41 MPH / The Fallout of a Phenomenon

Speed Puts Its Players on the Map

The dust from Speed has settled. The film has left its mark on the summer movie season of 1994, the home video market, the awards landscape and beyond. But in Hollywood, you’re only as good as your next one, to quote former studio executive Mike Medavoy. So, what’s next for the cast and crew in the immediate wake of such an unqualified success?

Twister poster
Jan de Bont would follow Speed with Twister, produced by Steven Spielberg.

Jan de Bont would parlay the newfound acclaim into the storm-chaser actioner Twister, produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. And a few familiar faces would be involved as well, namely producers Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald, who had an uncredited hand in getting Speed ready for cameras. The duo is leading the charge at Amblin in 1994 and 1995. De Bont would also bring along unit production manager Ian Bryce, now leveled up to a creative producing position in the industry, and the result would ultimately be an even bigger success than Speed.

Twister came along almost accidentally,” de Bont says. “I kind of felt that a movie like that has to be treated almost in a similar way [to Speed] visually. It had to be a lot more realism in it, and also a young cast and no big-name actors. When I told that to Spielberg and to Kathy (Kennedy), they liked it, but they only liked it, I think, because of Speed. If I would have been there the first time and would have made that same proposal, they wouldn’t be so sure. Nobody really wanted to make that movie, either, because it was so complicated.”

Adds Bryce: “When I say [Speed] moved people’s careers, it helped move mine, right? I would get calls and it’s like, ‘Oh, the guy who did Speed, let’s get him.’ I felt like that was like an opportunity for me to move up, and the next movie was Twister, and so, Jan, he had some power and we were able to say, ‘Look, I’ll come and produce the movie’ – I mean, with Kathy, obviously, and a group. But, you know, then we had a production manager at that point, because the movie was complicated enough that it warranted having two people. So, that was the beginning of how I started moving in a slightly different direction.”

Screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon already had Broken Arrow in the pipeline by the time Speed hit theaters, a real coup for them as it would be Hong Kong director John Woo’s first American film. But it would open up even more doors.

Christian Slater John Travolta John Woo Broken Arrow
Screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon would follow Speed with Broken Arrow, Hong Kong director John Woo’s first American feature.

“And then we sold Hard Rain, then called The Flood, at Paramount,” Yost says. “My joke was, ‘Yeah, us going back to Paramount after they put Speed into turnaround? If we said we wanted to make a movie about a dog with fleas, they would have gone, ‘Absolutely.” But [Speed] let me write features and do re-writes for the next five years, six years, really right through The Last Castle, which was 2000, 20001. But around that time, I was getting back into TV. I worked on From the Earth to the Moon in ‘96, ‘97 and got to direct, and then Band of Brothers in ‘99, 2000. And then, you know, my career has been TV ever since, pretty much.”

For Yost, Gordon and Bryce, Speed holds a particularly special place as they are all close friends to this day. Bryce and Gordon would even team up on Saving Private Ryan a few years later, making them both Oscar nominees in the process.

Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic and Sandra Bullock in The Net
Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic and Sandra Bullock in The Net

The film’s stars, of course, go in a number of different directions after 1994. On the screen, Keanu Reeves follows Speed up with Johnny Mnemonic, a Philip K. Dick adaptation that takes on a different shape during development as a result of the actor’s rising star. But his most immediate creative pursuit after being on that bus is a stretch as Hamlet on stage in Canada. For Sandra Bullock, a full-blown star vehicle awaits her in the form of The Net, which will be followed by a string of romance comedies and dramas, from Two If by Sea to In Love and War. Her late-90s run ultimately builds to 2000’s Miss Congeniality, which will take her into a whole new stratosphere.

For the rest of the cast, Speed is just another in a series of gigs or, in some cases, a stepping stone to change. Glenn Plummer would experience the latter.

Speed was my crossover film,” he says. “I left all that gang shit alone, and then I did Speed. Then I did Showgirls, Up Close and Personal, Strange Days. That was the one. It set me up. ‘Oh, he’s good in big movies.’ It gave me the opportunity to be in much bigger films. The roles became much more diverse than that bad guy over there with a gun going to jail, you know?”

To say nothing of the film’s many crew members, which we detail as well.

All of that and more on this week’s episode of 50 MPH!


Kris Tapley Your Host:

Kris has covered the entertainment industry for nearly two decades, with bylines at Variety, The New York Times, Empire and Vanity Fair. 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.