42 MPH / Speed 2: Lose Control

An Ill-conceived Sequel Crashes and Burns

We’ve put this off long enough. It’s time for the account of one of the most disastrous Hollywood sequels of all time.

It’s 1996. Twister has just finished a box office run that even exceeds that of Speed, pulling in half a billion dollars worldwide. Director Jan de Bont is the toast of Hollywood, two-for-two on thrilling, dangerous, risky blockbusters. His a can’t-miss prospect for studios, and the suits at Fox — themselves riding a mid-1990s high on the success of films like Die Hard on a Vengeance and the only film to top Twister in 1996, Independence Day — are eager to get back into business with him. Sequels, meanwhile, are starting to hit bigger and bigger.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit Jack and Annie?

Speed 2: Cruise Control Sandra Bullock Jason Patric
Speed 2: Cruise Control would see Sandra Bullock return with a new LAPD beau played by Jason Patric

That’s the path set for Speed 2: Cruise Control, an ill-conceived follow-up that would turn off the original film’s star, Keanu Reeves, in the script stage, balloon in budget once its cast and premise are finally set and eventually lose $50 million for Fox thanks to a boatload of ego and hubris.

“I was never going to do Speed 2, and never had a contract for Speed 2 — at least, I didn’t know I had a contract for Speed 2,” de Bont says. “I said, ‘No, that’s ridiculous. This is a one-time thing. You cannot really…’ And then somebody came, ‘But it’s in your contract.’ Clearly, I hadn’t read that!”

The film would find Annie having moved on from Jack Traven (she wasn’t kidding about relationships and intense situations). Now she’s dating another LAPD cop, Alex Shaw (Jason Patric). The two lovebirds take a vacation cruise only to see it hijacked by John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), a madman disgruntled after losing his job programming cruise ship computer systems. He sets this particular ship on a collision course with an oil tanker and, well, lots of expensive shenanigans ensue on and off the screen as the film’s production flies out of hand.

“I think I’m the one to blame, because I think when I saw that first cut of [Speed] on the studio lot, I said we should sequel it,” former Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Bill Mechanic says. “And then when we were getting ready to make it, I tried to block it. I actually stopped production for three days or something. There were hurricanes or something and we tried to shut the movie down, but nobody wanted to do the write-down on it.”

Speed 2: Cruise Control Sandra Bullock Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe would sign on as villain John Geiger in Speed 2: Cruise Control, a pale imitation of Howard Payne.

Many involved in the first film are sidelined by de Bont as he lords over the proceedings, producing through his Blue Tulip banner. Speed producer Mark Gordon and screenwriter Graham Yost are left behind, though as Yost puts it, “I was not invited to a party I didn’t want to go to.”

Others, like rising star Sandra Bullock, aren’t so lucky. The actress generally prefers not to discuss the misfire. Other Speed alums like Glenn Plummer and Susan Barnes come back, while others like Alan Ruck and Patrick Fischler, having been through the Twister mill, bow out.

Composer Mark Mancina, however, comes back almost out of a sense of duty.

“I was in this weird place, because I love Jan and he gave me my break and I love his work, so, I wasn’t going to say, ‘No, I’m not doing it,'” Mancina says. “Then he told me Keanu wasn’t going to do it and I went, ‘Holy shit,’ you know? ‘Now what do I do? I mean, I can’t not do it, but I don’t know how I’m going to make this ship feel like it’s out of control, musically.’ And so, I really struggled on that score. I don’t think the score was that good. It was so difficult.”

In the end, the film crashes and burns at the box office, making back its production budget while losing virtually all of its advertising and promotional expenses — a considerable failure in Hollywood terms. It would ultimately go down as one of the biggest blunders in movie history.

“We did the best we could,” de Bont says.

All of that and much, much 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.