Before Speed became one of the biggest action movies of the ’90s, it was pitched as a Beverly Hills Cop sequel in desperation.
Speed is one of the more iconic action movies of the 90s. The movie was a huge success at the box office, grossing over $350 million worldwide and cementing Keanu Reeves as an action star. However, that success didn’t come easy. Speed was once set up at Paramount before the studio wound up passing on the project… but not before former Paramount VP of Production Don Granger pitched Speed as a Beverly Hills Cop sequel.
Don Granger made an appearance on the 50 MPH Podcast, where he revealed that Speed was considered as a Beverly Hills Cop sequel for all of fifteen minutes. “I really wanted to try to mount the movie, and my last-ditch effort was I pitched it at our chairman’s lunch as a possible script for Beverly Hills Cop 3,” Granger said. “I got about 15 minutes of traction before it was dismissed, because that was back when the mandate was to find a Beverly Hills Cop 3 so I was like, ‘Let’s put Axel Foley on the bus.’ It was a Hail Mary, man. I might maintain it was a better movie, it would have been a better movie than ultimately what we got for Beverly Hills Cop 3, but that was my final Hail Mary.“
As we know, Speed revolves around a bus that is rigged by a terrorist to explode if its speed falls below 50 miles per hour. On paper, that might have sounded a little silly to Paramount. “They probably thought it was kind of a goofy idea,” said producer Mark Gordon. “You know, when you think about the idea of a bus, if you drop below 50 the bus is going blow up, that could be really silly, you know? And I think that ultimately the thing that made it kind of silly was the thing that made it terrific. It was not grounded completely in reality. The characters were grounded, but it was also funny. Graham [Yost] is a very funny writer. I think it had just the right level of fun and sort of popcorn-ness, but also, it was brutal. There was violence in it. So, we never got to the point of budgeting or having any real conversations. It was just put into turnaround and they just said, you know, ‘Here you go, we’re not going to make this film. Good luck with it.’“
While Speed may have been a big success, the sequel didn’t fare as well. Keanu Reeves declined to return for Speed 2: Cruise Control, which became a box office bomb and is considered one of the worst sequels of all time. Would Speed have made a good Beverly Hills Cop sequel? Probably, but I think the film works best as it is.