Speed 2: Cruise Control may be some 20 years old but it’s a sequel that has lived long in the memory of many a film fan, though not necessarily for the reasons director Jan De Bont would have hoped.
The follow-up to the surprise Keanu Reeves’ hit about a high-speed pursuit involving a bus that couldn’t go under 50 miles an hour, Speed 2: Cruise Control took all of the elements that made the first film so memorable and, well, threw them straight in the bin.
Reeves was gone and so was the speed aspect of the movie, with the script moving proceedings to the not-quite-so-adrenaline-fuelled world of high speed … cruise liners and the adventures of professional charisma-vacuum Jason Patric.
The result was a film with a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and one that regularly tops lists of the worst sequels of all time. But it could have been so different. In fact, it almost was completely different as this list of 15 things you never knew about Speed 2: Cruise control demonstrates.
The idea for Speed 2 came to director De Bont during a dream. Contractually obliged to come up with a sequel, despite seeing little scope for a follow-up, De Bont tossed out several scripts before settling on the idea of setting the film on a boat. The idea actually stemmed from a series of recurring nightmares he had had about a cruise ship crashing into an island. It was an idea he was taken with from the off.
“It’s always fun to destroy things that look and appear to be very expensive,” De Bont later recalled. “It’s a lot more fun than destroying a paper box. And what would be better than to have a five-star luxury cruise liner basically end up in the middle of a hotel?”
The original script for Speed 2 was actually intended to be used for Die Hard With A Vengeance. Entitled Troubleshooter, the original version saw John McClane fighting terrorists on a Caribbean cruise liner. It was ultimately seen as too similar to the Steven Seagal effort Under Siege though and was instead reworked as a Speed sequel.
Another alternative idea put together by writer Graham Yost, who wrote the first film with a little help from script doctor Joss Whedon, would have seen Speed 2 focus on a plane that was flying through the Andes but could not ascend above 10,000 feet. Once again, similar movies about plane hijackings like Passenger 57 probably put paid to that idea.
De Bont has often claimed Keanu Reeves opted against reprising the role as Jack Traven because he had just finished work on another action film, Chain Reaction and had had a bad experience on that project, which went through extensive script changes prior to filming.
Reeves was also said to be concerned about the idea of doing several action scenes underwater. “We met several times about the project, and at the beginning, we were all very excited about it,” De Bont said back in 1997. “Then something happened – I think it had to do with the movie he was working on at the time, Chain Reaction – and Keanu started getting worried about all the physicality of this. In this movie, he needed to do all this stuff underwater, and I think that scared him.”
Reeves has always maintained it was the script that put him off the idea and specifically the cruise-based premise.
“I loved working with Jan de Bont and Sandra, of course. It was just a situation in life where I got the script and I read the script and I was like ‘ugggghhh’,” Reeves said in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. “It was about a cruise ship and I was thinking, ‘a bus, a cruise ship… Speed, bus, but then a cruise ship is even slower than a bus and I was like, ‘I love you guys but I just can’t do it'”.
Jon Bon Jovi, Christian Slater and Matthew McConaughey were all considered as possible replacements for Reeves before director Jan De Bont settled on Jason Patric as his main lead.
Patric only agreed to make the film on the condition that several major changes be made to the script. When he arrived on set three months later, however, he soon found out that none of the changes he requested had been made and he was now contractually obligated to make the film. It left him unhappy for much of the shoot.
Gary Oldman had the opportunity to play the part of John Geiger, the film’s main villain, but turned it down in favour of the Harrison Ford Presidential plane-based thriller, Air Force One with Willem Dafoe stepping in.
Sandra Bullock also returned with some reports claiming she pocketed as much as $10-12m for reprise her role as Annie. While Bullock has always refuted those claims, it is widely believed that part of the deal for her doing the film was that her own pet project, Hope Floats, would get made as a result.
De Bont was adamant that his stars perform as many of their own stunts as possible.
“I prefer the real thing, You have to have stunt people there for legal reasons but they can’t really act, and I don’t want to see someone who has done this all his life,” he explained at the time. “I prefer to see someone struggling.”
As well as spending countless hours treading water during filming, both Patric and Bullock came reasonably close to being killed. In Bullock’s case, the story goes that she narrowly missed being decapitated by the ship’s rudder at one point while, on land, Patric’s stunt involving a Ducati motorcycle results in Speed 2’s leading man flying some 30 feet into the air and ending up hanging on to a tree on the edge of a cliff as a result.
Life aboard the Seabourn Legend, the cruise ship where much of the action takes place, was far from happy. Not only were they pursued by a violent hurricane for much of the shoot but actors regularly had to take breaks between takes so they could go and be sick.
The film’s final sequence, in which the Seabourn Legend rams into port, was the most expensive stunt ever filmed at the time. In total, it cost around $25m of the movie’s $110m budget. To put that into context, it equated to around $83,000 dollars for every second of the film featuring the collision.
Carpenters spent six months building the jetty on Saint Martin for the cruise ship to crash into. That included 35 buildings and featured a track below the surface of the water that allowed the stunt team to guide the vessel through its route. Once again, the weather proved unhelpful though, with the hurricane. A one-third-size- replica of the ships’ prow, weighing 300 tonnes and measuring 105-feet in length was also constructed and powered by four diesel engines.
Four characters from the first film return, including Sandra Bullock. There’s also Glenn Plummer as Maurice (Tuneman) and Joe Morton as Mac. The one some often miss is actress Susan Barnes, who played the executive frozen with fear in the elevator during the first Speed film but returned in the second movie with a much cooler head, sitting and smoking as the chaos unfolds on the cruise ship.
De Bont had been warned about shooting at sea by those involving in two other notable Ocean-based epics.
“Obviously, I talked to people from Waterworld,” De Bont revealed, “and I know Jim Cameron [director of Titanic], and I thought, ‘We’re different. We’re on a large ship in a controlled environment,’ but I was wrong […] This turned out great and I’m very happy with the film, but I’ll never do another ship movie.
“I thought I was prepared for anything – and it was still far worse than I ever imagined.”
To this day, Reeves claims to have never seen the film.