Thanks to the magic of CGI, Hollywood can now resurrect characters played by actors who have passed away in new installments of a franchise, as happened with Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia in Star Wars. But that kind of storytelling comes with a big price tag, which many studios cannot afford. Such type of budget constraints is what prevented George Carlin as Rufus from appearing in Bill & Ted Face the Music, as director Dean Parisot revealed to Polygon.
"We probably could have afforded to build the Circle K set. But we were using footage from the original Bill & Ted. We would have had to create a CG George Carlin, which is incredibly expensive, and very difficult to pull off in a convincing way. We didn't have the time or the money. But we had a great scene where they went back to talk to Carlin."
The late, legendary comedian Carlin was an important part of the Bill and Ted franchise in the first two films, where he played the role of Rufus, a time traveler from 2688 who meets Bill and Ted outside a Circle K convenience store, and informs them that they're meant to unite the world with their rock music.
That moment was supposed to be revisited in Bill and Ted Face the Music, according to Parisot. Upon learning that the future is waiting for them to make the song that would save humanity, Bill and Ted hop back in their time machine to the Circle K spot to have another meeting with Rufus, where he gives them fresh insight to prepare them for their latest adventure.
Once it became clear that the budget would not allow for Carlin to appear in the scene via CGI, Parisot replaced the character of Rufus with a keepsake from him that Bill and Ted discover which gives them the advice Carlin's character was originally supposed to impart, which Parisot believes was the right call, narratively speaking.
"From a story perspective, it didn't change all that much. It was a bittersweet moment between them and Rufus. It was sweet, and I think it would have been fun but, you know, things fall by the wayside."
Even though fans will not be able to see Rufus resurrected via CGI, the movie pays tribute to George Carlin in another way, by having the actor appear as a hologram created with the help of archival footage, along with a line of dialogue provided by animation voiceover artist Piotr Michael. Perhaps it is better that Rusus appears as a hologram rather than a CGI model attempting to pass for the real thing since that frequently leads to the kind of 'uncanny valley' effect that can ruin a good movie.
Directed by Dean Parisot and written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, Bill & Ted Face the Music stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Anthony Carrigan, Kid Cudi, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving. The film is available in theaters and on premium video on demand from Friday, Aug. 28. This news comes from Polygon.