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William Sadler – Interview
[00:00:00] Jeff Haas: hello listeners. As for our country today, we have a very special episode.
We had the fantastic William Sadler. How do you want mr. Sadler?
William Sadler: I’m good. I’m good. I’m here with spoiler country.
Jeff Haas: Honestly. It’s been a great honor to speak with you. You’re in so many movies that I’ve loved growing up. And even now that I’m geeking out a little bit talking to you, but I’m so don’t mind my quick speaking, a little bit of a stutter.
I’m a big fan
William Sadler: geek away
Jeff Haas: so much. I really do appreciate that. so how’s things going in the world for you right now?
William Sadler: I’m doing well. I’m, you know, the, I was in the middle of filming something for screen gems called shrine I’m in Boston, and we got a couple of weeks into the filming and then the pandemic hit, they said everybody home.
And we’re about to, we’re about to start that up again. they’ve, you know, Figured out how to do it safely so that, you know, [00:01:00] old farts like me, you don’t get sick. Oh, they’ve done some rewrites and they’ve adjusted how they’re shooting it. And so on. It’s really quite extraordinary. how they’re flying people in from.
Well, you know, other actors from other parts of the country, it’s just the, just extraordinary, the hoops that they’ve had to jump through to get back, to finish this movie that they started. but it’s been, you know, it’s been strange. It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed being home. I’m with the family and the grandkids, you know, we made a garden.
I grew up here and then I shaved it off and then I grew it again. Then I shaved it off again. So, but yeah, my hair is super long right now. They’ll cut it when I get back to the set. I’m sure. Now
Jeff Haas: movie is basically almost, the few times I’ve seen the set I’ve been on a set. It takes almost a smaller town to make a movie.
And obviously in [00:02:00] COVID times that’s creates some complications. So how are they changing the filming to, I guess basically cut people out from the set.
William Sadler: Well, the, what they’re doing is they’ve and this isn’t, this is also in conjunction with the screen actors Guild. I mean, they were like, everybody’s on the same page with, best practices, but what they’ve done is they’ve sort of broken the crew, the cast and crew up into pods or groups and there’s group one and group two group three and group, and the actors are in group one.
And anybody who has to get close to them. There’s also in group one. Everyone wears PP PPE everywhere and gets tested three times a week. that’s the makeup people, hair, you know, camera crew people that have to be in close proximity to the actors. I just, you know, stuff like that, the set is always closed.
[00:03:00] which isn’t all, which isn’t the case. Usually, you know, they’re visitors or producers or caterers can come and go. I mean, you know, unless there’s a nude scene or something, it’s there, it’s usually not a closed set. but these sets are all closed. if you’re not, if you’re not in that pod or that group, you’re not in the area.
I don’t know. There’s like they’ve rewritten things so that I play a priest. I’m addressing a crowd speaking. They’ll shoot me in an empty church. Addressing a crowd that’s not there. And then they’ll turn around and. Place people at distance and then shoot it again and then place people at distance again and shoot it again.
I mean, I don’t even I’m I don’t understand the technology, but they tell me
Jeff Haas: it’s silly. Well, I don’t know saying the technology either now my very limited knowledge of acting. Cause I’m [00:04:00] definitely not an actor. I’d be really bad at it. Yeah. my knowledge of acting is that it’s all about existing in the moment when you’re performing.
Okay. Now what’s going on with COVID and the change of what’s going on around you and what’s going on in the world. Is it hard? You feel like you’re in that moment when you’re performing a scene right
William Sadler: now? Well, I haven’t, I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it changes the job of the actor once they do, you know, as you prepare to shoot a scene, you.
Get yourself in a position, you get yourself into the Headspace of the character that you’re going to play. what’s just happened to the character, what they want in that moment, what they’re after in that moment and give yourself over to the, you know, what the script requires of your character.
I don’t. I don’t think that covert is, well, I guess we’ll find out. I don’t think COVID is, I don’t [00:05:00] think covert has changed what the actor has to do. My, this is just my feeling about acting is when, when I can get lost, when I can get carried away with what’s going on in the scene. Well, I personally, bill can get carried away with the exchange with what’s happening in the scene.
The thing sort of lifts off the page and it starts to feel like an improv. It’s not an improv because everybody knows, you know, I know what you’re going to say. You know what I’m going to say. We all know at the end of the scene, he’s gonna pull a gun. You know, it’s not an improv. But it feels like an improv.
It feels like you don’t know what’s coming next. It is. And when it, you know, and when it works, when it, you know, when you’re able to do that, because you’re playing with other actors who are in, you know, into the same game, into [00:06:00] the same. you know, the same improv. It’s fantastic. I’m thinking, especially of like, I did some blacklists with James Spader and from the V from the very first time we sat and read the scene together, you can tell, we were both just, locked in to the moment it was, this thing was just going to percolate and happen in front of your eyes.
and it was easy and it was effortless. And every time we finished a take the room went, you know, and that’s how, you know, when you’ve done it. Well, Yeah. anyway,
Jeff Haas: when that chemistry is occurring, is it because the writing is, you know, is a part of the grading? Is it the acting is just natural chemistry.
Can you act and create chemistry or is it just
William Sadler: natural? you can create a fair amount of it yourself, but I mean obviously if the scene is well written, It’s easier [00:07:00] because what that means is they’ve the writers, the writer has tapped into something truthful and human about these humans.
There’s something genuine or truthful about it. And as soon as you, as soon as you latch onto that, it starts stirring things in you. and the scene lifts off the page. it’s much harder to do if the writing isn’t good. You know, if the, you know, if you have to work twice as hard, then you have to, then you have to invent things that make it feel truthful now.
Jeff Haas: Excuse my lack of knowledge about the acting itself, but yeah. Well, when you’re acting against an individual. Okay. Who is, you’re supposed to be speaking to another actor, but he’s not in the shot. Usually there’s an actor standing nearby who, I think you played the lines off. It might
William Sadler: does the offscreen [00:08:00] lines?
Jeff Haas: Yeah. So when you’re with COVID, does that person still exist there or are they off the set because of the new, I think,
William Sadler: I guess again, I’m not exactly certain. I think they’re still there, but they’re not close.
Jeff Haas: Okay.
William Sadler: They’re like, you know, eight, 10 feet further away than they might’ve been. yeah, something like that.
Jeff Haas: I mean, it’s just, that’s it, I mean, you have such a fantastic job. And obviously before we do an interview, we do some research on you, or I do some research on you to figure out, you know, one, a little about your backstory. It sounds like you’ve been a performer. Literally your entire life from, since you were a little kid.
there’s actually a story that I read that in high school, you performed as banjo bill Sadler, where you played the banjo and you did stand up comedy.
William Sadler: That’s right.
Jeff Haas: Are you better banjo player or joke? Teller?
William Sadler: I don’t know, they were terrible. They were terrible jokes. I’m not sure what, I’m not sure whatever possessed me to attempt stand up.
I was okay at it. I, you know, I won all sorts of school awards and [00:09:00] things. almost immediately
about the same time I discovered, rock and roll. And, started a garage band with some friends in our garage, up in Buffalo and we were called the nightriders K N I G H T R Y D E R.
Jeff Haas: The cool version of the Cooper
William Sadler: now. And w and it was great. We could put, you know, we just did, we did covers, but it was great.
We play it dances. We play it. You know, the Grange hall we play at Christmas party, we play anywhere battle of the bands. we were loud and did a killer version of Louie Lou. I, you know, Oh, that one, anything with three chords, we could like murder. We cause we were so good. and then I discovered acting, [00:10:00] somewhere in my senior year in high school, I discovered acting and it just blew the other two things away.
it was, I was, I could tell I was good at it. but I was also. The writing, the writers that I was getting exposed to were such wonderful minds. I mean, Shakespeare and checkoff, you know, all of these, there was, the second play that I ever did was called the subject was roses, was a Pulitzer prize, winning drama, a little three person, family drama that, I, Frank Gilroy wrote it.
And I was just blown away. I was blown away by how good the writing was and how easy it was to get lost in this stuff. And so I put the banjo down, started this career,
Jeff Haas: my day job, I’m a high school English teacher and I [00:11:00] tell my students, especially the ones who are interested in writing, well, not a short story writing or poetry or writing lyrics.
too, if you want it, let’s say if your fascination is science fiction writing, or you want to write comedy or comic book or whatever you need to read and write. All forms of literature, whether or not it’s drama or romance, Jane Austin, doesn’t matter. You gotta read a range to get that sense for acting.
Imagine it’s the same time. I agree.
William Sadler: I would agree. I think that the, you know, the broader, your knowledge of what’s out there, what’s been written before. There’s some magnificent minds have worked at this stuff, you know? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Yeah, truly. I think anyway, eventually you, if you stick with it, if you develop your own style, You develop your own voice and your [00:12:00] own style and you steal from the steel, from the steal, from the best don’t steal from idiots steal from the best.
and don’t get it. Do you know what I mean? You know, no, one’s, we all stand on the shoulders of the people that went before us, you know, nobody’s reinventing the wheel.
Jeff Haas: I tell my young writers basically to find a style that you like to someone you’ve read. And yeah, you started off a little bit with a.
Courteous copying of the style. And eventually over time you can create your own version of that. And I imagine the acting has any art I imagine works the same way.
William Sadler: I think so. I think so. I think, you know, you dance any art like that? How do you learn to paint? You know, you. You learn techniques, you know, you have to master techniques.
if you’re going to have any vocabulary at all, you need to develop a [00:13:00] vocabulary. And then when you have something to say, you can, you know, you apply what you’ve learned, you apply those, you know, and hopefully it’s your own take on it. It’s your own? It’s your own painting? It’s not a copy of Vincent van Gogh, even though he inspired you know, years and years ago.
So I was inspired by so many actors. George C. Scott was one of my favorite actors. Lawrence, Olivia and D and Brando and James Dean. And there were all of these, Know, Al Pachino when the godfather came out, I want it to be all of those guys. I wanted to, I want it to be Robert Deval. I just said, you know, that’s it, that’s what, you know, that’s what it looks like when that’s what it sounds like when it’s real, when it’s right.
And so you know, I think every actor goes through a period when you’re [00:14:00] imitating the people that you admired so much. But eventually. You know, you eventually you find your own voice, you know, you don’t sound like well, and Brandon, you can’t do that all your life.
Jeff Haas: That’s really great.
William Sadler: No, one’s no, one’s going to hire you for very much.
Jeff Haas: Now, how long did it take for you to. Feel like you’ve found your voice. I mean, there’s a brilliant brand impression by the way, but,
William Sadler: it’s great to be here to be anywhere.
Jeff Haas: That’s awesome. When did you find that, like you are now William Sadler as an actor instead of borrowing from these other actors?
William Sadler: Right. Well, I’m not sure when I finally. You know, when my voice became my own. And it’s also because I tend to be very, [00:15:00] try to be different from one role to another.
So, you know, like the grim Reaper, it’s a big. he’s an over the top Czechoslovakia and no,
Jeff Haas: yeah.
William Sadler: Spirit creature or something. Yeah. had very different from what I did in Shawshank or anything else. But I kinda, I don’t know, eventually over the years you do it enough. You know, you, you find your voice, you find your style.
I would have trouble explaining to somebody how I go about. Get a script for the first time and start reading it. You know, the process of breaking down the scenes, breaking, figuring out who this character is. I’m not sure I could. There’s so many things that are sort of automatic by now, decisions that I make quickly and.
Choices, [00:16:00] that I make now that I had to think about years and years ago, but I don’t think about them much now, you know? Well, I just like pick up, it’s like pick up the instrument and start playing. Well, that’s probably when
Jeff Haas: it feels the most natural at that point, when you make it to the point where you’re almost as a reflex doing the role, or am I simplifying it too much?
William Sadler: I think so. I have a lot more fun now doing it than I used to. I used to Fred about acting a lot and get angry about. You know, it’s not good enough or I’m not getting the role that I should get and that kind of thing. And then finally, that’s just damaging, you know, it’s just, it’s not helpful, you know, now
Jeff Haas: no, we
William Sadler: think it’s better to be grateful.
Yeah, what’s coming along and knock that out of the park.
Jeff Haas: now you can’t now earned a master’s degree at [00:17:00] Cornell university for acting, no. Do a direct line from what you learned at Cornell for what you’re doing now. I know sometimes as a teacher, I feel like I don’t always see the. Correlation between what I learned in college and what happens in the classroom is acting different.
Where, what you learned at Cornell, you see the exact direct line from that point to what you’re doing.
William Sadler: Now, there are lots of things that I learned at Cornell that I’ve sort of incorporated into the way I approach acting. There were things that I learned at Cornell that I know I’ll never do. You know, like I learned, you know, you don’t have to actually bleed if you know, you don’t have to poke yourself with pins to feel things
Jeff Haas: methadone.
William Sadler: Yeah. I mean, there’s a limit to how methody, you know, I care to be anyway. Yeah. but yeah, I think I know what you mean. I don’t know. I think I ever got a job because I have the [00:18:00] degree. No, I have MFA. After my name somewhere on some paper, I don’t think anyone has ever hired me because of that.
But they may very well have hired me because of, because I have a toolkit, I have a set of skills that I will walk around with, that I can apply to your job that I picked up there. You know,
Jeff Haas: now you also had a minor in speech, speech, language pathology. well now a couple questions on that one.
first have more of a backup plan. And two, is there again aligned from what you learned as a piece of pathology and what you took that into how to perform as an actor?
William Sadler: that was, that was really my father. When I went away to college, I had just discovered acting and he was sort of pushing me to stay with the standup comedy.
I think he thought that was a much better way to [00:19:00] go. I don’t know. They were. If they were his kind of corny jokes,
Jeff Haas: dad jokes,
William Sadler: and he thought acting thing, you know, I don’t know. how’s that even work. I don’t think we went to the theater once my entire childhood, I grew up on a farm outside of Buffalo and, you know, we’d go to the movies once in a while, but, it was just out outside of the realm of possibility.
And my dad insisted when I went away to the college that I get a degree in something like a teaching certificate so that I could be a teacher. If the acting thing went. Belly up. I could be a teacher, which was why, you know, that’s smart. It was wise of him because 90 something percent of the actors that, you know, There are a lot of people that start out in this business, in the, in [00:20:00] college.
And then, you know, after a few years of rejection, they decide maybe I should go back to school and become a teacher or, you know, Something I’ll do something else because this isn’t panning out.
Jeff Haas: That sounds a lot. Like my father, I went to school for anthropology for college, and my father was like, you got to Gulu, backup needs to be a teacher.
You become a teacher. I was
William Sadler: fascinated to see that sounds fascinating to me.
Jeff Haas: It’s a fascinating idea. It really is it just as no jobs there really? and my father was like, you need to back up to the teacher. And I told my father, I remember to this day, I know better. I’m going to become an anthropologist.
10 years later, I went back to school for teaching. And there it is. I’m now a teacher.
William Sadler: No, it happens. Yeah. 99. You know, I don’t know what the percent is, but I don’t there’s like one other actor that I know that I went to school with, who is still working. Yeah, who’s working as an actor and the rest have gone into, you know, they’re the head of the drama department at this school, or they’re, you know, they’ve [00:21:00] stayed in the world of theater, but they’re not, but they’re not performing, you know, they’re not out there.
You know, auditioning, surviving on what they make as an actor.
Jeff Haas: it, it really seems like with your career and your background, you know, what’s going to do the standup comedy. You’re a musician. And it seems like maybe it was your, that kind of just led to bill and Ted playing death, which is one of the most systems, miracle roles I’ve ever seen.
Yeah, I loved the original bill and Ted bogus journey as a whole. I wasn’t a huge fan, but your performance of death was so phenomenal. It was so funny the way you performed it, the, that just little hit of, humor and humanity brought to death was just fantastic. How did you get that role?
William Sadler: How was it? I auditioned for that role. I was, I had just done. I heard too, I think had just come out. This was 1990 when I auditioned for it. and I did [00:22:00] that checklist Slovakian accent because I picked that up, back in the theater. I had done it seven years of theater in New York and Broadway and all the rest of that before I ever did a movie, I got to Los Angeles.
None of that matters to anybody. Nobody cares that you were on Broadway. You know, it’s like, what TV show are you on? What do you have any film on yourself? and I had just done die hard and hard to kill in the hotspot band. I was, Oh, this audition came along. And I did the funny checklist Slovakian accent and went home.
You know, it was funny. but I didn’t hear anything for like three weeks or something. and then Karen Ray, the costume, or the casting director called me at home and said, bill, I need you to come back and do it again, but go to a [00:23:00] Halloween store and get some gray makeup, gray hair stuff, and make your hair gray and black out your teeth.
cause you’re too young. They think you’re too young. and I thought, I mean, I thought literally that’s going to look just awful. You know? So I called them makeup man from diehard, too, Scott ETO. I told him problem. And he said, come on over to my house. In Marina Del Rey and we’ll do it. I’ll make you look old.
And he didn’t, he made me look about 70.
Jeff Haas: Oh, you don’t look 70 now. So,
William Sadler: and I drove from his apartment to Orion studio. Did the audition again and got the job. that’s
Jeff Haas: that’s the school. I mean, especially considering, like I said, you came from diehard too. I mean, for quite a while, you seem like you were going to be the heavy in [00:24:00] movies and what would you have typecasting?
Like, did you think to yourself shit, I’m going to be known as that guy?
William Sadler: Well, I don’t, you know, the, I’d probably still be playing heavies like diehard too. If I hadn’t. If I hadn’t, I wanted to show her Hollywood that there was more that there was, there was a sense of humor there that there was a, some, there was someone playful there.
you know, because as you know, people, they’re very happy to keep using, seeing actors over and over again as the same, you know? No, he’s great at that. He’s great at that. Let’s get him in for the bad guy, you know,
Jeff Haas: it seems to be the same way, you know? Oh, that actor is for that role, you know, that’s how I see him.
William Sadler: Yeah. I know. It’s not their job to stretch the actors or find things that are, they might, you know, they’re worried about putting together, you know, their [00:25:00] show. They want the best to bill in best. You know, supporting cast, whatever. and I was looking for something fun to be funny. Yeah. Literally I was looking for something, you know, I wanted to show people that there was a sense of humor that I wasn’t, this.
you know, I didn’t have to play this cold blooded, you know, steely-eyed cold blooded murderer all the time. Cause I figured that was going to get old. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: Now, did you think yourself when you were getting those, villainous roles. What is it about me that just screams I’m a visitor? Like, what do you wonder?
Like looking at me or going, I don’t see it.
William Sadler: Yeah. I don’t see it. I never saw it. I’m to I’m one of the nicer people I know. And, I wouldn’t, I don’t know, but I got to Los Angeles and it was instant. They took one look at me and said he could. Kill a room full of people in this and then sit down and eat a sandwich.
[00:26:00] Yeah, no, he’s just, yeah, no, he’s that kind of, you got that kind of cheek bones or the Nazi look or some of it I have to say was just acting. They, I would audition for these roles, like the guy in diehard, too. And, you know, I can go to those places. You know what I mean?
I already had, I had the tools, I had the chops to go to play that guy. and. but Hollywood has always been happy to keep people once they figure out, Oh no, he’s great. At that romantic comedy thing, we would never cast him as a killer, you know,
Jeff Haas: just to segue, to diehard just for a moment. Cause you brought it up and diehard shoe.
you got to basically fight Bruce Willis. One, how cool was that? And two is there because when you’re playing the villain, there’s that kind of, and you’re doing the fight scene. Is there a feeling of like machismo, like you’ve got to prove you’re tougher or show that you’re [00:27:00] tougher. You don’t want to give up.
William Sadler: Yeah. There was a lot of testosterone around that set you can’t they’re all there always is. And the stunt, I mean, a stump guys everybody’s. You know that you’ve been hired to be that, you know, you read the script that’s, you know, these guys are, there are no nonsense from the minute you see him doing that.
Tai Chi naked, you know, he’s killing five people in his hotel room that aren’t there. This guy is serious. I, you know, I don’t know what he’s up to, but it’s not good. You know, it’s not going to be, it’s not going to end well,
Jeff Haas: now you build up for that role or were you already, you know, pretty, built up?
William Sadler: Oh yeah, no, I went, I was in the gym. I lived in the gym for like three months or something two months. [00:28:00] I, there wasn’t a nude scene when I got the rule. I only found out about it at the costume fitting, and the costume fitting there was, we finished the costume fitting and there was, I said, what’s up?
What’s he wearing in the hotel room scene and Ronnie Harlan, the director who’s from Finland. Looked at the costume designer and back at me and then said, well, bill, actually I was thinking you would be nude.
It was very, he was very tentative, you know, like, Oh, I should have brought this up before. and I just said, I thought about it for a minute. And. I should have called my agents and said, you know, we need to ask for more money, but I was so happy to be working. I said, okay, just push it off to the end of the shoot.
Make sure that it’s like the last thing we shoot so that I have [00:29:00] time to get into a gym and then hire me. A trainer and they did, and they, you know, they beat the crap out of me two months or something and that’s, but I didn’t want to, I had seen the first diehard. I know that was a huge, terrific film.
You know, it was a blockbuster and, So I knew the second one was going to get a lot of attention was going to be the summer action movie of the year, you know? And I didn’t want to look at it when I’m 60 and say, I sat down a few sit-ups, you know, look at that ass,
Jeff Haas: you know,
William Sadler: but it worked out. It worked out well.
I was a vegetarian at the time. So I think that I got riff. I sorta got ripped quickly.
Jeff Haas: I
William Sadler: lost the, [00:30:00] I lost that layer of fat quickly. That covers the muscles.
Jeff Haas: It’s funny that you went from that to bogus journey where you played death and you’re playing a cello. And again, this is it. You really, you playing the cello and guitar in those scenes that you’re.
Do you know how to play those there? Or was it completely acting?
William Sadler: That’s all acting. I played stringed instruments, all my life, ukuleles, Amanda Lynn’s and banjos and guitars. So, I mean, I understand how it works. They, you know, I can fake it. Good. But I don’t play the standup bass and I don’t play the.
Electric bass either,
Jeff Haas: actually both. I really thought it was annoying. The refreshing, knowing your background with the banjo and everything. And I think also what I think was fantastic about what you did with death. there’s an idea of death, at least maybe a concert of mine of death. You know, the idea of the Reaper is that, He’s not a bad dude.
He has a rough job. In other words, it takes people from the land to live into the dead.
William Sadler: It’s not a bad dude,
Jeff Haas: it’s his gig. And I feel like, [00:31:00] yeah. And I thought,
William Sadler: yeah.
Jeff Haas: And when you performed as death, were you thinking to yourself, is that as almost like a figurative idea of death, like death would not be necessarily tough.
Bad temper guy. He would maybe have this kind of, almost like a need to be liked as he is in that movie.
William Sadler: He will say, I have to give credit to Chris ed and ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. They, the writers, they created this. They wrote him to be really scary at the beginning. Just. You know, death is death and our heroes are in big trouble.
They’ve been murdered and here is this figure all in black that we’ve all been terrified of, you know, forever. Until they challenged him to the games and start to win. and he starts to come unraveled [00:32:00] because nobody has ever beaten and him at these games before, you know? and it’s a takeoff.
I didn’t know it at the time. I don’t think, but it was. You know, it’s a direct send up of Ingmar Bergman’s seventh seal where the character of death plays chess with the night for his soul. we played clue and twister battleship, and he loses and loses. And finally is humiliated and petulant.
He just devolves in me. He devolves into this. No, you know, this, you know, he can’t hold on to being the scary dude anymore. and then in the course of the journey, he starts to get, maybe he wants them to like him, you know? he wants to be, he wants to be one of the guys. He wants to be one of the band.
And which I think is, was really smart. It was [00:33:00] really the writers did it because everybody does, you know, even the scariest dudes, they want to be loved. They want to be, you know, they want to be, they want to be accepted by the coolest What about my butt
Jeff Haas: and I must say you’re anyway, your facial expression, I actually
William Sadler: did, but I thought that was no, I’m just going to say it just that put that progression from.
Terrifying figure too. you know, the guy who wants to be in the band on into bill and Ted three, where we meet where we see him. I don’t know if you’ve seen.
Jeff Haas: Oh, of course. I’m sorry. I’ve seen it twice.
William Sadler: Where he’s, he’s come out the other end of the music industry and he’s been chewed up and spit out by the recording industry.
They didn’t like his albums. he’s living in hell. he’s [00:34:00] been demoted. He’s like nothing, it’s all going. It’s all turned to crap because he helped them back in bogus journey. He’s being punished now. So when the, when they show up again, there’s some bad blood, you know, which they get Dover.
Jeff Haas: And I said, you did such a good job.
And I think it’s really the, like the exhaust, the respiration in your voice and your facial expressions that really sold that. Especially, like I said, as you, during the games, the game sequence, Did you, and even when I came up with exact words from bill and Ted, but he’s like, when death was like, damn right.
When he was still, you know, keep playing the next set, it was so brilliant. And like, what were you practicing these in the mirror? Like your expressions for what happens when he’s loses?
William Sadler: No, in fact, No. When I put on the checklist and accent and the robes and the three hours of makeup, he sort of becomes this person.
And, it’s very freeing. I have [00:35:00] trouble turning him off once he’s rolling. It’s like, it’s, he’s I keep talking. The scene is over and I keep going, you know, I keep adlibbing stuff. and the first though, that whole, the game sequence that we shot was the very first day of my first day on the set.
It was the very first time I’d met Alex and Kiana. That was the. I was very nervous. you know, because they had been filming already. They had done a movie together already, and I was stepping into this thing, this ongoing, you know, I was going to, I was jumping on the train and, And everybody was worried, you know, is it going to work?
Is he too young? Is they had never tried the makeup before then. We, you know, we hadn’t shot an inch of the checklist Slovakian accent before. And fortunately it just like, it was funny and it worked and they, everybody, why. The producers and everybody watched [00:36:00] the dailies, the studio watch the dailies that from that day, that first day of game sequence, I think, and from then on, it was sort of all smiles.
Okay. I would show up on the set and they were like, Yeah, good. whatever you want to do go. Cause it was because it was funny and it was, you know, I ha I had embodied this creature. and he clearly had strong feelings about things, so that was good, you know, and it was working so they.
But I remember thinking when on the very first day I remember producers and everyone sort of around the set, watching and like, you know, it’s just, is this going to work? Is this going to work? And, and then there was a noticeable relaxation the next day and the day [00:37:00] after it was like, Ugh, So then we were just off and running.
Well, I mean,
Jeff Haas: the character of death does steal the movie on some level. I mean, he is just that phenomenal of a character. He just, you know, he immediately gets your laughter. He makes it an extremely enjoyable movie. And I still think the games thing is what, some of my best sequences and especially a comedy movie.
And I was wondering, in the game sequence, were there games that you guys try that you didn’t show in the movie or was that all the ones that you guys did. No,
William Sadler: that’s what was in the script. That was what, that’s, what they had written
Jeff Haas: battles and battleship were my two favorite ones that you guys showed
William Sadler: as good clue.
Oh, my favorite, I think my favorite one is clue. It was Colonel mustard. Did it in this study with the Kendall stick. Sorry, death. It was professor plum. I said, plum, if it was a kid, he lies.
Jeff Haas: He like,
William Sadler: he cheats. He’s like,
[00:38:00] Jeff Haas: well, especially cause like I said, the nice thing, the cool thing about death is once again to someone who’s never had a friend, he doesn’t know how to socially interact with anybody, you know?
And I thought it was once again, very clever. Here’s an individual. Cool and socially inept, and then he meets these two. Cool guys are fun guys, and he wants to be a friend. Now this would be
William Sadler: first wants to be one of the guys. Yeah,
Jeff Haas: it was clever.
William Sadler: It was a very nice journey.
Jeff Haas: Now w when you go on to face the music, now you’re going third, almost 30 years later from the original bogus journey.
Is it hard to rediscover death now that it’s been that many years since you’ve seen the character? Or can you just click it right back on?
William Sadler: I was surprised it was how easy it all came back. I mean I’m older. It was harder to do the physical stuff. but as soon as, again, as soon as the makeup was on and the room we’re on and I started to do that checklist, Slovakian, XN [00:39:00] was there.
Everything was just like, she just like popped back in and working with Alex and Kiana though. and. smart and Bridget was just fantastic. They were, I thought the chemistry between him says this is off the topic a little bit. I thought that chemistry with Alex and Kiana was extraordinary.
It was really good. And I loved watching them. I love them watching them. The two of them throughout the movie, play out, just play off each other. Like They were like two kids again, you know, just not, they don’t know what to do, and this is important stuff. They’ve got to save the universe.
So they’ve got no time, you know? but yeah, I just loved watching the way they bounce off of each other. That’s. It was part of what made the first two movies so much fun and it’s, and it was right there again in [00:40:00] the third one.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. And I think one thing I love about, bill and Ted and my wife, Joey Lynn watches it with me, all the movies.
And I think what I like about it is that
William Sadler: this is such a
Jeff Haas: fun movie. It doesn’t have, you know, it’s not, and especially with all the weird, horrible things going on in the world, it’s nice to see a movie that just. It just makes you feel good. You know, it’s just a good hearted, nice movie. And I think in this time more than almost any other time, it feels like it was absolutely necessary.
William Sadler: I agree. I think it’s, and you know, it took 29 years or something 30 years to get to finally come around to doing a third movie, but the reason. That they’re doing a third movie is because we really needed a third movie. You know, the world really needed hear from bill and Ted. Again, I think I’m just a little bit of that innocence and hopefulness and you know, there’s nothing [00:41:00] cynical about it.
yeah, it’s a great, it’s a the time I thought the timing was just fantastic for, you know, to come out in the middle of a pandemic with,
Jeff Haas: and based on the plot itself, you know, with them, you know, 30 years later, It feels like the time had to be 30 years later in real time to make for all the characters to get there.
You know what I’m saying? And have it work for those characters? It felt, I mean, I know once again, obviously it’s 30 years later because it’s how long it took for it to happen. But when you think about what the plot and movies about, it feels like that’s how long it takes for an individual to reach those epiphany’s.
William Sadler: Yeah. I think that’s probably true. I thought it was very, yeah, smart of them to not try to play 26 again, you know, or whatever they were. they’re not teenagers anymore, you know, they’ve, there’s a lot of years. and to let that, to let the years show, And still have the, [00:42:00] that contagious spirit still be there.
I thought that was just the, you know, I thought that was just great.
Jeff Haas: Then also once again, as an audience member who got to watch it, you know, you know, fresh, it was nice. Cause it also a lot of the audience in BD, including myself have been there. When you think to yourself, I’m now 40 or 50 or whatever.
What the hell happened. And I think bill and Ted is kind of that same, but we were like, Holy crap, I’m this old, what the hell just happened? Yeah.
William Sadler: You wake up one day and it’s like, yeah, no, you’re 60. You’re what, yeah. And there’s a part of, you still feels like you did when you were 20 something or other, you know, It’s just that, you know, now your knees hurt this doesn’t work and that doesn’t work.
And I, you know, it’s an alarming thing to wake up and find [00:43:00] yourself getting old.
Jeff Haas: Do you find that a few things? It’s a common denominator of all PE all individuals, adults who think. You know, if I could have that one chance to do that thing that I wish I had done, you know, if you’re a writer, if I had a chance, but I really did sit down to finish that novel by just done this, you know, I could, once again, enjoy that moment you had, that might be useful again by accomplishing
William Sadler: that.
Yeah. Well, I don’t know. I’m trying not to have regrets about my career. I don’t know. I don’t know. What’s. Coming up, you know, for me, I don’t feel like I’m finished. yet I, in some ways I feel like I’m better. I’m a better actor now than I ever used to be. I know I have more fun. I’m doing it now. I’m much freer and freer at it now.
which is great. yeah. Yeah. I started a YouTube channel. Oh. During this endemic it’s [00:44:00] called wheel Sadler, the kitchen tapes of Dylan, like the basement tapes for debt. Mine are the kitchen tapes. And they’re like, I’ve been writing songs and I perform some of these songs. And I tell stories about, you know, just worse war stories from the filming of this and the filming of that.
Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t know I’m in a, I’m in a good place, I think.
Jeff Haas: Well, yeah, I mean,
William Sadler: I find myself strangely in a good place. if I stopped right now, it would be wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be unhappy with. you know, I love the Reaper. I love the way people respond to him. I love Shawshank and, you know, it’s nice that movie is like the number one in the IMD B Mo you know, most popular movies of all time or something like that.
I’m like, you’re kidding me. that’s really, you know [00:45:00] how, you know, not many actors get to, you know, get to be a part of. Classic things like that. Well, listen, you’ve been at so many. I think that’s really fun.
Jeff Haas: Well, he said you’ve been to so many brilliant movies. I mean, one of my favorites that you were in his tales from the crypt demon Knight.
No, and I think so fantastic. And once again, you were great, Billy Zane was great. And I think what I’d like to. A lot about, that your character is that because I think because you’ve spent as much time playing the villain, there’s that moment near the beginning, we were thinking, is he the villain? You know, there’s something wrong with this guy a little bit.
It takes you a while to go, Oh crap. He really is not the Villa. And you kind of twist it just a little bit. Right,
William Sadler: right. He’s a bad ass dude, but he’s not the one you got to worry about. Yeah, exactly. Well, that was a, yeah. That’s another one of those that, you know, we did it for a dollar 98 back in.
I don’t even know what year that was. and we shot it [00:46:00] in a, it was not an expensive movie. We shot it in an abandoned airplane, hangar in Sherman Oaks,
like, and Ernest Dickerson. I thought he did a fantastic job. It’s a, it’s an insane cast. I mean, that cast it. Actors, you couldn’t get them together for love or money now, you know, just a wonderful group of actors, kicking ass, just kicking it out. The movie has had, the movie has had a whole new life, like, it’s really fun to, you know, when we did it opened, ran for awhile.
It closed, you know, that’s, it’s, you know, it lives in video. You can go to blockbuster and rent it, I guess. You know, that was that’s. That’s where movies go to die.
But Shawshank was the same way. People [00:47:00] discovered that after it left the movie theaters, bogus journey, people discovered that, I mean, it had a run here and, you know, in the theaters, but it didn’t. No, I guess I don’t, maybe it made back its money, but I think it was more popular in England actually, but it opened and then it closed and, you know, it’s just been remarkable.
People discovering it over the years and showing it to their kids and, I don’t know. It’s just a, so,
Jeff Haas: so what do you think we think some movies do better, you know, after the fact, you know what I’m saying? Like they’re better when rediscovered on you.
William Sadler: Good. I’m not sure why that is sometime. Cause
Jeff Haas: it’s just kinda funny.
Like what’s the movie, Shit, the Jimmy Stewart. It’s a wonderful life bombed when it first came out. Now it’s part of everyone’s Christmas, but it was, it bombed really [00:48:00] badly when it first premier, I don’t
William Sadler: know the, when movies open. Especially these days when they open in theaters, they’re opening against other movies that are vying for the number one box office and the, this and that.
And if they don’t make a lot of money right away, the movie theaters. They pull them out of the theater. They’ll replace it with something else that’s hotter, you know? and then that’s just sort of this, you know, survival of the fittest, and a lot of really good movies. Don’t catch fire like that.
They and Shawshank is a great example of that. You know, it opened in the movie theaters and it closed. And then it was nominated for six or seven Academy awards and they put it back in the movie before the awards happened and then they took it out again, you know, And it [00:49:00] really got discovered on Turner classic movies.
And in video rentals, the video rental world, I don’t know, maybe it’s a gentler. Maybe it’s like people, you know, they didn’t get a chance to see it in the movie theaters and they try it at home for, you know, it’s less money. It’s a, there’s less pressure. You can sit back and. You know what I mean? it’s not such a big deal yet.
And you know, maybe it’s just a, maybe it’s just a Chandler place for movies to find their audience. rather than in the movie theaters where ticket prices are, what they are, and there’s other movies trying to knock you off the, you know, Okay. Now, are you
Jeff Haas: tobacco say they can’t watch the movies at Doreen?
Are you able to watch the movies you’re in and get the same level of enjoyment? Or are you like [00:50:00] somebody who would say they can’t see themselves? They want to see themselves on screen, you know? Cause they’re sensitive about it. Are you able to do that? And are you able to separate yourself from the movie?
William Sadler: Yeah, I can watch myself in the movies. I, it’s hard for me to be objective about it. it’s hard for me to watch and just enjoy it. Like the rest of the audience enjoys it. as soon as I come on, I’m remembering. You know, how I’m remembering everything about everything that I decided about the character and everything that was going on that day on the set.
And so on my head, I’m always say, I tend to sit there and be, you know what it’s like listening to your own voice on a tape recording.
Jeff Haas: Oh yeah. That’s rough,
William Sadler: no tape cassette a digital recording of your voice and you. You hear your voice back on this recording and you say, I don’t sound like that.
that’s crazy. I don’t sound like that. [00:51:00] You know, and it’s a little bit, it’s a little bit like, I think that when you watch yourself, when I watch myself on screen, I just like.
You know, I was just trying to get over it cause you have to watch your stuff, you know, and sometimes I can appreciate sometimes, you know, when they act, I think it’s really good. I can get caught up. I can get care. I can get swept away by the story too, but I, but then I sit there and think, well, why’d you do that with them?
Look what you’re doing. Look what you do. Relax your mouth.
Jeff Haas: Yeah, I must admit, during these podcasts, I use, walking my dog, I try to listen to some of the podcasts, usually from the other interviewers. And I can’t listen to my own. It’s only about listening to a podcast that I’m doing that I just get like, Oh crap. Why did I do that? Or did I just say, Oh my God, why did I say ’em again?
You know, it’s hard.
[00:52:00] William Sadler: Yeah. If you’re to say on the line.
No worries. You don’t at all.
Jeff Haas: That’s okay. But like I said, it’s hard because you get very critical of yourself when you listen to, or I’m walking out saying, cause your performance and you can’t enjoy the conversation. You’re like, crap, I could have phrased this better or, you know,
, is there any chance we’ll see bill and Ted for,
William Sadler: I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Jeff Haas: I
William Sadler: don’t think so. I think they tied it up pretty well. With the third one, I thought that was, I thought that was a really satisfying end to the bill and Ted trilogy, I suppose the daughters could launch, you know, time traveling, you know, I guess I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t try to do a bill and Ted for, but, yeah, no, I think, I think Alex and Kiano would probably.
Ready to hang it up.
[00:53:00] Jeff Haas: That’s all right. But, either way I don’t want, I definitely want to thank you very much for speaking with me. You were a fantastic guest. It was a great honor.