Family & Companions
An English-born icon of 1980s teen cinema, Alex Winter first attracted attention as Marko, one of "The Lost Boys" (1987), a pack of sexy teen vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland. He broke through as Bill S. Preston, Esquire, one half of would-be rock band Wyld Stallyns with Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) in the "most righteous" time travel comedy smash "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989). So iconic and popular were the slacker characters and film, they spawned video games, cartoons and a boatload of merchandise. The darker sequel, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991) proved less successful, and Winter focused his energy on creating and starring in the outrageous sketch comedy series "The Idiot Box" (MTV, 1990-91). Although short-lived, it convinced movie execs to let Winter write, direct and star in a feature film, the whacked-out cult oddity "Freaked" (1993). He took a hiatus from acting to focus on directing, lensing music videos for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ice Cube as well as multiple European commercials. Directing became his main career focus, and he helmed episodes of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (ABC, 2003- ) as well as the enormously successful live-action adaptations "Ben 10: Race Against Time" (Cartoon Network, 2007) and "Ben 10: Alien Swarm" (Cartoon Network, 2009). Beloved by a certain generation as a cultural touchstone, Alex Winter proved he possessed much more depth than being a likable teen leading man by showcasing his chameleonic creativity as a successful filmmaker on the international stage.
Born July 17, 1965 in London, England, Alexander Ross Winter was the son of two modern dancers. He began training for the stage as a dancer and actor from a young age, and at the age of five moved with his family to St. Louis, MO. After cutting his teeth in local theatrical productions, Winter moved to New York City as a teenager, where he booked jobs on Broadway, including small roles in "The King & I" and "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up." While attending NYU's film school, he met Tom Stern and the two collaborated on a series of short films. They moved to Los Angeles, continuing what would become a longtime professional partnership. Winter made his screen debut as a rapist in the exploitation thriller "Death Wish 3" (1985). He earned a larger role as Marko, one of the gang of beautiful teenage vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland, who suffers a particularly grisly fate in Joel Schumacher's much-loved cult classic "The Lost Boys" (1987) and nabbed an even bigger supporting role in the based-on-real-life Gothic tale "Haunted Summer" (1988) as Dr. John William Polidori, the creator of the vampire story.
Most audiences, however, remembered him alongside Keanu Reeves in the delightful time-travel comedy "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989). The story of Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Reeves), two wannabe high school rockers ("Wyld Stallyns!") in danger of failing history class until a magical phone booth sent from the future saves the day, the film became a sleeper hit and a cultural touchstone for a certain generation, launching multiple catchphrases and mannerisms into popular culture. The triumph of Bill and Ted's "Valley Dude" self-confidence over every obstacle, the goofy creativity of the central concept, and the chemistry between the two actors helped make the film a cult classic and kicked off a lucrative franchise. Winter and Reeves reprised their roles for an animated series, "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures" (CBS, 1990-91) and saw their likenesses used in video games, advertisements and merchandise, as well as a short-lived live-action TV series utilizing lookalike actors. They reunited on the big screen in the decidedly darker "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991), which saw the duo navigating heaven, hell and the afterlife. While still a minor hit, it was not the smash executives hoped for, and marked a stopping point for the dim duo's adventures.
Winter's success allowed him and Tom Stern (along with Tim Burns) to be hired to create a sketch comedy show, "The Idiot Box" (MTV, 1990-91). Loud, violent and edgy, the series lasted only six episodes but became something of an underground favorite among younger audiences. Based on its notoriety, the three creators earned a development deal to create their own movie, resulting in "Freaked" (1993). Featuring an eclectic cast, including Winter, Brooke Shields, Mr. T, Randy Quaid and a cameo from Keanu Reeves, the film was a bizarre, often-grotesque black comedy set within a sideshow. Although it certainly shared the same spirit of absurdity of "The Idiot Box," the film proved too weird to earn more than a minimal release, eventually becoming a minor cult favorite. His professional momentum slowed, ironically as Reeves' hit hyper-drive with the actioners "Point Break" (1991) and "Speed" (1994). Winter suffered the fate of many in Hollywood whose former co-stars achieved superstardom; many comedians used the juxtaposition of their respective careers for an easy punchline. Regardless, Winters forged on, determined to make his own mark as something other than Bill.
Winter turned his focus from acting to directing, filming music videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Extreme, and Helmet, as well as a slew of European commercials. After writing and directing the horror film "Fever" (1999), he worked his way up to lensing episodes of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (ABC, 2003- ) and the smash live-action-adaptations "Ben 10: Race Against Time" (Cartoon Network, 2007) and "Ben 10: Alien Swarm" (Cartoon Network, 2009). Slowly, he eased back into acting, guesting in an episode of "Bones" (Fox, 2005- ), lending his voice to the animated series "Saul of the Mole Men" (Adult Swim, 2007), and making small appearances in the aforementioned "Ben 10" TV movies. A longtime horror fan, Winter made headlines when it was announced he would be directing a 3-D remake of the 1987 Stephen Dorff horror film "The Gate," tentatively scheduled for a 2012 release. Even more exciting news for fans came in 2011 when Keanu Reeves confirmed that a script was being written for a third "Bill & Ted" film installment.
By Jonathan Riggs
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
When Winter was five, family moved from London to St. Louis, MO, where parents founded the Mid American Dance Company
Also appeared on Broadway and on tour at age 14 as John Darling in the Sandy Duncan revival of "Peter Pan"
Made stage debut at age 11 as a street urchin in a local production of "Oliver!" Starring Vincent Price
Film debut as rapist in "Death Wish 3"
Moved to Los Angeles
Wrote, directed, produced (with partner Tom Stern) and starred in MTV comedy series, "The Idiot Box"
Moved to New York to direct commercials
Feature directorial debut, "Fever"