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June 12, 2014 12:43 PM   Subscribe

On the occasion of Speed's 20th anniversary, Hitfix presents an oral history of the movie, as told by the people on the bus.
posted by Rangeboy (42 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite


you missed the opportunity to title this The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down
posted by The Whelk at 1:00 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]

I know bus-fu.
posted by Your friend sounds kind of lame. at 1:11 PM on June 12

Oh, this is interesting, because I just read this interview with Joss Whedon about the film, and he's talking about how he got rid of all the other bus riders' backstories because he thought it was unnecessary. So it's cool to see it from their perspectives, which is basically, "Hey, you cut almost my entire part!"
posted by retrograde at 1:11 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]

Boy, just imagine how compelling the oral history of Speed 2 will be!

...oh, right.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:14 PM on June 12

you missed the opportunity to title this The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down

cough cough look at the tags cough cough
posted by Rangeboy at 1:19 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

20 years? That's impossible. Keanu hasn't aged by more than a day or so.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:21 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

SpacemanStix: "20 years? That's impossible. Keanu hasn't aged by more than a day or so."

Both Keanu and I turn 50 this summer.

he seems to be in slightly better shape than me but maybe that's just special effects
posted by octothorpe at 1:28 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Fun civil rightsy fact: Paula Montes, relegated to the back of the bus, lobbies for for stunt pay for the whole group.

Best quote: "For the past 20 years, my career hasn't slowed down, either -- until this anniversary, when it's gonna explode."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:30 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

20 years? That's impossible. Keanu hasn't aged by more than a day or so.

More importantly, I haven't.
posted by sfkiddo at 1:45 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

I thought this was going to be some sort of meta version of an oral history, where they got the characters to narrate their histories instead of the actors. But, alas, it's just another "actors look back" bit.
posted by gern at 1:45 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

I'm sure there is a picture of Keanu hidden somewhere which is getting older.
posted by localroger at 1:50 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]

Could someone do the original script, but as a stage-play, with fun lighting effects and all for the action like in 39 Steps? That would be a great night out.
posted by Erasmouse at 1:53 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

It would be like, 12 Angry Men but, on a speeding exploding bus!
posted by Erasmouse at 1:56 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Oh, this is interesting, because I just read this interview with Joss Whedon about the film, and he's talking about how he got rid of all the other bus riders' backstories because he thought it was unnecessary.

Yeah, reading it from this perspective, it seems shitty. There's these quotes:

Carlos Carrasco: Thinking back about "Speed," it's a complicated, bittersweet memory. When you're a character actor, you work in the trenches for years and years and you don't often get a shot at getting out. And then you throw in the whole business of being an ethnic actor. So when "Speed" first came into my life, I was beyond thrilled because it was a showcase role. It was a positive ethnic role model role. It was a hero role. I have a long history of playing bad guys and, you know, beating up the old lady and getting the drugs across the border and stuff like that. And I just thought, "Wow. This is great. This is gonna be fabulous. And also holds the potential of elevating several careers to the next level."

David Kriegel: I just actually read the original script. About six months ago a friend of mine, we were cleaning out stuff and I pulled out the script and thought, "Wow, that is a whole different deal." It was more of an ensemble, where everyone gradually found out about their different talents or backgrounds and used them collectively to solve this problem. If I'm remembering correctly, my character was a film student and because I had my camera and video gear with me we were able to tap into the bad guy's video signal and see that he was watching.

Carlos Carrasco: They also brought Daniel on board, and good for Daniel, he got to be in a big hit movie. But they brought him on as the gang-banger from East LA, you know, "Hey, mang. I'm gonna shoot you, mang." It's like, you know, "Blame it on the Latinos." Stuff like that. And Natsuko lost everything that she had. Natsuko was actually an instructor at Shakespeare & Company. She specializes in a style of vocal training called Linklater Method. You get a woman like that and you put her on a bus and then you take away all her lines?

That sounds like a much more interesting movie to me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:01 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]

The original script -- where all the passengers work together -- sounds more interesting than what Speed became. It was a fun action movie for its time, but I doubt it holds up (and I have better things to do with my time than find out if it does or doesn't)

All those extras seem really fun and cool, and I'm glad they look back fondly at it, despite the changes.

Also, that Whedon interview retrograde linked to was interesting ... but really, I dunno if "devastated" is quite the word I'd use if I wasn't credited for rewriting Speed, but ....
posted by darksong at 2:01 PM on June 12

Speed was the very first R-rated movie I ever saw, and even though I haven't seen it since I was like 7 years old it has a special place in my heart. I'm loving this article.

And, yeah: now I kind of want a remake of Speed more in line with the original script.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:04 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Whenever I propose Speed for movie night (this happens about once a year) the immediate reaction is always: "Naw.. they're just sitting on a bus for two hours. I know what sitting on a bus for two hours feels like."

And you know what: they don't. Only around 55% of the movie are set in the bus. It's just that the other 45% nobody ever seems to remember.

(Which is partly justified. The metro? meh. The elevator bit on the other hand is quite neat, though.)
posted by bigendian at 2:13 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

If you don't have time to watch the movie, you can just read the dialogue by following this Twitter account.
posted by cellphone at 2:45 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I can't help it, I still love Sandra Bullock. America's Sweetheart will FUCK you up.
posted by Ber at 3:06 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

20 years? That's impossible. Keanu hasn't aged by more than a day or so.
posted by pibeandres at 3:17 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


One of the most hilarious parts is that the movie ends, they all get off the bus, Keanu and Sandra slide across the tarmac on the bus part all dramatically, they're all trying to calm down and THEN THE MOVIE STARTS AGAIN DENNIS HOPPER PUT A BOMB ON HER AND THERE ARE BOMBS EVERYWHERE KEEP GOING MOVIE KEEP GOING.

Also I love it when the end of the subway car shooting out of the non-constructed tunnel ends with it just barely tapping the sightseeing bus. It's the sweetest little kiss of vehicular collision.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 3:25 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]

Sandra Bullock is looking fabulous for her age too. They must have broken the sound and age barrier or something on that bus.
posted by orange swan at 3:28 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

I had no fucking idea Joss Whedon wrote a draft of Speed.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:32 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Hey -- there's Loyda! I knew her back when she was doing admin work at TreePeople in Los Angeles!

She used to tell great stories about hanging out with the Wayans Brothers before In Living Color, and chilling with George Clooney back when he had a mullet and before he became George Clooney.

She has had a frustrating career, since as a Latina and a normal-sized woman she would either be cast as the maid (few lines of dialogue) or the judge (sometimes fewer lines of dialogue).

But she said that on Three Amigos Steve Martin was funny but a bit stand-offish, Martin Short is as adorable as you think if not more, and that Chevy Chase is... well, Chevy Chase.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:33 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


God damn, I am sad that these actors didn't get to act more, but I am glad for all of the awful Keanu one-liners. And Dennis Hopper's very Dennis Hopper-y performance.

You still don't understand, Jack. The beauty of it. A bomb is made to explode; that's its meaning, its purpose. your life is empty because you spend it try to stop the bomb from becoming.
posted by dismas at 3:36 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

I unknowingly celebrated the anniversary by watching the episode of Bob's Burgers where Bob is working on his model Speed bus and anthropomorphizing his model Keanu. It was a fitting commemoration.
posted by dry white toast at 3:44 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]

Also, I'm digging this piece. I think it should be called A People's History of Speed.
posted by dry white toast at 3:45 PM on June 12

I had no fucking idea Joss Whedon wrote a draft of Speed.

According to the director, most of the dialog in the final movie is Whedon's. Which, while we're on the subject, the comments in the article and above about the backstory make me kinda bummed out about what could have been, too. It's still one of my all-time favorite action movies, mainly because I have an apparently irrational love for movies with Keanu Reeves, but an extra 10-15 minutes going into the backstories of the other folks on the bus sounds like it would have made it even better.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:52 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

So after reading this I wondered what Keanu was up to these days and went to his Wikipedia entry. Apparently he made 70 million pounds for the Matrix sequels and gave 50 million of that to the sfx and make-up crew in appreciation of their work.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:07 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]

Yes, one of the reasons I dig Reeves' movies is that he seems like a real mensch to everybody around him. The man has some serious shit in his past, too.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:10 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

I love Beth Grant beyond all measure, and I love that she couldn't wait for her character to get the hell off the bus. I also appreciate that everybody they interviewed had a fantastic time and didn't much regret, after seeing the film, the reduction in lines.

Yes, it'd be cool if all the bus riders had a say, but then it's just basically The Poseidon Adventure. Having a whole busful of amazing character actors just along for the ride is an amazing feat to me.
posted by xingcat at 4:25 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

So after reading this I wondered what Keanu was up to these days

He's directing silly Cantonese martial-arts movies where he's the villain.

Spoiler: He still knows kung fu.
posted by neckro23 at 4:38 PM on June 12

gave 50 million of that to the sfx and make-up crew in appreciation of their work

The fact that Wikipedia considers Hello Magazine the #1 source for an extraordinary statement like that is a bit worrying... (other sources say he shared his profit-sharing points for the sequels with members of the sfx and costume design teams -- and you don't have to google that far to find people who worked on sfx on those movies and have no idea what money media is talking about...)

(also, what sequels?)
posted by effbot at 5:08 PM on June 12

Alan Ruck: I came back from lunch one day and I open the door to my trailer — the trailers were honey wagon trailers, which is just a toilet in a closet and a couch to lay on, which is all you need — and I see that there's a pile of dog shit on my floor. I was like, "Who let a fucking dog in my trailer?" Then I see it's actually not dog shit but it's two bananas, one that's been left whole and one that's been cut into three pieces and has been sprayed with some sort of paint and has little things stuck in it, like little twigs and stuff to give it texture. I turn around and Sandy is wetting her pants with laughter. So I was like, "All right." The next day I came in with a hot glue gun and while she was at work, I went into her trailer and I glued down everything. I glued her boots to the floor. I glued her toothbrush to the counter. I glued her brassiere to the doorknob where she left it.
I came for Keanu Reeves, I stayed for Alan Ruck.
posted by Fizz at 5:33 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

The thing is I've heard " and then I glued everything down" from like, eight different productions. Like its a codified tradition
posted by The Whelk at 5:36 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Cans. It was only cans.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:03 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Nice, score one for my pot-hole-riddled memory.

For years I've had a recollection of coming home from seeing Speed in the theater - I would have been 13 - and watching a replay of the OJ Simpson white Bronco 'chase'. But I always vaguely suspected that they were two totally separate incidents that I had lumped together because of helicopters and long overhead shots of freeway driving. This prompted me to finally compare the dates, and they do seem to match.
posted by mannequito at 6:10 PM on June 12

A Speed movie poster was my very first internet purchase; my 11 year old self bought it from some guy who posted on rec.arts.movies since there were no online stores. I think I mailed him a check from my mom. 20 years is a long time.
posted by gatorae at 6:27 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Speed is a lot of fun, and right at the tail end of the 70s and 80s blockbuster action films before everything got digitized and well, crappy. There are still good action films, sure, but no studio would greenlight something like Speed these days. Practical effects, actual driving around on a freakin' bus...nowadays that'd be done on a computer and they'd call it a day.

Part of the fun is that the finished film is a bit sloppy and raw. The bus jump is cool...until the shot of it landing, which is kind of unintentionally comical. Sometimes they speed up the film a bit because it's obvious that bus ain't going 50 m.p.h. And there's a flub in Speed that I notice every single time I watch it that I can hardly believe they left in: at one point when the bus is getting a police escort, the police car in front of it goes a bit too slow, and the bus driver hits his brakes! It's already going pretty slow, but in that one second it must drop down to 30 or so.

I dunno, maybe that's my OCD talking.
posted by zardoz at 6:31 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

This was one of the most interesting, best written and organized movie oral histories I have ever read. And such a giant group of people to have to pick and choose and edit together into what was probably never a group of people sitting in a room together talking. But it felt like exactly that.

Speed was great fun (saw it in the theater when it was released), and I've never really interpreted it as some sort of film or cultural touchstone moment, but maybe I need to watch it again.

This specific oral history, however, needs to be taught in textbooks. Brilliant from beginning to end.
posted by hippybear at 11:22 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

It was a fun action movie for its time, but I doubt it holds up

I can confidently say that it holds up rather surprisingly well. As noted one of the reasons is the use of practical effects -- they really did those stunts (though obviously using camera tricks and the like to do them much more safely than they would really have been), and the extras come across as real people even if they're sketches rather than full-fledged. I think in a way that would have been a very different movie and potentially a mistake, though something like that has been done e.g. in Flight of the Phoenix. But you go to far and you get a series of disconnected cameos as in disaster films like Earthquake or the Towering Inferno (yes, I watched the Father Ted bit). So it was probably to the better end of the film to cut those parts down. It forced more of the attention on the Reeves/Bullock relationship and the thing is they really complement each other -- she's a great foil to his dour cop persona. Even the way they kiss works because it suggests a real adrenaline-fueled sexual energy but not a difficult-to-believe permanent romance.

It is funny how much the elevator and metro sequences drop out of your memory. Harder to do the same "real" visuals with those. And Hopper is just OTT silly as a villain (plus, duh, how did nobody think of this guy before). So the plot-plot doesn't really work the way it should or could, but damned if that all-important bus sequence just hits it out of the park.

Also, one of those things -- 1994 just does not look super-different from 2014 the way 1974 and 1994 do. Cell phones, yeah, but there are cell phones in the movie.

One interesting thing: Nobody is doing a 20-year retrospective on Blown Away, the movie with a basically similar plot line from the same year. You can have a lot of the same ingredients but get the mix wrong.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]

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