I was previously unaware that Billy the Kid was an actual kid. He was first thrown in jail at age sixteen for stealing laundry, fought with the Regulators at eighteen, and was gunned down months before he reached the age of twenty-one. I think the reason I didn’t realize this fact has to do with the way filmmakers choose to portray him. Personally, I would prefer that filmmakers hire someone age twenty or younger to portray Billy the Kid in films. To walk away from a film without the sense that he began his life as an outlaw at the age of sixteen does not do justice to the Kid. His name was not a metaphor. He was a literal teenaged kid, and that needs to be respected.
Billy the Kid: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
My first exposure to Billy the Kid was while watching B ill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure . In the movie, Bill and Ted are two high school students who are able to travel back in time. This allows them to learn history directly from historical figures. Billy the Kid is one of the figures they encounter while time travelling.
The problem is that the man who played Billy the Kid, Dan Shor, was around thirty-three years old at the time the movie was released. His IMDb profile, if correct, lists his birthday as November 16, 1956. The movie was released in 1989. This man might have been able to play Billy’s father, but he certainly couldn’t pass for Billy. So when I saw the movie on television as a little girl, my tiny brain registered Billy the Kid as being about the same age as Han Solo in the first Star Wars film. And thus the idea of Billy as a “kid” became more like a metaphor for me. It was a symbol of his ability to connect with teenaged Bill and Ted. I never once thought of him as actually being close in age to the two main characters. He was the adult. They were the kids.
Young Guns I and II
Emilio Estevez was an improvement from Dan Shor. Born in 1962, Estevez was still mid to late twenties when he made Young Guns I (1988) and II (1990). However, that is still to old too portray Billy the Kid at any point of his life. Perhaps we were expected to suspend our disbelief. People may have believed Estevez was a teenager in The Breakfast Club (1985), but the Estevez of 1988 and 1990 no longer looked like a teenager or under age twenty-one.
I Want A Teenager to Play Billy the Kid
This is ridiculous. One of America’s most famous teenagers has never been played by a teenager (or even someone who looks like a teenager). It’s time to stop passing Billy the Kid off as a grown man on film. He was a kid living life like an adult. By today’s standards, he wouldn’t even have been allowed to drink. It’s time to remember Billy the Kid for who he was: a kid.