Keanu Reeves Saved 'Speed' Script with One Simple Suggestion, Says Joss Whedon: It 'Gave Me So Much'

"It was like 'click' — that was it. I understand this character now," said Whedon, who contributed to the 1994 action flick's screenplay

One small change to the Speed script from star Keanu Reeves might've made all the difference in the believability of his character.

In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Joss Whedon — who was brought in to enhance the movie's dialogue but was uncredited, according to the outlet — said Reeves, 58, made a suggestion that was borne out of his own research for his character, Officer Jack Traven.

Recalling the "unfailingly polite" demeanor from the "SWAT guys" Reeves hung out with during his research for the role, Whedon, 59, added, "[He said that] they’re only about defusing the situation; they call everybody ‘sir or ‘ma’am.’ "

"It was like click — that was it. I understand this character now," he added.

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<p>Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection</p> Keanu Reeves in <em>Speed</em> (1994)

Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

Keanu Reeves in Speed (1994)

Related: 20 Reasons to Love 'Speed', 20 Years Later

Whedon said that his "take on" Reeves' character in the 1994 action flick was that "he wasn’t a hot shot" but "a lateral thinker," who "was going to do what felt right and have an odd approach to it, but generally speaking, it would work out."

"That ‘sir or ma’am’ gave me so much, because bluster [in action-movie heroes] was the order of the day and this was the opposite," the filmmaker explained.

According to Whedon, Reeves also had another desire for his character — but it was shot down.

"He also said, ‘I don’t want to pull my gun.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want you to either, but you kind of have to," Whedon told THR. "[The studio is] not going to let you not pull your gun.’ "

<p>Richard Foreman/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock </p> Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in <em>Speed</em> (1994)

Richard Foreman/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed (1994)

Related: Keanu Reeves Says He Was Put in 'Movie Jail' by Fox for 10 Years After Turning Down 'Speed 2'

Speed follows Reeves as a police officer trying to avoid a bomb going off by keeping a bus driving at a speed above 50 miles per hour. In the 1997 sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control, it was a cruise liner that was targeted by a hacker, charting a collision between it and an oil tanker.

Both Speed movies were directed by Jan de Bont. The second film starred Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe and Temuera Morrison.

During a December 2021 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Reeves explained why after starring in Speed he didn't sign on for its sequel, for which costar Sandra Bullock did return.

"At the time I didn't respond to the script," the actor said, per CNN. "I really wanted to work with Sandra Bullock, I loved playing Jack Traven, and I loved Speed, but an ocean liner?"

"I had nothing against the artists involved, but at that time I had the feeling it just wasn't right," Reeves added.

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