Sure, he’s not anchoring his own super-assassin action trilogy, but the Bill half of the Bill & Ted series hasn’t exactly been napping. Alex Winter, in addition to reprising the role of Bill S. Preston, Esq. alongside longtime pal Keanu Reeves in this year’s amiably improbable, 30-years-later three-quel, Bill & Ted Face The Music, has crafted a more-than-respectable career as a director. Apart from having helmed some early-days Jimmy Kimmel Live episodes (as Winter reminisced with former boss Kimmel on Wednesday) Winter’s recent HBO documentary Showbiz Kids insightfully examined the whole child star machine that Winter himself was part of, while his other high-profile doc this year, Zappa, sees Winter tackling a Billy-sized mountain of material on the late music legend Frank Zappa.
And let’s not forget Freaked, the post-Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure directorial effort from Winter and co-director Tom Stern, where—perhaps drawing on the same well of Hollywood horror stories he’d later treat with a touch more sensitivity in Showbiz Kids—Winter played a spoiled young movie star transformed into just another of the Hideous Mutant Freekz (the film’s original title) in a traveling sideshow. As Winter told Kimmel, Keanu was on hand for the cult favorite (unrecognizable, as Ortiz, the dog boy), alongside the motley likes of Bobcat Goldthwait, Brooke Shields, Randy Quaid, and Larry “Bud” Melman (as the President of the United States, natch’). Oh, also Mr. T—most of the time. Winter, explaining the delicacies of talking T’s Bearded Lady into his taffeta dress for the shoot, told Kimmel that, one day, his burly co-star simply up and disappeared. Eventually found via telephone, T yet never returned and, not to burst anyone’s Freaked nostalgia bubble, Winter explained that the remaining ADR for the stand-in Mr. T was done by Freaked (and Pirates Of The Caribbean) actor Lee Arenberg.
Such are the perils of directing, something that Winter admitted carried over in a far different manner once he started digging into the “end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark”-style Zappa vault. Winter’s initially Kickstarted, six-years-in-the-making documentary received unprecedented permission from Zappa’s family to look at and listen to literally everything Zappa had ever recorded, a daunting task made all the more perilous by some of the long-buried stuff Winter wound up seeing. Asked by Kimmel if he found anything he perhaps didn’t want to know about his illustrious/infamous subject in the video section, Winter admitted, “When you’re making a movie about a guy at the forefront of the sexual revolution, um, some of that media you don’t want to see.”
Ever the professional completist, Winter confessed that he did, indeed, see plenty of Frank Zappa, a fact he dutifully communicated to the Zappa clan, who complimented him on his diligence, noted that they never needed to see what he’d seen, and told him to put the archival materials back in their place. Winter told Kimmel that he did seal the cases in question with duct tape as a warning. (If only someone had taken the same care with that damned Ark.) Apart from that, Winter, looking back in admiration on Zappa’s life of groundbreaking and inimitable musical, political, and anti-authoritarian courageousness (seriously, screw you, PMRC) told Kimmel of Zappa (who died of cancer in 1993), “We could use him right now.”
The already critically praised Zappa hits streaming and VOD on November 27.