Alex Winter on MSNBC's Craig Melvin, Dec. 15, 2013.
Courtesy of MSNBC

From ‘BILL & TED’ to Bitcoin—with documentarian Alex Winter


It’s called Bitcoin. And for actor Alex Winter, of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” fame, it’s anything but bogus.

Winter has managed to stay somewhat under the radar since bringing Bill S. Preston to life in the cult favorite film, but he hasn’t slowed down. Between running his own production company and adding multiple commercials and music videos to his list of credits, Winter has built himself into a tech-savvy documentarian.

While he jumps into on-camera roles now and then, Winter is most animated as he gears up to produce his second documentary, setting his sights on the community surrounding Bitcoin, an internet currency that has taken off.

This project doesn’t exactly run parallel to the storylines you might expect from Winter, but it has been a long time coming.

“I’ve been involved in the tech world for a long time,” he said. “I direct a lot of stuff that involves special effects, so really since the ’80s, I’ve been immersed in emerging technologies.”

Those connections helped Winter produce his first documentary about the rise and fall of what he calls the “birth of the digital revolution,” but what we know as the music-sharing site, Napster.

Winter produced “Downloaded” to explore Napster’s model of an anonymous online community. He wanted to show that its founders were not criminals helping people to steal music but rather creators of the first functional global online community.

“Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker basically engineered the first successful peer-to-peer technology with Napster, which brought 100 million people together online for the first time in history,” Winter said. “They were at the beginning of what changed the world that we live in now, and Bitcoin is very much an extension of Napster.”

Winter says this new film, “Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road,” picks up where Napster left off, because the roots are all connected.

“It’s really about giving the power of exchange and community to the people. I was immediately sparked by Bitcoin. I said ‘Okay, now someone is taking the philosophy of Napster and moving it to the area of global finance? Well that’s going to be a game changer.’”

Winter wants his film to debunk some of the myths around the deep Web, to show that not everyone involved is a criminal and they shouldn’t be seen as such.

“If you really investigate this stuff, you discover how this thing really operates. It’s very demystifying.” At the end of the day, Winter hopes people will see the film, get involved, and learn enough to dig deeper for themselves.

Winter’s documentary projects may be keeping him busy in the director’s chair, but he isn’t spending all of his time behind the camera.

Much to the excitement of “Bill & Ted” fans, Winter says he’s very excited about the prospect of rejoining forces with Keanu Reeves and his production team for a third installment to the franchise.

“It’s actually very far down the road. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy in building what we thought would be a great movie, and we all kind of thought now was a good time to either do it or never do it… so we decided to try and do it.”

MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, 12/21/13, 3:29 PM ET

Could Bitcoin be the currency of the future?

Documentary filmmaker Alex Winter of the movie “Bill & Ted” and Washington Post technology reporter Andrea Peterson join Craig Melvin to discuss the growing popularity of the virtual online currency Bitcoin.


From 'BILL & TED' to Bitcoin—with documentarian Alex Winter