Last year, in the Beforetime, Samara Weaving travelled through space and time. Well, her character Thea did in the goofy, nostalgia-driven brilliance of highly anticipated sequel Bill and Ted Face the Music.
She plays the daughter of Alex Winter’s William ‘Bill’ S Preston esq, alongside Brigette Lundy-Paine as bestie Billie, daughter of Keanu Reeves’ Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan. While their dads go back to the future to steal their best idea from themselves, the women jump in another telephone box and head backwards to recruit history’s greatest musicians, with a little help from rapper Kid Cudi. Together they hope to come up with the one track that unites nations, brings peace to the world and saves all of reality. No biggie.
“If only we knew when we were making it that it would have such weird similarities and parallels to what we’re dealing with right now,” she chuckles. “I hope when people watch it, they can just go ‘Alright, so yeah, we just need to be excellent to each other. Wear a mask and we’ll be fine’.”
When we speak at the end of July, she's in quarantine in a Sydney hotel after returning home to Australia ahead of the film's premiere here on September 10. “I still don’t feel like I’m in Australia,” she levels. “I look out the window and I see the Sydney Harbour, but I’ve been stuck in this room for 11 days. Until I get out, it doesn’t seem real.”
She’s been using the enforced downtime to do a bit of research on her character in Long Shot director Jonathan Levine’s shooting-soon(ish) miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers, another buzzy Liane Moriarty (she of Big Little Lies) adaptation. And she’s also catching up on her favourite obsession: “My Achilles heel is watching crime documentaries. I just finished watching Fear City [on Netflix], which is amazing.”
So nice and chill then? “Yeah, just a relaxing, murder-y doco is great. I think I’d like to play a detective?”
Face the music and laugh
She had heaps of fun playing opposite John Wick dreamboat Reeves, Winter, Lundy-Paine, and off-the-wall comedian Kristen Schaal, who plays as the daughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin), Bill and Ted’s guardian in the first two films. But keeping a straight face on set with this cast was far from easy.
“Comedy is so difficult,” she reveals. “It’s really hard to get right. I mean, my hat’s off to any comedian. I think it’s interesting that there’s a stigma around comedy. It’s like horror movies. They weren’t being taken seriously critically, and in the awards. And then [Jordan Peele’s] Get Out happened, and that cracked it. Now they’re being respected by the big wigs and the Academy. I hope comedy’s next in line, because it’s so difficult to make people laugh. It’s easy to make them cry.”
She was impressed by director Dean Parisot’s ability to wrangle Bill & Ted Face the Music’s spectacular set-pieces without breaking into a sweat. “He’s so chill, he’s amazing,” she says. “Trying to keep on top of everything, I would have assumed that he would be really stressed out, but if he was, I couldn’t tell. He was so kind and led with such grace. And that’s really rare and beautiful on set.”
At 28, the Adelaide-born Weaving, Hugo’s niece, wasn’t brought up with the original films. In fact, she was oblivious to them. “I really wasn’t aware of what an impact it had on American and global culture. Just the lexicon of Bill and Ted, and how it has infiltrated the way we talk.”
She was sitting on the sofa in Los Angeles when she got the call offering her the gig. It was her fiancé writer and producer Jimmy Warden’s hysterical joy that sold her. She dug catching up. “I think if I knew about them and was a huge fan before, I would have put a lot more pressure on myself.”
After appearing in McG movie The Babysitter, Weaving got a lot of calls for genre films. She’s been smart about picking ones like Get Out that have something to say. “I liked Ready or Not or not because it had a message. With Guns Akimbo, one it was because I was like, ‘oh, Daniel Radcliffe’s doing it? Like, yes. Let’s go.’ Second of all, it had themes like how dangerous is social media? I mean, it’s always fun to be covered in blood and fighting people, but if there’s an underlying message that sparks debate, that’s even better. And that’s what storytelling should be about. I hope that’s not too pretentious?”
Sparking another laughing fit, Weaving seems very far from pretentious, making smart, fun and thoughtful choices. Her career’s really going places, alongside the steadily growing cohort of Hollywood Aussies including Nicole, Cate, Naomi, the Hemsworths, Hugh and Margot. But while we speak, she stares out over Sydney Harbour going exactly nowhere. Which begs the question: if Bill and Ted's telephone box did materialise, where in all of time and space would she go?
“Well, I don’t know, do you go and kill Hitler? Stop the Vietnam War? Save Martin Luther King?”
I love that all her choices are basically about world peace. “Well yeah, you’ve gotta do world peace. Because if you don’t, it makes you an arsehole.”
Bill & Ted Face the Music is released in Australian cinemas (except Victoria) on Thursday, September 10. You can read our review here.