Here is why Speed could not have been filmed anywhere other than Los Angeles: You need enough city space for a bus to go 50 mph for a whole movie without running out of city and 2 of the big action plot points count on a) a major freeway being under construction and b) a subway being under construction. Where else but Los Angeles in 1994?
You all remember the plot: Crazy Bomber (Dennis Hopper) is pissed off at LAPD hot shot Jack Treven (Keanu) for fouling up a previous hostage crisis and is taking revenge by putting a bomb on a bus that activates when the bus hits 50 mph and will explode if the bus slows below 50 mph. There is also plucky heroine, Annie (Oscar™ winner Sandra Bullock) and Jack’s LAPD partner Harry (Jeff Daniels).
After a lot of cars being smashed up on surface streets, they get the bus onto the 105 — it’s under construction with no traffic, there will be plenty of room to solve the bomb problem. Everyone relaxes for a moment until they find out part of the freeway isn’t finished and they’ll have to jump the gap, physics be damned. Later in the subway from Pershing Square to Hollywood/Highland, Jack and Crazy Bomber fight it out, (spoiler alert) Jack wins, but Annie is still handcuffed to a pole, the subway driver is dead, the controls shot to hell and the tracks end in a construction zone around a bend up ahead. What do you do? What DO you DO?
Obviously, you speed up the train (though why you could speed it up but not slow it down seems confusing…), make it jump the tracks and hope for the best. “The best” being the train flying up a ramp right onto Hollywood Blvd in front of the Chinese Theater. I love LA Mass Transit!
Click past the jump for some images and tangential info. Find the rest of the LA Plays Itself Series here.
The movie was shot in a bunch of easily recognizable spots in Santa Monica, Long Beach, LAX and Downtown. There is a website with many of the actual locations matched up with the scenes. Check that out here. Minor things made me chuckle, like seeing the First Interstate Bank logo on top of what is now the US Bank building in downtown. Also, a SM bus blows up just down the block from The Firehouse Restaurant (at the corner of Main Street and Rose in Santa Monica.) Alas, the ballet clown statue on that corner did not get destroyed.
Full disclosure, I worked on this movie. There I am in my unmarried state as Julia Rivas. More importantly, please note the other circled name, Kristin Trattner. She is the co-owner of the maple donut wonderland known as the Nickel Diner that many of us love oh so much! She worked on the above bus jump sequence. Good times!
One wacky thing I really appreciate about this movie that has nothing to do with LA is that to this day, 16 years later, people still quote the line “Pop quiz hot shot…” I don’t know why I love that, but I do.