Dennis Hopper: "Pop quiz, hot shot. Your friends are trading movie trivia and you have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation because you haven't read these 15 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Speed. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?"
You: "Read it now and avoid that scenario?"
Dennis Hopper: "Erm, yep, that'll work."
Joss Whedon wasn't always the directorial poster boy of Hollywood. Back in 1994 the genius behind The Avengers was a a script doctor, which meant he had to improve screenplays without any credit. Fair play to the writer who was credited, Graham Yost, who freely admitted that “Whedon wrote 98.9 percent of the dialogue”. In 2001 Whedon said Speed was “one of the few movies I’ve made that I actually like."
According to Whedon, Alan Ruck's character was originally written as an abrasive lawyer, who gets his comeuppance in an unexpected death scene. Whedon re-wrote him as a sympathetic and dull-witted tourist of the final version, but kept the death scene for emotional impact. His character changes were kept, but the death was axed. Also, in an earlier script, the bus driver had to be removed from the bus because he had suffered a heart attack, not because he had been shot.
For the bus jump scene a ramp was built and the driver seat was moved back 15 feet so that if something went wrong the driver wasn't ejected from the bus. The vehicle started from a mile back and accelerated towards the ramp. When it hit the ramp it had reached 61 mph. The bus traveled 109 feet and its front wheels reached an altitude of 20 feet, 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. You can see a behind the scenes making of clip right here. Suffice to say there is no gap in the highway - part of it was erased digitally and the birds flying through the gap were added digitally.
The bus jump scene wasn't in the original script. Director Jan de Bont came up with the idea when he was driving around LA and noticed one section of the I-105 freeway was missing. On the first try the stunt driver missed the ramp and crashed the bus, making it unusable. This was not reported to the studio at the time. On the second attempt he crushed a camera.
The subway train that comes crashing up onto Hollywood Blvd was actually a bus, decked out to look like a subway train. Speaking of that scene, the film literally ran out of money before it was completed. When they previewed it for an audience, the subway scenes were animated story boards. The audience loved them so much, the studio came up with the funds to shoot them properly.
The plane destroyed by the exploding bus has the logo "Pacific Courier Freight" (pictured, bottom). In Die Hard the terrorists arrive in a truck with "Pacific Courier" emblazoned on it (top) while "Atlantic Courier" (presumably a subsidiary?) is visible on a van in Die Hard: With A Vengeance (middle). The link between all three? Production designer Jackson De Govia. It's an in-joke / trademark of his.
Jan de Bont insisted that Keanu Reeves get rid of his trademark long hair and get a sensible haircut as would befit a hard-working cop. 20th Century Fox were horrified when they saw the buzzcut, threatening to postpone the film to allow his hair to grow back. The director said: "Everyone at the studio was scared shitless when they first saw it. There was only like a millimetre. What you see in the movie is actually grown in"
Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro were considered for the role of Howard Payne and the film was written with the intention of Jeff Bridges playing Jack and Ellen DeGeneres playing Annie. George Clooney, Stephen Baldwin, William Baldwin, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Keaton, Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks all reportedly turned down Keanu's part.
Glenn Close turned down the part of Annie. She was in good company. Ready? Barbara Hershey, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Jane Seymour, Anjelica Huston, Kay Lenz, Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Kathleen Turner, Debra Winger, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Emma Thompson,Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ally Sheedy,Demi Moore, Jodie Foster, Tatum O'Neal, Bridget Fonda, Marisa Tomei, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Cameron Diaz and Alyssa Milano all declined the part, too. Deep breath.
Jan De Bont took the photograph of the wave that's on the side of the bus. The advert on the back of the bus reads "Money isn't everything. Yeah, right!"
The part of Harry was originally to be played by Ed Harris and in the first version the character was going to be revealed as the bomber. When Ed Harris dropped out and Jeff Daniels (pictured) signed, the producers felt that the audience wouldn't accept Daniels's Harry as capable of such evil, so he was kept as a good guy and the bomber was written in.
Quentin Tarantino was offered the chance to direct, but turned it down. He later named the movie as one of his 20 favourite films since 1992. “It might be easy to take Speed for granted now," he said. "But if you remember when Speed came out, what it was like to sit in the movie theatre as that bus was going down the road. There really have been few exhilaration movies quite like it."
Fourteen buses were used in the film's production. Two of them were blown up, one was used for the high-speed scenes, one had the front cut off for inside shots, and one was used solely for the "under bus" shots. Another bus was used for the bus jump scene and another was used for the scene where the bus tilts onto two wheels when it takes a corner.
LAX would not allow any explosions to be filmed at such a busy airport, so the scene where the bus collides with the plane was filmed in Mojave, California. The same airport has been the set for scenes in Die Hard 2, Flightplan, Hot Shots, Dragnet, S.W.A.T., The Rookie and Waterworld. Although the latter was set at sea, the filmmakers shot scenes at the desert facility and added in water digitally. You can see the tanker from the movie on Google Earth, here.
The movie had a $30 million budget. It grossed almost half of that in its opening weekend in The States alone ($14.5 million) and went on to gross $121.3 million in the US and $229.2 million internationally. That's total of $350.5 million.