25 MPH / Midpoint Grab Bag

Jan’s temper, a 7-year-old’s take and listener emails!

We’ve reached the halfway point of 50 MPH! With the bus portion of the movie filmed and in the editing room, we still have two big sections to shoot. But on this midpoint occasion, it seems like a good idea to stretch our legs and take a breather with a bit of a grab bag of material. To begin with, there are plenty of quotes and soundbites that haven’t found a home yet, so today’s episode starts with some of that housekeeping.

As just one example, still photographer Richard Foreman chimes in with the entertaining story behind perhaps the most ubiquitous publicity still of the film to this day: a head-on shot of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock looking out the windshield as she drives.

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed
Still photographer Richard Foreman recounts the story behind the most ubiquitous still photo from Speed in this week’s episode.

“I didn’t take it. However, I did create it,” Foreman says. “I took a C-stand arm and I mounted my camera to the end of it. I hung it upside down to the framework of the Popemobile and I took a long remote release cable and I gave it to the first assistant, who was a friend of mine. And I said, ‘When Keanu leans forward and Sandy is, like, driving the bus, just hold the button down.’ It looks like it was actually taken during the scene, but I had framed it, I had exposed it, and all he did was just hold the button down and shoot about 12 exposures. It was upside down in the negative roll. They mounted it upside down, because it just goes through a machine, and then they had to spin it around. And that always puzzled the photo editors. ‘Why is this upside down?’ I said, ‘I shot it upside down.'”

Next up, who wouldn’t be interested in a 7-year-old’s take on Speed? Our host wheels out his unsuspecting son, Foster Tapley, for a 10-minute chat about the film and a perspective you’re not likely to find elsewhere, to say the least.

“I like Speed because I like all the funny stuff,” young Tapley says. “One thing is, like, ‘We’re just two cool guys,’ and then, POOF, he just gets attacked by him.”

Yeah, you’re in for a ride with this one: “The bad thing is, like, the elevator was going up and then Jack Traven was about to get squished, because there was a ceiling. So, instead, he just jumped into the elevator!”

How about the sequence when the bus tilts up onto two wheels? “I don’t think that’s realistic.”

Everyone’s a critic!

A heart-melting, Speed-inspired Father's Day card
A heart-melting, Speed-inspired Father’s Day card

Finally, and to be serious for a moment, there is the as-of-yet unaddressed issue of director Jan de Bont’s reputation for being tough on his crews and having a rather fiery temperament on set. It has come up enough in conversation along the way, whether casually or specifically, that it would feel dishonest not to tackle it in some form.

“Jan, famously, had a short fuse,” first assistant director David Sardi says. “The thing about it, though, and the reason that I felt like I could deal with it was because, whenever he would blow – and being Dutch – he would just go off in a tirade of, in hindsight, really funny malapropisms and bungling the English, like, you know, ‘Fucking hell damn shit!’ Stuff of like that was how he would communicate. But it was always about the work. It was never personal. Fifteen minutes later, he’s smiling and laughing again. He was just always in the moment.”

Jan de Bont on the set of Speed
Jan de Bont on the set of Speed

Adds casting director Risa Bramon Garcia: “At the end of the day, people either loved him or hated him. He had a temper and the thing that was brilliant about him is he dug in, he worked hard, he had a vision, he’d fight to the death for his vision and in my collaboration with him, that didn’t get affected. Because we were always at the mercy of the studio. We always had to fight the studio and we would fight it together to honor that vision.”

Others took far more umbrage with the director’s ways, however, most notably producer Mark Gordon.

“It was not a happy experience for me,” Gordon says. “He was a dream in development. Once we started shooting, he really wasn’t interested in what anybody had to say, including me. I don’t take anything away from him as a filmmaker on that movie. I just thought he was an asshole. I haven’t spoken to him on purpose since the movie.”

Naturally, space is provided for de Bont’s response. And if that wasn’t enough, how about some listener reviews and emails??

All of that and more in this week’s wide-ranging smorgasbord episode of 50 MPH!

Episode 25 Transcript

Kris Tapley Your Host:

Kris has covered the entertainment industry for nearly two decades, with bylines at Variety, Vanity Fair and The New York Times. He now works as a writer and consultant in Los Angeles, where he lives with his loving wife, lively son and lazy cat. He likes Speed.