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‘Speed’ At 25: What You Never Knew About The Film

by Kat Hughes

2019 has inadvertently become the year of Keanu Reeves. With films such as John Wick 3, Destination Wedding and Toy Story 4 all releasing in cinemas, a slew of DVD titles, the announcement of his involvement in computer game Cyberpunk 2077, and the small matter of shooting Bill and Ted 3, it seems there is nowhere to hide from everyone’s favourite Canadian. As if this wasn’t enough, one of his classic films, Speed turns twenty-five this week.

20th Century Fox/YouTube

That’s right, it’s been twenty-five years since audiences flocked to cinemas to watch a bus maintain a speed of greater than fifty miles an hour. They really don’t make them quite like that anymore, and to celebrate its big birthday we’ve scoured the internet to bring you a busload of things that you never knew about the high-speed action classic.

1. Initially, the project was being worked on with Jeff Daniels in mind for the part of Jack Traven, and Ellen DeGeneres as Annie. The dynamic was intended to be different to how it ended-up, with Ellen’s Annie acting as more of a comedy side-kick, but the script was reworked when she reportedly passed on the project. In recent years she has joked with Sandra Bullock (who eventually got the part) that she owes Ellen her career (see above).

2. Before Keanu Reeves was thought of for the role of Jack Traven, there were apparently several high-profile actors in contention for the part including Jeff Bridges, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton, Johnny Depp, and Tom Hanks.

3. Jan de Bont settled on Reeves in the role of Jack after seeing Point Break. His feeling was that he wasn’t threatening to men because he wasn’t that bulky, and he looked great to women.

4. Once Keanu was signed-on, the studio was keen for him to keep his traditional Hollywood good looks. Director Jan de Bont had other ideas however and told Reeves to ‘get a sensible haircut’ more in line with a stereotypical cop. The buzzcut he went with reportedly horrified studio execs so much that they threatened to push back shooting so Reeves’ hair could grow back.

20th Century Fox/YouTube

5. Kathryn Bigelow may have showcased to the world that Keanu could do action, but it was Speed that cemented him as an action star. It was also the film where he got the stunt bug, performing 90% of his own stunts. Twenty-five years later he’s still going above and beyond in John Wick 3: Parabellum.

6. Given that Keanu wasn’t that well known in the action circles at the time, and the plot was a little silly, Fox was initially a little dubious as to how well the film would be received. They soon changed their mind during a test screening when they noticed people walking out of the screen backward when they needed to go to the toilet so as to not miss anything on the screen.

7. Sandra Bullock actually had to learn how to drive a bus for the role, however, a lot of the driving was actually done by a stunt driver that had a rig on top of the bus.

8. For those thinking that Speed is just a throwaway action movie, it actually had a positive effect in reality. An American schoolboy saved the lives of his classmates when the driver of the bus had a heart attack. He quickly climbed onto the driver’s lap and hit the brakes. When asked later why did it, the boy replied that he had “seen it in that bus movie”.

9. Eigthies rocker Billy Idol provided the end credits song cleverly titled Speed.

10. A then-unknown Joss Whedon was brought in to give the script some tweaks when it was noted that the first version was a little like Die Hard. Despite his involvement in the writing process, Whedon is uncredited for his work on the movie. The main scribe Graham Yost credits Whedon for the “Pop quiz, hotshot” line.

11. Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels trained with real S.W.A.T. personnel to perfect their movements.

12. The first draft of the script was titled ‘Minimum Speed’, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

20th Century Fox/YouTube7

13. A young Halle Berry reportedly turned down the role of Annie; it would then take her another twenty-five years before she got to work with Keanu Reeves, having recently starred alongside him in John Wick 3: Parabellum.

14. Quentin Tarantino was offered the opportunity to direct the film after Reservoir Dogs was a hit.

via GIPHY

15. Jan De Bont, who served as cinematographer for Die Hard and Speed, included a couple of little Easter eggs. The plane that is destroyed by the bus has the logo ‘Pacific Courier Freight’, this is the same name on the terrorist truck in Die Hard.

16. While working on Die Hard, De Bont came-up with the idea for the opening lift sequence. A lift he was using in the skyscraper where they filmed Die Hard broke down and he had to climb out the escape hatch and jump onto another to get out.

17. The set for lift shaft included four fully-functioning lifts and was five stories high.

18. Before the era of CGI, if you wanted to blow something up on film, you basically had to blow it up. Sometimes filmmakers would use a miniature model or such, but sometimes, as with the explosion at Payne’s house, only the real thing will do. In order to achieve this, producers reportedly paid the owners of the property $5,000 dollars to blow it up. Don’t worry though, they also rebuilt it for them afterward.

19. It seems that if Speed were on Sesame Street it would be brought to you by the letter H. Why? Well, all of the main characters that die during the film have names that start with the letter H: Harry, Howard, and Helen.

20. The greatest thing that Speed gave us wasn’t the mediocre sequel, but the Father Ted episode – Speed 3. It parodied the film beautifully as, after becoming a milkman, Dougal found himself on a milk float rigged with a bomb that explodes if the float drops below four miles an hour.

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