Keanu Reeves’ road to superstardom kickstarted in 1994 with the thriller Speed. The film which also co-starred Sandra Bullock, gave Reeves his first huge recognition as a bonafide action star and paved the way for future cult projects like The Matrix and John Wick. Speed became one of Hollywoods’s most successful films commercially with a total box office collection of over 280 million dollars worldwide.
Interestingly, Keanu Reeves wasn’t too impressed with the initial script of Speed and asked for a tweak in its narrative despite finding the premise very promising. The reason for his trepidation involved a possible comparison with another cult movie that starred an iconic Hollywood actor in the lead role.
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Keanu Reeves Changed The Script Of Speed
In the popular 1994 film Speed, Keanu Reeves played police officer Jack Traven who tried to save passengers on a bus that was rigged to explode. With frenetic action and nonstop thrills, Speed became one of the biggest entertainers of the year and catapulted The Matrix actor into the big leagues. Reeves though, did not connect with the script at the beginning due to the fact that it had too many similarities to Bruce Willis’s huge hit Die Hard.
“The character [of Jack Traven] was very flippant. There were situations set up for one-liners and I felt it was forced — Die Hard mixed with some kind of screwball comedy. I said, ‘I’m not really interested in that. I think we can do better.”
The film’s director, Jan de Bont took Reeves’ constructive criticisms positively and brought in filmmaker Joss Whedon to make the necessary improvements to the script. The final changes made the John Wick star’s character more honest and relatable while also portraying the lives of police officers in a more authentic manner.
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Here’s Why Keanu Reeves Was The Perfect Choice For Speed
Speed cemented Keanu Reeves’ place among Hollywood’s A-listers and made him one of the industry’s top action stars. Director Jan de Bont listed some of the main reasons behind the celebrity’s perfect casting and why no one else could have portrayed his character in the film.
“What is nice about him as an action hero is that he’s vulnerable on the screen. He’s not threatening to men because he’s not that bulky, and he looks great to women.”
The director also mentioned that Reeves always portrayed young, cool, and hippie characters on screen until then. With Speed, de Bont cast him in a mature and serious role of a cop which was a departure from his earlier personalities, and the actor came out with flying colors. In addition, Reeves who became an action star in his 30s, was able to use his best years to carve a name for himself in the genre.
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