“Do some theater, because it’s all on the actor from the moment the curtain goes up until the moment the curtain goes down.” – William Sadler
Look, let’s just call it as it is: no matter what actor William Sadler does in his career — and he’s had memorable roles in everything from Die Hard 2 to The Shawshank Redemption — he will likely always be best known for his scene-stealing performance as the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Sadler’s hilarious portrayal of the Eastern European-accented, sore loser Death helped elevate the 1991 movie into one of the better comedy sequels of all time. Unsurprisingly, Sadler reveals in an interview with Decider that he leapt at the chance to play Death again for the 2020 sequel, Bill & Ted Face the Music. He also shares some key advice about theatrical acting and saving money that he gives to young actors.
Sadler reveals that he did re-watch Bogus Journey to refresh his memory, but not to re-learn his accent. He explains, “I did watch it, but not for the accent. I went back to watch all the little things I had done – the gestures and little touches and things – just to check myself, because I’ve been carrying that character around in my hip pocket for a long time. ”
Nonetheless, Sadler says that much of the feel for playing the character comes from the costuming. He says, “I really enjoyed playing that character, and once I put on the robes and the makeup, he just sort of bubbles along in his own world. He takes on a life of his own. And almost everything he does is silly because of that accent, which helps immeasurably.”
On a more serious note, Sadler also shared his advice on what he tells young actors about preparing for their craft:
“What you can do in front of a camera is extraordinary compared to what you can bring to a stage performance. If you’re doing it for 1100 people on a Broadway stage… Some of it’s the same, but most of it, like I said, is just a different animal. There are always two things I suggest to young actors who ask for advice. The first is to do some theater, because it’s all on the actor from the moment the curtain goes up until the moment the curtain goes down. If the audience is going to experience anything exciting, it’s because you and your fellow actors cooked it up fresh that night right in front of their eyes. On time, no excuses, eight times a week. You get used to being able to pull it up on demand. Whenever it’s required, you can yank it up and make something happen. For lots of reasons, theater is a great training ground for a lot of what actors have to do. For example, if you just ran out to Los Angeles and tried to get jobs in television and movies, you work one day in March, and then maybe not again until September, when you’ll get a walk-on in something else. It’s just not enough time. You’re not practicing your craft the way you need to to get good. But doing a month of rehearsals and then eight shows a week in front of live audiences, with all the nerves and other distractions, is a tremendous training ground…and then you have to go learn about doing it front of cameras! [Laughs.] But that’s the first piece of advice I give young actors. The other piece of advice is that if you land on a TV show and start making money, do something smart with the money. Invest it, carefully, because the TV show may only last one season…and you’d be surprised how long you may have to wait to get onto the next gig!”