45 MPH / Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock: The 50 MPH Interview

A Little Ditty About Jack and Annie

We’ve been talking about Speed for close to a year here at 50 MPH. It’s been an epic journey through the conception, making, release and legacy of the film, with upwards of 120 voices chiming in along the way. This week, however, we finally hear — at length — from two of those voices in particular, as 50 MPH presents an exclusive interview with Jack and Annie themselves: Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock!

The two stars of Jan de Bont’s gripping action classic recently convened for an intimate discussion that may very well mark their deepest dive into Speed with any outlet to date. It certainly makes for one hell of a way to kick off the summer movie season as we close in on the film’s 30th anniversary, just over a month away.

Keanu Reeves Sandra Bullock Speed Premiere
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves attend the Hollywood premiere of Speed in 1994.

The wide-ranging conversation hits on a number of key areas, including Reeves and Bullock’s decision to take on this zany bomb-on-a-bus project in the first place. For Reeves, there was reticence at first. Could he really be an action star? Was this the right path for him? After all, as former 20th Century Fox executive Jorge Saralegui previously revealed, the actor turned the opportunity down once along the way.

“Well, you didn’t see that original script,” Reeves quips. “Scripts go through certain phases. There’s a script that comes out, the script that the director ultimately will have their imprint on. I don’t recall what was going on in terms of work at that time, but then I remember meeting with Jan and, yeah, once it was jumping on board, it was jumping on board.”

It was less of a decision for Bullock, who was just beginning to climb the ranks in Hollywood, coming off an endearing performance opposite Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes in 1993’s Demolition Man. She fondly recalls the audition for Speed, fit with folding chairs, a paper plate for a steering wheel and “some floor acting” with her soon-to-be co-star. For her, it was a magical time.

“What was I going to say? No? Yes! It was all yes,” Bullock says. “But I also wasn’t the first choice. I wasn’t the second choice. I don’t think I was the third choice. But I was a choice, and I was so excited and happy to be there. Some of the best moments of my life, I wasn’t the first choice. I had the best time and I was allowed to be who I thought Annie should be. So, I mean, I was looking for nothing. I was just grateful and excited to be with who I was with, and I just adored, and still adore, Keanu. We didn’t think it would do what it did, but I didn’t know any better at that time, either. I wasn’t in control of my career. I was in control — well, of a steering wheel, but I wasn’t in control of that bus! I was just along for the ride, you know?”

Half of the spirit of Speed and what makes it endure lies in the chemistry Reeves and Bullock managed to create on screen together. According to casting director Risa Bramon Garcia, everyone felt it in the room during Bullock’s audition sessions. But the film moves at such a clip, never slowing down to establish backstory or other building blocks for the usual on-screen romance, that it must have been quite the exercise as actors, to generate that spark on the run. Then again, as both Reeves and Bullock have said in the past, they harbored separate crushes on one another, which no doubt played a role in the fireworks.

Keanu Reeves Sandra Bullock Speed
Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock share a tender moment in Speed.

“I think we had an affection,” Reeves says. “And the characters themselves have an affection. I think Jack and Annie’s is different than Sandra’s and Keanu’s, but I think we played off each other and I think it was just fun. I think, also, we kind of trusted each other, right?”

Adds Bullock: “Yeah. I mean, people have full-blown affairs in movies, and you don’t feel something between them. And then people can hate each other in movies and you go, ‘That was electric,’ you know? We didn’t really look at each other in this movie except for maybe three or four times, because we were constantly battling the elements. And I think that’s what made it so electric, too, is that, watching it, I guess you want them to connect. That was a really clever setup, to sort of keep people apart. Foreplay, I guess. But I felt very comfortable with Keanu. There was nothing that I couldn’t try or do or say that he wouldn’t have, I felt, fought for me to do or say or try, and that kind of trust is very rare with actors. Anytime I threw something his way, he swatted it right back and you just go, ‘OK, there’s my partner.'”

There is, alas, no Speed 2: Cruise Control talk. Reeves of course has nothing to add to that particular conversation and Bullock would probably rather not go there anyway. But there is a road to redemption after Speed‘s 1997 sequel crashed and burned: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Jan de Bont — Speed 3. They hear it all the time, of course.

Keanu Reeves Sandra Bullock Guys Choice 2014
“I would love to work with you again before our eyes close.”

“I mean, you know — we’d freakin’ knock it out of the park,” Reeves says.

But whether it’s Speed 3 or The Lake House 2 (j/k), both actors would love to share the screen again. They’re well aware that whatever it is they have together, it simply works.

“There’s no formula. It just is,” Bullock says. “Before I die, before I leave this planet, I do think that Keanu and I need to do something in front of the camera. Are we, you know, in wheelchairs or with walkers? Maybe. Are we on little scooters at Disneyland?”

Adds Keanu, with trademark heartfelt consideration: “It does feel like there is a siren call to it, like there’s something that wasn’t done. I would love to work with you again before our eyes close.”

You’ll want to listen to the full discussion to get other key insights into lessons learned about acting on the set of something so pulse-pounding, the experience of sharing the screen with seasoned vets like Jeff Daniels and Dennis Hopper and the energy director Jan de Bont brought to the proceedings. Most especially, you’ll want to listen in on the banter and one-of-a-kind dynamic between two of our most beloved screen icons. It’s truly a special conversation.

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.