Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Keanu Reeves Didn't Return For Speed 2

Pop quiz, hotshot: What's the movie that made Keanu Reeves an international star? Well, if there was any one film that elevated him to that status, it was probably 1994's Speed, in which Reeves portrayed Jack Traven, an LAPD bomb specialist faced with a unique situation. A mad bomber, Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper), has rigged a city bus with a bomb that will go off if the vehicle drops below 50 miles per hour. With the help of passenger Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock), he's able to formulate a ruse to safely get the passengers off the bus, and he then confronts Payne in a speedy showdown in which the bomber loses his head, literally.

The modestly-budgeted actioner was a surprise smash hit for then-20th Century Fox, and the studio's brass quickly began poking director Jan de Bont, hoping for a sequel to fall out. De Bont hadn't planned on one, but then, inspiration struck in the form of a recurring nightmare. For nights on end, the director would dream about a cruise ship plowing into an island — an idea from which a team of screenwriters began working backward to produce what would eventually become the script for 1997's Speed 2: Cruise Control.

The first sign that something was amiss with the sequel was its distinct lack of Reeves. Instead, Bullock's character was elevated to the flick's lead, as Annie once again inexplicably found herself aboard a vehicle that couldn't slow down (this time, a luxury yacht), with a hunky new boyfriend played by a relatively-unknown Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) in tow. Despite a game performance from Patric and a scenery-chewing turn from the great Willem Dafoe as the film's villain, the Reeves-less sequel disappointed audiences and bombed at the box office. Why didn't the star return, and would the whole endeavor have gone any differently if he had?

Keanu Reeves hated the script for Speed 2

As it turns out, Reeves addressed his absence from Speed 2 in a 2015 chat with Jimmy Kimmel. At the time Speed 2 was filming, Reeves was touring with his band Dogstar, leading to the public perception that he had blown off a huge paycheck to go play some rock 'n roll — but this wasn't exactly the case. Reeves told Kimmel that while he enjoyed working on Speed, one look at the sequel's script was all it took for him to get as far away from the project as possible.

"I loved working with Jan de Bont and Sandra, of course," the actor explained (via Den of Geek). "It was just a situation in life where I got the script, and I read the script and I was like ... " Reeves then made a sound most people reserve for expressing their feelings about catching a strong whiff of raw sewage, before continuing, "It was about a cruise ship and I was thinking, 'a bus, a cruise ship ... a cruise ship is even slower than a bus, and I was like, 'I love you guys, but I just can't do it.'"

In a recent interview with GQ, Reeves said that Fox — which was high on his potential for future action franchises after the successes of 1991's Point Break and Speed — put him in "movie jail" after he turned down the sequel. "I didn't work with [Fox] again until [2008's] The Day the Earth Stood Still," he said.

Nobody was really psyched about Speed 2

As Speed 2 was a film that wasn't so much created as it was forced to exist by the perceived demands of the market, it's safe to say that many of those who actually agreed to be involved weren't much more pumped about it than Reeves was. Bullock also initially balked at returning, eventually agreeing to do so on two conditions: That Fox fund her passion project Hope Floats (which was released in 1998), and that the studio cut her a big, fat, $11 million check to reprise the role of Annie.

As we've mentioned, de Bont never envisioned a Speed sequel at all until he started having nightmares about one, and discussing the film with HitFix in 2014, he opined that Speed 2 — with its bloated budget, larger scale, and even-more-absurd premise — should have stuck closer to the spirit of the original. "It should have been a much smaller concept," the director said. "You need luck as well. The luck we had on the first one where everything fell in place perfectly, we didn't have that luck as much on the second one ... There's a lot of movies made that should never have been made, or at least for a much lower budget, that's for sure. And that was maybe the mistake. But it still has good scenes. It's not a total loss" (via Whoa Is Not Me).

Even Patric, in a 2003 interview with IGN, had nothing but trash talk for the film that was supposed to vault him into the big leagues. "I would never do something like Speed 2 again," he said. "It wasn't worth it to me. That was just an innocuous, boring movie. It doesn't hurt anyone, it's not violent, it's just stupid."

Reeves, of course, would continue his upward trajectory with 1999's mega-hit The Matrix, and while we all watched him dodge bullets as Neo in that flick, few of us knew just how much experience he had in that regard.