A Winter's Tale

Melody Maker
June 3, 1995

His best mate, Keanu, may have taken the fast bus out of town,
but ALEX WINTER tells Tony Horkins about his own excellent adventure

So.... which one were you then, Bill or Ted? "Haha ... yeah, I often have to ask myself that same question. But as far as I know, l was Bill." With the freakish success of 1989's "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and its subsequent sequel, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey", at least one of its two stars was guaranteed future success as a mainstream megastar. Which one, though? The quirky red-headed nerd with the bent out of shape face, or the Adonis-like trim and muscular brunette? Anyone see "Speed" starring Sandra Bullock and Alex Winter? "To be honest," Alex confides over a pizza, "Keanu did a hell of a lot better in "Speed" than I thought he was going to do, especially considering what a strange character it was for him to play. l thought he pulled it off well, but I didn't think much of the movie." Are you a fan of his work? "When l saw "Point Break" I was hiding behind my popcorn. Generally, l think he's more talented than the work he's doing. He's done some work where he's been miscast that may have hurt his image, like "Dracula", but he's a really great actor and I don't think people have ever really seen that." Meanwhile, Alex is trying his best to show his former partner in what he considers to be the best light, which is why he cast him as a dog (?!) in the anarchic, trippy, cartoon-esque comedy horror fest "Freaked" - directed and co-written by Alex, and two and a half years in the making."By the time we got it made, Keanu was such a big star, his management went f** 'ing crazy," he says. "They said we couldn't use him unless we paid a million dollars, but we settled on a compromise where we'd use him but not use his name on the credits." The film still manages to flash Randy Quaid, Brook Shields and Mr T in the titles, though "Freaked" vvon't be seeing the light of day in a cinema near you.

"Yeah, we got caught in a political struggle,"he sighs. "We made it for one studio chairman, and Rupert Murdoch, who owns the whole studio, didn't like that guy. He'd made "Barton Fink", "Naked Lunch" and all that stuff, he was always ready to take a risk, but Murdoch made this speech about a week before our film was finished about family values coming back. So our film got shelved ...." Though he did manage to finish it and, eventually, secure a video release, "I was disappointed, but not really bitter about it, he says. "I was 25 and got to make a pretty big feature. I learned so much making that movie..."

Knowledge he's continued to pour into his other job - as a director of pop videos and adverts. "I'm friendly with lots of musicians, and music is real important to me. So a lot of the videos I've done have been for friends - Helmet, Jim Foetus... they have the balls to experiment. I've done mainstream videos in the past - Chili Peppers, Extreme, Ice Cube - but I don't enjoy them as much because those bands are terrified of experimenting." Isn't the whole pop video genre spent? "Not at all. There's two things that happened to music videos that suck. Either you've got a guy just selling the band, or you've got an arrogant dickhead for a filmmaker who just want to sell himself. As a director, I'm trying to move towards taking that kind of experimentation and using it in a more accessible arena. "Film as an art form is still a baby. It's so new. We're still playing on bongo drums around a caveman's fire." And is advertising an art form? "No, I guess not though England's advertising is the best in the world. But I find it restricting because it's a bit like trying to play guitar with some business man with his arms around you holding the pick. But I've had fun with the ads." And, on his recent slots for the National Lottery, he even got to work with the great Ronnie Corbett. "Actually, don't tell anyone, but he's a giant - he's not short at all. He stands on his knees and he has those shoes on them. Actually, he was really great *and* I got to drop a piano on the geezer's head, so he was cool. What can I say ...?"

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