Speed, the hit adrenalin-rush action film, comes to DVD as special edition
by John McKay
Speed, starring Keanu Reeves (seen here) and Sandra Bullock, went on to gross $350 million US for 20th Century Fox. Now Fox is releasing Speed as one of its deluxe Five-Star DVD editions.
TORONTO (Canadian Press) - Pop quiz, hotshot. You've got a screenplay about a mad bomber who has wired a crowded city transit bus to explode. There are scenes of character development but they only slow down the action. What do you do? What do you do? If you're the makers of the all-action movie Speed, you cut the character scenes.
So says Canadian-born writer/producer/director Graham Yost, whose first big-screen script became a $350 million US hit for 20th Century Fox nearly a decade ago. This week, the film is being released in a deluxe two-disc DVD special edition. "No, you have to serve the beast you created," says Yost defensively. "You look at it and go 'I'm worried about the bomb, I'm scared about the bus. I want to stay with that.' "
So, zip. Gone is a scene in which heroine Sandra Bullock talks about her failed dreams to become a graphic artist, and another that expands on the buddy relationship between bomb-squad partners Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels.
They are, however, available for viewing as deleted scenes, one of the bonuses of the new DVD issue. (Alternatively you could read the original screenplay right now. - Ani)
But Yost, who has talked in the past about performing character development on the run, says it's necessary to eliminate anything that takes away from the propulsion of this kind of plot-driven movie.
"You gotta keep the train going so I have no regrets about that," he says in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office. "This was sort of like 'You know what? We can make this really rock and let's do it.' "
Yost admits he was worried at the time that audiences would find ludicrous the idea of a bus wired to blow if the speedometer dropped below the 50 m.p.h. mark while hurtling through the streets of L.A. And viewing the film today it's clear the vehicle in reality was going nowhere near that speed in most scenes. And that was only the middle of three far-fetched action sequences, the first set in a skyscraper elevator shaft, the final one involving a runaway subway train.
But he is thankful he and action filmmaker Jan de Bont - in his directorial debut - pulled it off.
"We JUST snuck under the ludicrous barrier and people went with it, 'cuz it was so outrageous."
Suspension of disbelief was aided by Yost's snappy, memorable banter, including a recurring exchange between Reeves' hero and the villain played by Dennis Hopper:
Hopper: "Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do?"
Reeves later on: "Pop quiz. You've got a gun with a hair trigger pointed at your head. What do you do? What do you do?"
What Yost did was go on to write another hit thriller, Broken Arrow with John Travolta, and then co-produce and direct while working on the HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers. This fall he will be lead writer and producer on Boomtown, a promising new NBC-TV series about cops, reporters and politicians in Los Angeles.
But Speed was his Hollywood breakthrough and, he admits, the lightning that you capture in a bottle perhaps only once in a lifetime. And while he concedes no one can guarantee what will be a hit, he's pretty outspoken about why the inevitable sequel, 1997's Speed 2, was a flop.
"I had nothing to do with Speed 2!" he says jokingly, adding, however, that the film about a runaway ocean liner did have serious problems with its basic premise.
First Fox nixed any storyline involving a boat sinking since Titanic was on its way. Secondly, he asks, how interesting is it to see a cruise ship that can't stop but is going only 10 knots an hour?
"I mean, I can almost walk at 10 knots. You're in the Caribbean, for God's sakes, just jump off the boat and wait till some guy from the nearest resort pushes out a raft with a mai tai on it!"
Simply put, Yost adds, there was no speed in Speed 2 and even the subtitle Cruise Control suggests automatic pilot.
"I just think that was ill-fated right from the beginning," he says. "Everything was wrong."
He also believes that audiences prefer to discover movies for themselves, whereas sequels generally appear as something approaching a civic duty.
Fox is also releasing Speed 2 on DVD separately and as part of a Collector's Pack paired with the first film.