How Face the Music pays tribute to original Bill & Ted star, comedy icon George Carlin – USA TODAY

Warning! The following contains light spoilers for “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” so be careful if you haven’t seen it yet.

The late comedy icon George Carlin played a vital part in the first two “Bill & Ted” movies. The new film, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (available now on streaming and VOD platforms), found a way for him to come alive once again.

A hologram version of Rufus, the wise-cracking futuristic guy who sent Alex Winter’s Bill and Keanu Reeves‘ Ted on an “Excellent Adventure” in 1989 and a “Bogus Journey” in 1991, greets them when the two dudes are brought to San Dimas circa 2720 to visit the Great Ones. A digitized Rufus emerges from the familiar phone-booth time machine as a tour guide of sorts, sharing a little bit of Bill and Ted’s history. As the two heroes are shuffled along, Ted gives him a sweet little nod and wave goodbye.

Review:Goofballs Bill & Ted are as essential as ever in a most triumphant ‘Face the Music’

Party on, old dudes?:Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves tackle middle age in ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’

George Carlin, seen here in 2004 four years before his death, gets a posthumous cameo in the new "Bill & Ted Face the Music."

A couple other tributes are included in “Face the Music.” Kristen Schaal plays Rufus’ daughter Kelly – based on the late comedian’s real-life daughter, Kelly Carlin (who has a small cameo in one of the future scenes). And Schaal’s character gifts Bill and Ted Rufus’ antique stopwatch, which has an inscription inside: “Sometimes things don’t make sense until the end of the story.”

In an interview with USA TODAY, Reeves remembers Carlin as “such a humble, hard-working, present, cool guy” from their films together.

“For me, there’s like the George Carlin before I met George Carlin, and then working with George Carlin and knowing him after,” Reeves says. “From the legacy of his thought and comedy as a performer, (he was) one of the greatest of all time and very impactful for my world view and humor.”

George Carlin (far left) starred as wise Rufus opposite a young Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Winter adds that he and Reeves were “very strangely lucky” to see Carlin not long before he died in 2008 of heart failure at age 71. “Keanu and I were having dinner years after ‘Bogus,’ and George was in the restaurant. I remember having a really poignant conversation with him (and) Keanu outside. That was the last time that I ever saw him, the last time many people ever saw them, and I was really grateful to have kind of another circle back and have one more moment with him. It was like a mutual appreciation society.”

All three original stars had “a meaningful relationship,” Winter says, “and to work with him when we were at that age, he was a giant especially to people of that generation. He was a titan. So to have developed something like a friendship or a friendly rapport with him was very sweet and profound.”