Alexander Ross "Alex" Winter is an English actor, film director and screenwriter, best known for his role as Bill S. Preston Esq. in the 1989 film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and its 1991 sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. He is also well known for his role as Marko in the 1987 cult classic The Lost Boys, and for co-writing, co-directing and starring in the 1993 film Freaked.
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Hi guys. I am filmmaker Alex Winter. You probably know me from my past acting roles and my documentary about Naptser, DOWNLOADED. My latest project, DEEP WEB (http://www.deepwebthemovie.com/), focuses on the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, the entrepreneur alleged to be “Dread Pirate Roberts ” -- founder of online black market Silk Road. The film also discusses how the minds and thought leaders behind the Deep Web and Bitcoin are now caught in the crosshairs of the battle for control of a future inextricably linked to technology. Here's a preview:
With DEEP WEB coming this spring to EPIX and the Ross Ulbricht trial happening as we speak, I thought it was time to hop back on Reddit. Looking forward to your questions. AMA.
Hey everybody, gotta go!! Thanks SO MUCH for your fantastic questions! I love doing these! Please make sure to see Deep Web when it comes out, from Epix!!
I'm curious what the issue is with Bill & Ted 3? Funding, script? Is there anything fans can do in support of the project?
movies take time to get off the ground. and BnT has always been an Indie franchise, and they take longer. But we are getting there :)
Thanks for the fond quotes that defined my childhood!
What have shocked you the most about what was going on in the deep web?
the blanket negative way it is portrayed in the media
I think to elaborate on this, the real shocking stuff on the dark net is the same shocking material you find on the clear net, which are child pornography sites. Law Enforcement has been doing a great job seizing those sites, thankfully! Otherwise the Dark Net is mostly used for good purposes like Dissidents in foreign countries who need an outlet, and journalists and sources who need anonymity.
Sorry if the answer is obvious, but... what exactly is the deep web?
in short, the deep web just accounts for all the un-indexed data online. it's under the hood of the internet and nothing to care about. the dark net exists within the deep web, and that's a hidden, alternate internet used largely by government agencies, journalists and dissidents. also by the markets like silk road and others who want to remain private and/or anonymous. that's what the movie is about!
Do you own bitcoin?
I do indeed
So, Alex, what you're telling me, essentially, is that Napoleon was a short dead dude...
That's awesome, Alex. I'm glad you're doing what you love to do. Keep it up.
Thanks for answering my questions.
What was it like working on The Lost Boys?
The most fun I ever had on a movie, bar none. A wild endless summer.
Hey Alex, thanks for doing this AMA.
You seem pretty passionate about directing now. Do you have a preference between acting or directing or do you enjoy both processes?
Is there a subject that you’d like to see get made that hasn’t been done yet?
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a very favorite movie of mine. Has been ever since I saw it when it first came out. I’m sure if Bill & Ted 3 pulls through it will be most excellent!
I am, always loved to direct, since I was a little kid. Love acting too, but writing and directing (and being a dad!) is a full time gig for me. But jumping back into Bill's funky clothes would be awesome!
do you think Freaked was the predecessor to American Horror Story Freak Show?
What would win in a fight? The evil robot Bill or Sonny (from I, Robot)?
Evil Robot Bill would kick that scrawny tin can's butt
I loved Downloaded! It was a most excellent documentary!
What is it about topics such as Napster and Deep Web that interests you enough to make these films?
These issues around the digital revolution strike at the core of modern human experience. it's definitely the human aspect, rather than the technical, that interests me most. And thanks re Downloaded!!
Can you give sad Keanu a hug for me?
i know not this sad keanu you speak of
Hey Alex, I have a script with your name (not literally) written all over it, it's pretty extreme and I know you like extreme, fancy taking a look?
i don't have a ton of time to read scripts, but am always reachable through my website: alexwinter.com
Hey Alex ,
What do you think about the darknet market itself ? What do you think about the idea selling drugs on the internet? Do you think it is safer than buying drugs on the streets ? Would it be a solution for the war on drugs ?
Thanks for doing AMA :) really excited to watch the documentary!
Studies are already proving out that the online drug markets are reducing violence and mortality rates in the drug trade, which of course is common sense if you think about it. That is not to condone criminality or drug use, but to state the fact that the drug war is not working, we all know that. And some regulated form of online market in a legalized environment is probably in our future.
What do you do to stay fit? Do you lift? Run? How do you get the pump for exercise?
Did crossfit until i almost destroyed my shoulder. Now do a modified crossfit workout and yoga. Meditation is the key to all fitness i've discovered, and not going insane working in show business :)
Thanks Alex: follow-up question:
Which main players in the Silk Road story have you interviewed/do you plan to interview for Deep Web? And does Tony76 feature?
I can't divulge the inside sources in the movie, for obvious reasons. But we have exclusive access to all the Ulbrichts and the defense team, as well as many of the primary vendors who helped architect the service. It's comprehensive
Are you gonna have a big part in directing the new Bill and Ted movie if it comes to that? (and please say that it will!)
No we have an amazing director, Dean Parisot. He made the masterpiece GalaxyQuest
Big fan here who dabbles into film making. Just curious. What do you like more? Making documentaries or scripted films?
Thanks! I like telling stories that interest me. In any format. I direct a lot of tv commercials and also very much enjoy telling a story in 30 seconds. But docs are very special, because the story and the participants are so alive, and the narrative is so fluid. A very creatively satisfying medium to work in. And hard!
Hey Alex, Thanks for doing an AMA. I'm a HUGE Freaked fan (you featured my rasta eyeball tattoo on your blog once!) Just wondering if you kept anything from the movie that you still cherish these days? Maybe Sockhead's sock head or the wrench that was turned into a hammer?
I still have part of Catherine Hardwick's amazing freak show tent. A small piece but I cherish it. Thanks for digging that movie!!
Thanks for response! I am very excited about documentary and the future of the darknet :)
Last time I heard there was a wealth of deleted scenes, totaling about twenty minutes, of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey yet to be released. Do you know anything about a possible future release, by any chance?
no unfortunately we shot a ton of stuff for an alternate ending that was never completed. was insanely funny so it's a shame it will never see the light of day :( A car chase between us and all our fears, unleashed from hell. was classic
What opportunities are there for general audiences to finance a small film with profit-participation? who are the weirdest sources of financing you've dealt with?
few really unfortunately. other than investing directly as has always been the case. but this terrain is changing fast and that will soon be an option.
Hey Alex! What was more fun to film? Excellent adventure or bogus journey?
loved both. honestly. so different
Excuse me Mr. Bill S. Preston, Esq. What are the odds you team up with Ted and make a third (and most epic) movie?
at this moment those odds are very high indeed
Such an incredible thing to have you here. You're incredible, sir. I was doing a little reading about the B&T3 script. Any updates? Also, are you available for a podcast interview in the coming weeks? Thank you for being here. It's insanely amazing!!!
Thanks glad you're here too! whoever you are!! You can always contact me through my website re podcasts and such. alexwinter.com
What's your favorite ".onion" website?
haha, good question. I myself prefer the political/journalist tor sites
Hi Alex I'm a huge fan of your work, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is my all time favourite film. Do you envisage that deep web is an issue that will get better in the future or worsen due to the continual change in technology?
I think it the dark net is de-stigmatized, it will be allowed to flourish, as it should
Alex, other than Bill & Ted, what are your other favorite time-travel films? Are you a Terminator fan and are you looking forward to Terminator Genisys this summer?
I like terminator. Love time after time. Time Bandits is the favorite
Hi Alex thanks for the AMA! Lost boys seems like a blast, any funny stories with Kiefer or other members of the cast?
hah. Yeah, kiefer hot-dogging for the crowd on our motorcycles one night on the boardwalk. ask kiefer how that worked out for him some time :)
What is your favorite pizza topping and how would you best utilize that in your acting career?
anchovies, and i eat them by the gallon which is maybe why i don't have an acting career
Hey Alex, what ever happened to your Jamaican gangster film?
wow. good memory. sad to say getting movies made with an African American lead in a foreign culture is very very tough. loved that project
Can you give us a link?
...go on... you know you want to.
sorry officer, i cannot find it :)
Hi Alex! Thanx for making the Deep Web documentary. I'm very excited to see the final product on this subject matter!!!
Question: Do you have an ETA for the rest of the Kickstarter rewards for Deep Web?
They should be rolling out on schedule. Once the movie is done everyone will get the movie who bought that reward. Thanks for asking!
Hi. Do you actually spin wool or did I miss your point in your twitter bio?
What is your favourite film?
haha. no but my wife does.
favorite film is Tarkovsky's Mirror.
I recently watched Grand Piano and was curious what you could tell us about your experiences with that project, particularly as a production in Spain with an American principle cast?
It was soooo much fun. A great cast, a super talented director (Eugenio Mira) and production team. We had a ball. And the food in Barcelona doesn't suck either...
What were your top movies of 2014?
Are you a fan of Kristen Wiig?
Sure who doesn't love Kristen Wiig? My two favorite movies of the year were Boyhood and Citizen Four. They stood head and shoulders above everything else I saw last year. Incredible works of art.
Hello Mr. Winter!
Now that you're nearing the release of your second documentary (do you have any more that I am not aware of?), do you have plans for a third?
If so, would you like to stay on the general subject of the dark corners of the web or would you like to tackle something completely different?
I am working on two separate doc ideas to do next. Neither in the tech space. So we'll see!
Hi Alex, thanks for the AMA!
Are you attending the Ulbricht trial? What are your thoughts on the revelations that have been coming out? Will you need to revisit anything you've done on the documentary so far?
The documentary will not be finished until the trial is finished. and yes we have been shooting around the trial. it's been a real head-spinner as we knew it would be. Lawyers on both sides are formidable, and are both very prepared. It's not open and shut by any means
Hi! Thanks for AMAing.
Is Deep Web pretty much "in the can" now whatever happens, or will it also be covering the Ulbricht stuff going on now?
Has decades of fans greeting you in Bill & Ted valley-guy speak crossed the line into aggravating yet?
I love the bill and ted fans. it's great to have been in a franchise that people still love. grateful for that part of my life. and no the movie won't be in the can until the trial is over.
Do you still dance?
I do with my kids. And they hate it!
For those of us budding filmmakers, is there a particular class, DVD or book you recommend on how-to-film documentaries?
Just watch docs. As many as you can. From as far back as you can. Many of my favorite docs are quite old. Maysles, Pennebaker, Robert Frank. These are my heroes
Awesome! I can't think of good questions sometimes.
Tell your wife to go have a look at /r/knitting - they are nuts about wool and ..well knitting...!
Thanks for the reply!
ooh i will do, thanks!
Dad, you're being totally non-non-non-non-HEINOUS!
That is indeed a masterpiece. Best of luck to you in all your future endeavors!
Hey Alex thanks for doing this!
Curious what advice you can give to young people either looking direct or act? When you were little did you see your future self where you are today or as something different? Yknow like a cat burglar or a ballerina.
Since I was six all I wanted to do was write, direct and act. Honestly. This has been my whole life for well, my whole life. The advice I'd give anyone interested in pursuing this world is to be hard working, patient and persistent. There's a lot of ebb and flow in show business, a lot of stops and starts and highs and lows. Downloaded took me 14 years to get made, and started as a scripted narrative. I just never gave up on it and was happy to see it get made as a doc. Indicative of the biz, nothing will happen as you plan or expect. Just keep at it!
Hey Alex, For you what has been the biggest revelation made by the prosecution in the trial?
There hasn't been one for me yet. The prosecution has stuck to the material already available in the criminal complaints. All the revelations thus far have come from the defense, and there have been many. They have made an excellent argument to establish reasonable doubt.
I need to know . . . WHAT was inside the Grand Piano at the end?
Every time I see your name, a Cusack or a piano, I think about that ending. (When I see Elijah I hear "My preciousssssssssssss!")
haha. it's the money!!! or.... is it????
I'm sure you've been asked this before. But is there a Director's Cut of Freaked floating around out there? And have you had any thoughts of releasing it?
No, the deleted scenes all our extras are on the (now out of print) anchor bay double dvd release if you can find it or are willing to spring for the mucho $$$ for it on amazon
I just wanted to ask if you're still answering questions?
And if you are is it cool to tell my bros we talked? Thanks
yes and yes!
I'm going to buy 2 or 3 GoPro Hero4 Black cameras, because they are rather affordable & versatile 4K cameras (and I like to get multiple angles simultaneously whenever possible). Now I see cameras coming out with 6K speed! Oy Vey!
Before I make that investment:
How soon will 4K cameras be obsolete and do you see any major disadvantages to using a GoPro for theatrical feature films over a the Red's Scarlett or other heavy-duty pro camera?
I love gopro's and shoot with them all the time. every format quickly becomes obsolete so just dive in. they're affordable enough!
Big fan of Downloaded, looking forward to a UK release of Deep Web, any plans currently? :) Cool to hear you're a fan of Citizenfour, that's definitely my pick for best documentary of 2014. With Deep Web it seems like you're covering the issue of online privacy and government surveillance from the angle of the Deep Web/TOR/Silk Road, which I'm excited about, but was Snowden ever a topic you considered making a documentary on before Citizenfour?
Glad you enjoyed Downloaded! No I wouldn't touch Snowden was Poitras WAS the story. Such a great movie.
Oops just noticed I missed part of your question. Yes we are planning a big UK release of Deep Web, other than the usual Netflix and iTunes availability. Will be posting all that as it happens on my site and the movie's site:
yikes. that's horrible!!!
You attended U City High School for awhile, right? When was the last time you were back in STL?
I lived in st louis until high school. Flynn Park elementary, brittany middle school. then moved east. go back to st louis all the time. lots of good friends there and we showed downloaded at the tivoli. It was great!
Have you thought of doing a documentary on the Federal Reserve, IRS, the 16th amendment that was never legally ratified in 1913 and the tax code (“IRS Notice of Levy” – Title 26 USC Section 6331.a Levy and Distraint) that says most USA citizens are not obligated to pay federal taxes?
If so, I'm down to take on the IRS in court.
haha, good for you. I'm not so sure i'm quite ready to take on the IRS. But i'll let you know if i muster up that level of courage :)
Have you ever seen the play or heard the music from the Bill and Ted musical someone did years ago?
no i haven't. any links?
With Silk Road 1 and 2.0, Tormarket, Pandora, and so many others having already been seized or just being scam sites, how do you think the future for darknet markets stands? I also understand if you can't answer this next question but are you for or against these sites?
Thanks for the AMA.
The major replacements to Silk Road have not been seized. Not much in the way of primary markets have been touched. And new markets are decentralized and thus harder to touch. The way I feel about these sites is reflected in my answers below if you can go there, it's elaborate. but essentially, this is all very similar to napster. they took down one service with a central server, hundreds more popped up. then bittorrent came along and was pretty much impossible to shut down. same deal here. almost exactly
we now live in a world with online markets, many of which will sell drugs. that is not going away
Oh, do you know if there's any reason against releasing them as special features?
Thanks for replying, by the way — I will definitely try to seek out Deep Web.
because they were never completed. they're shards of scenes only.
Heeey my man, any chance of us getting a rerelease of the Special Edition of Freaked in the near future? Rather looking forward to DEEP WEB by the way, the concept of that section of the net is just spooky.
Write Anchor Bay and demand it!!!
Have you seen the documentary on "The Shining" titled "Room 239"?
P.S. When I relocate to L.A. this year, I'll carry some chicken feed in my pocket labeled "IRS" just in case we cross paths. :D
I have. loved it!
Adam Levine is a cool, tattooed, Jew. I consider myself the same.
Do you have any body art . . . that you will admit to?
removed one tattoo, actually no, i removed both tattoos :)
Hello Mr. Winter, I have been a fan of yours ever since I was a little girl! What was it like filming Freaked? How did it feel to wear a lot of makeup and the costume? What were your tattoos of? Thanks for your answers! :) YOUR EXCELLENT
It was a great experience, but grueling!! many hours to get in and out of the makeup every day, all whole co-directing as well. A crazy exercise only manageable in youth! :)
How long did you spend in the Dark Web doing "reasherch" for this film?
Why can't I watch the trailer in canada?
try this one :)
Why do you want to ruin everyone's fun?