Jan de Bont cut his teeth in Hollywood as a cinematographer, working on some big movies like adventure sequel The Jewel of the Nile, Die Hard, The Hunt For Red October, Lethal Weapon 3 and Basic Instinct. And when the Dutchman decided to make the jump into directing, his first effort behind the camera turned out to be one of the greatest action blockbusters ever made.
High concept pitches were all the rage during the 1990s, and Speed has one of the best. A bomb is strapped to a bus, and if it slows down to less than 50 miles per hour, then it explodes. It sounds incredibly simple, but thanks to de Bont’s sharp direction, a relentless barrage of tension-fuelled action sequences and three phenomenal performances from leads Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper and Sandra Bullock, it became a massive box office smash hit and raked in over $350 million.
De Bont’s second movie, meanwhile, wasn’t as good, but fared even better commercially after Twister earned over $495 million to become the second highest-grossing pic of 1996, cementing his reputation as the man to deliver effects-driven spectacle. However, all of that work was undone by Speed 2: Cruise Control, one of the worst sequels ever made.
The follow-up was five times as expensive as Speed, earned half as much money and was ten times worse. However, in a recent interview, de Bont didn’t rule out a third movie depending on the quality of the story, saying:
“It depends on how the story is, I think. Generally, I’m not a huge fan for sequels. I had in my contract that I would do a sequel. If you have to, you have to have the cast to want to come back too because, otherwise, you have to tell a whole new movie. Because some of the first one was so much centered around him and about him, the awkwardness a little bit in him being a hero. And that awkwardness of being in a position to be a hero. That worked really well for him but it doesn’t work well for other actors. And it’s really hard to find that same kind of feeling back.”
Unfortunately, after Speed 2, nobody is going to give the filmmaker the funds for a third chapter, especially when he hasn’t directed a movie since 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life. After all, fans like to pretend that Cruise Control never happened as it is, and it would be impossible to top Speed anyway.