series as well as the 1991 follow-up, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," and the 2020 long-in-the-tooth sequel "Bill & Ted Face the Music." Ted Hair did not appear in the 2020 film. Winter and Reeves also did not appear in the 1992 live-action TV series "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures," however, having turned over their roles to Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy, respectively.

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