[Interview] William Sadler Discusses Reprising His Role as Death in 'Bill & Ted Face the Music'

I recently had the privilege of watching on early screening of Bill & Ted Face the Music, and let me tell you…it was everything I hoped it would be. For real, if you grew up loving the Bill & Ted films, this latest installment is bound to put a big smile on your face—or even melt your face off!

William Sadler, who plays Bill and Ted’s friend and bandmate Death, took the time to speak with CryptTeaze about his role in the film as well as provide some details about the infamous Reaper that we might not have known. Sadler’s previously appeared in The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, The Green Mile, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, VFW and many, many other movies over the years. So prepare your Battleship boards, get that Twister mat out, and listen to some words from Death…who’s actually rather delightful!

Bill & Ted Face the Music arrives in theaters and On Demand beginning this Friday!

CryptTeaze: What’s it like returning to a role after almost 30 years?

William Sadler: I’ve never done that before! Usually, you do the film and you leave it behind and you go on about your life. But this one, I had so much fun doing Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and they’ve been talking to me about this third film for years, and it’s been sort of percolating for a long time. I was very happy to hear we were going to actually make the movie, because Death is the only character I’ve played that was this much fun!

CT: You had some of the funniest lines, too!

WS: Yeah it’s not hard to hurt (Death), which I think is the funniest thing about this character! He’s like a peach, and he just bruises very easily!

CT: Where did your choice for Death’s accent come from?

WS: I stole it years and years ago from an actor who I worked with, who was Czechoslovakian back in New York at the public theatre. It was just the way he spoke, and we were in this play together for two months at the public theatre and ‘Eeeverything he said liiike this’ and I just swiped it! I thought that would be a funny voice for the Reaper! I mean, he couldn’t sound like he’s from Jersey or something, you know?

CT: As an actor, how has your process evolved over the years? You’ve done all kinds of work!

WS: It’s funny, you see, I had more fun acting now than I ever used to. I think I used to fuss and fret about it more, and now it sort of feels like an improv, you know? It’s a little hard to describe, but I feel freer now than I used to. I love it when it feels like an improv and you’re just making this stuff up in the moment. It’s like, you forget the lines and then you try to forget them all so that you can be reminded in the moment, you know what I mean? You have to come up with the next line because of what’s happening in the scene and not because you spent the night trying to memorize it. I don’t know, I’m having a lot more fun these days than I used to!

CT: As we learn in Bill & Ted Face the Music, Death is a bassist fanatic who tends to take over shows with his 20-minute solos. Does Death have a favorite bassist?

WS: Personally, Leland Sklar is my favorite bassist. After that, I guess it’s Paul McCartney. Leland is a friend of mine, and he’s a session player who’s played bass with everybody. He’s done thousands and thousands of songs that you’ve heard over the years. I love those sort of unsung heroes. They’re genius players, but they can slip into anybody’s shoes. So that’s Death’s favorite bass player on the planet, I think.

CT: Yeah, that’s a pretty amazing skill to be able to do what Leland’s done.

WS: I love session players! I play as a session player a bit myself, these days!

CT: Is there anything about Bill & Ted Face the Music you’d like to add?

WS: Just that I hope people go out and see it, or stay home and see it. Whatever’s safer. I love that there’s this much excitement from this generation that weren’t even born when we made the first one and the second one. It really makes me happy, because people who were kids when the first one and second one came out are now grown-ups with kids of their own and now they’re introducing them to this Bill & Ted vibe, which is what we need a lot right now. You know what I mean?

CT: It would indeed be excellent, wouldn’t it?

WS: Yes! We need to be excellent to each other!

CT: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Reaper! Rock on!

WS: And you rock on as well!


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