Starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock as a cop and a civilian who “meet cute” on a bus wired to explode should it drop below 50MPH, Speed is an eminently rewatchable, high-octane thrill ride. Its followup, Speed 2: Cruise Control, starring a well-meaning Bullock and Jason Patric (subbing in for Keanu) as maritime quality-control specialists, pulls a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. (The sequel’s “rotten” status earns it a place in IFC and Rotten Tomatoes’ Rotten Fridays.)
Before you dive into a Speed double feature this Friday starting at 5:30P, check out some things you might not have known about the Speed movies.
1. Joss Whedon Put Words in Keanu’s Mouth.
Yes, the mastermind behind Buffy, Firefly and The Avengers penned most of the dialogue in Speed, according to the film’s credited screenwriter Graham Yost. Although the story was originally conceived by Yost, Joss Whedon stepped in as script doctor and punched up the action movie one-liners we all know and quote today.
2. The Bus Jump Would Have Ended Badly in Real Life.
Suspension of disbelief be damned: The bus jump in Speed is one of the greatest stunts in popcorn movie history. Never mind the fact that the vehicle’s drivetrain would’ve been completely demolished upon impact, the bomb would’ve been triggered before they hit the ground. On a rear-wheel drive bus, the speedometer is connected to the front wheels, which would slow their rotation in mid-air. And since the wheels don’t measure wind speed, it wouldn’t matter how fast our heroes are soaring — the wheels say below 50!
3. A Special Bus Was Made to Survive the Jump.
Obviously, your average everyday bus isn’t built for acrobatics, so the filmmakers built a special jumpable bus with souped-up shock absorbers to soften the massive impact. (A ramp was built to give the bus extra lift.) And for added precaution for the certifiably insane stunt driver, the driver seat was moved back 15 feet and secured with a floor-to-ceiling stabilizer to prevent the likelihood of spinal compression. So in the movie, hypothetically, if the bus stuck the landing without triggering the bomb, everybody inside would be out of high-octane commission. Still, whatta stunt!
4. Speed originally took place entirely on a bus.
In Graham Yost’s original version of the script, the movie ends as soon as the bus ride does. No nail-biting elevator drop, no edge-of-your-seat subway brawl, and heck, even the jump wasn’t in the original script! (Yost added it when director Jan de Bont noticed an incomplete section of Interstate 105.) But in a shockingly good decision for a major movie studio, Fox requested that Yost put in more action that didn’t involve public transportation. Yost met them halfway with the subway sequence.
5. The “Die Hard on a Bus” Jokes Are Apt.
Comparing Speed to the greatest action movie of all time might be cruel, but it’s accurate. The script was written with the Die Hard franchise in mind and was originally offered to director John McTiernan, who ironically passed due to the story’s resemblance to the John McClane classic. Jan de Bont — who served as director of photography on Die Hard and other action blockbusters — took the job, which helped launch his directing career.
6. The Elevator Scene Was Based on a Real Incident.
Another memorable action sequence was the opening elevator rescue. Jan De Bont suggested adding the scene after his experience being trapped in an elevator during the making of Die Hard. (Too bad John McClane wasn’t around to save him.) De Bont and the crew constructed an 80-foot model elevator shaft for the sequence. Yippie kay yay, indeed.
7. Roger Ebert Was Forced to Defend His “Thumbs Up” Review of Speed 2.
Sequels don’t often fare too well with critics, and for Speed 2 — currently standing at 3% on Rotten Tomatoes — that would be putting it mildly. The movie was eviscerated by critics except for two notable holdouts: Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who both gave Speed 2 a positive review. Ebert even admitted that he had to defend this review more than any other and that it was used as evidence by detractors of his poor cinematic judgment. (Not for nothing: Sandra Bullock confessed in a 2000 interview that it was “the biggest piece of crap ever made.”)
8. Speed 2 Almost Took Place on a Plane.
Despite Keanu passing on a sequel to make The Devil’s Advocate and Jan de Bont insisting that the concept only worked once, Speed 2 was immediately greenlit thanks to the success of its predecessor. Many potential vehicles were proposed for stars Jason Patric and Sandra Bullock to be trapped on, including Graham Yost’s idea about a plane flying through the Andes Mountains that would explode if it ascended above 10,000 feet. A cruise ship was eventually chosen, based on a recurring dream Jan de Bont had about being trapped on a ship that crashed into an island. New screenwriters Jeff Nathanson and Randall McCormick were brought on board to bring De Bont’s literal nightmare to life.
9. Two Stunts in Speed 2 Nearly Killed the Leads.
After Keanu declined to appear in the sequel, actor Jason Patric signed on as Sandra’s first mate. And although the film’s stunt coordinator was impressed by Patric’s physical ability, the actor nearly killed himself during a motorcycle stunt where he fell from a bike while 30 feet in the air. Bullock said Patric was lucky to survive the stunt, but she also had a close call herself: While shooting in the ocean, she had to be rescued by Patric from almost being decapitated by the ship’s rudder. (One stunt woman didn’t manage to escape injury on set: She was hit in the face by a boat cable and required reconstructive surgery.)
10. Three Characters Return for Speed 2, And a Fourth You Might’ve Missed.
Obviously Sandra’s back, and we have Joe Morton as Mac and Glenn Plummer as Maurice, or Tuneman as he’s better known. But there’s one more hapless character to undergo a crisis in both movies: Constance. Who? In Speed, actress Susan Barnes plays the nervous female executive trapped in the elevator and frozen in fear. In Speed 2, she’s back as the cooler-headed Constance who casually sits and smokes as chaos ensues. Apparently, her brush with death in ’94 turned Constance into a cool action movie character.
Set sail with Speed 2: Cruise Control during IFC’s Rotten Fridays!