LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) do their best to keep a bus running at over 50 miles per hour to prevent a bomb from going off in 1994’s Speed, one of the quintessential action movies of our time. Here are some facts about the film you need to know before your next quiz, hotshot.
1. IT WAS WRITTEN AS A BETTER VERSION OF RUNAWAY TRAIN.
Future Justified showrunner Graham Yost once asked his father, who was host of Canada’s Saturday Night At the Movies, if there was any film that was a great idea but never reached its full potential. One of his answers was an Akira Kurosawa script called Runaway Train, made in 1985 by Andrey Konchalovskiy. In Runaway Train, the brakes are frozen solid. The younger Yost saw the movie and thought it would have been a lot better if it had been set on a bus, and if there was a bomb involved.
2. IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT, HARRY ENDS UP BEING THE BAD GUY.
Yost liked the twist, until he realized a month before production that Jeff Daniels’ character turning out to be the heel wasn’t believable enough. Also, the bomb was set to go off at 20 miles per hour, not 50, and the bus was going to circle Dodger Stadium, not LAX, before blowing up the Hollywood sign.
3. JOSS WHEDON WROTE "98.9 PERCENT" OF THE DIALOGUE.
Whedon did a rewrite on the script, which he received no official credit for due to a Writers Guild of America ruling. Whedon said the one character he significantly changed was Alan Ruck’s Doug Stephens, who was initially a mean lawyer. Whedon owns a Speed poster that was made which listed him as a writer.
4. STEPHEN BALDWIN TURNED DOWN PLAYING JACK.
In addition to that Baldwin brother, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Wesley Snipes, and Woody Harrelson were all approached to play the lead. Director Jan de Bont thought Keanu Reeves was a great fit after seeing him in Point Break.
5. HALLE BERRY TURNED DOWN PLAYING ANNIE.
Berry wasn’t interested, nor were Meryl Streep or Kim Basinger. Yost wanted Ellen DeGeneres for the role (DeGeneres recently claimed she was never officially asked.) Demolition Man star Sandra Bullock won the role, and was paid $200,000.
6. THE BUS JUMP WAS ADDED BY THE DIRECTOR.
Jan de Bont wanted a part in the middle of the movie where it seemed that the bus was doomed to explode. On his first try nailing the freeway jump, the bus landed on a row of cameras. One bus used had its tires blown and suspension damaged after it went over 100 feet in the air and 20 feet off the ground.
7. THE DIRECTOR MADE REEVES CUT HIS LONG HAIR.
De Bont wanted his star to look strong. “I didn't want people to think of Bill and Ted any more. I want them to think of Keanu as an adult actor now, " said de Bont.
8. REEVES DEALT WITH THE LOSS OF RIVER PHOENIX DURING FILMING.
Speed was in the midst of production on October 31, 1993, when actor River Phoenix passed away. Reeves and Phoenix, who had co-starred in I Love You to Death and My Own Private Idaho, were extremely close friends. “All I can say is that I have never felt a thing like that before in my life,” said Reeves. “I was very sad, and something beyond sad. I don't know what it is, just that you sob for hours.” In order to make the production easier for Reeves, de Bont changed the shooting schedule so that the grieving actor could work on some of the easier scenes first. Cast and crew shared that Reeves became extremely quiet following the news. When he wasn't filming, Reeves read Hamlet in his trailer.
9. REEVES DID MOST OF HIS OWN STUNTS.
De Bont talked his star into hopping from the running Jaguar into the running bus by saying it was like stepping onto an escalator. The shot seen in the movie was the work of a stunt man though.
10. BULLOCK HAD TO LEARN HOW TO DRIVE A BUS BEFORE FILMING.
11. THE HIGHWAY SCENES WERE SHOT ON AN UNFINISHED HIGHWAY.
The Century Freeway wasn’t opened until October 14, 1993, a few days after filming ended, so the crew painted all of the pavement lines and put up all of the highway signs.
12. THE ACTORS ON THE BUS GOT BONUS STUNT PAY.
The late Paula Montes insisted that because the actors moved from the bus to the rescue vehicle themselves, they should be paid the extra money.
13. IT TESTED THROUGH THE ROOF.
At a test screening, some audience members walked up the aisles backward so that they would miss as little of the movie as possible before going to the bathroom. It helped convince 20th Century Fox to move up the release date from August to June.
14. ANNIE’S TELLING OF HER FAILED DREAM OF BECOMING A GRAPHIC ARTIST WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.
As was some back and forth between Jack and Harry that would have given more insight into their friendship.
15. YOST REALIZED TOO LATE WHAT JACK COULD HAVE DONE TO SAVE EVERYONE A LOT OF LIVES AND TIME.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote in her review of Speed that Jack could have simply shot out the bus tires before it reached 50 miles per hour and armed the bomb. Yost said he didn’t think of that when he wrote the script. If he had, he would have had the Jaguar driver hit Jack before he got a chance to shoot the tires, not realizing he was on a cop.