5 Fun Facts About Speed
List by Aaron Haughton
Pop quiz, hotshot!
Speed is one of our favorite action films from the 90s due to its crazy high concept premise and adrenaline pumping action, and it's hard to believe that the film is nearly 25 years old... So many aspects of the film still hold up quite well today; you can feel the heat of the explosions and the frenetic energy that the film stirs up with its many camera moves and tense stunts. We owe the film gratitude for cementing Keanu Reeves as an action star — 20th Century Fox wasn't convinced that Reeves had enough star clout to front the film, and even pushed for a more established actor to helm the project — and for putting Sandra Bullock on the map. Speed might seem like it's nothing more than pulpy fun, but the film is impeccably made and even earned two Oscars for Best Sound & Effects, and Sound Effects Editing.
It's a 90s powerhouse that needs to be remembered, which is why we're serving up 5 fun facts you (probably) don't know about the film!
- The birth of the concept and its Achilles heel.
Long before the concept of Speed came to be, screenwriter (and future Justified creator) Graham Yost asked his father, who was the host for Canada's Saturday Night at the Movies, if there was any film he could think of off the top of his head that was a great idea that never reached its full potential. One of his father's answers was the Akira Kurosawa script Runaway Train from 1985, directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy, which features a premise where a train's brakes are frozen solid and is unable to stop. Yost watched the film and thought it would have been better if the train was a bus and a bomb was involved.
However, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and as The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin pointed out in her review, Jack (Reeves) could have simply shot out the bus tires before it reached 50 miles per hour and armed the bomb. Yost later said that the idea hadn't even occurred to him when he was penning the script, and that if he had, he would've had the driver of the Jaguar hit Jack (Reeves) before he had the chance to fire off a shot, not realizing he was a cop. Perhaps, we can toss that into the remake...
- Joss Whedon's doctoring of the screenplay convinced Reeves to take the part.
That's right, Whedon totally re-wrote Graham Yost's original screenplay, and he did so uncredited even due to a Writers Guild of America ruling. According to Yost, Whedon wrote most of the film's dialogue. Director Jan de Bont wanted Reeves to play the part of Jack Traven after seeing him in Point Break because he felt the actor was "vulnerable on the screen. He's not threatening to men because he's not that bulky, and he looks great to women." However, Reeves initially turned down the lead because he found Yost's script to be too much like Die Hard. This is what prompted Jan de Bont to hire Whedon to doctor Yost's script, which was all Reeves needed to climb upon that speeding bus.
- What's all the buzz about a haircut?
After Reeves had agreed to do the project, de Bont insisted that he get a sensible haircut that would be fitting enough for a hard-working cop. “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, " de Bont said. Well, the chosen haircut, a buzzcut, did not go over well with 20th Century Fox, and they even threatened to postpone production to allow for his hair to grow back. However, nothing soothes a Hollywood executives mind like money, and when the film began to test through the roof, some execs even began sporting the Keanu buzzcut. In the end, the studio pushed the opening date up from August to early June, which enabled them to get a jump on such competition as Arnold Schwarzenegger's True Lies and Jeff Bridges' Blown Away.
- Of Bullock and busses.
There were roughly 11 different buses needed for the making of the film (2 for exterior shots, 2 for interior shots, 2 for action sequences, which involved crashes, 1 for the jump sequence, 1 modified so that it could ride on two wheels during the sharp right turn sequence, 1 slightly raised, so that a man in a mechanic car could fit underneath, and 2 that were just for blowing up). Each of the these busses were modified with two steering wheels; one for Bullock, and another for the stunt driver, which was generally on the roof of the bus. Despite having a stunt driver, Bullock actually learned to drive a bus for her part in the film, and she even passed her driving test on her first try.
- About that bus jumping scene...
The scene where the bus jumps a missing piece of highway actually wasn't in the script. Jan de Bont came up with the idea while driving around Los Angeles when he noticed a section of the I-105 was missing. Naturally, he had this action set piece added to the film. This required a ramp and a specially modified bus to be built. The driver's seat was moved back 15 feet, so that if something went wrong, the driver wouldn't be ejected from the bus, and the seat itself was a suspension mechanism between the ceiling and the bus floor to avoid the driver from suffering spinal compression on impact.
For the scene, the bus started from about one mile back and accelerated towards the ramp, looking to hit speeds of 70mph. When it hit the ramp, the bus traveled 109 feet, and its front wheels reached an altitude of twenty feet from the ground, which was higher than anyone had anticipated. Because of this, the cameras were not placed correctly, and the top front part of the bus goes out of the frame when the bus reaches the maximum point of the jump.
Well, that's our list! Let us know your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!