Speed | 1994
The appealingly simple premise was turned into mega-blockbuster by cinematographer-turned-director Jan De Bont’s high-octane direction – though his subsequent track record (Speed 2, The Haunting, Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life...) seems to indicate this was a one-off. Rewrites by (an uncredited) Joss Whedon probably helped.
The office block where the embittered Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) is foiled in his attempt to bomb the elevator is the 52-storey Gas Company Towers, 555 West Fifth Street at the northwest corner of Olive Street, downtown Los Angeles (see it as the venue for the party in Charlie’s Angels, and as the ‘United States Courthouse’ outside which Jamie Foxx picks up Tom Cruise in Michael Mann's Collateral).
Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) celebrates his award at, what was then, The Derby, now the Mess Hall Kitchen, 4500 Los Feliz Boulevard at Hillhurst Avenue. The old Brown Derby Restaurant, it was renovated and reinvented as a swing venue in 1993, but closed and came close to demolition in 2006 when it was finally declared a Historic Cultural Landmark. In its earlier incarnation, it was a major location for Doug Liman’s Swingers.
Traven chats to the bus driver at the Firehouse Restaurant, 213 Rose Avenue at Main Street, Venice, opposite the Koo Koo Roo Californian Kitchen, with its landmark, love-it-or-hate-it clown-ballet dancer sculpture (I think it’s kitschy fun).
The bus is blown up on Main Street, just south of Rose Avenue, and this is where Traven receives the sinister phone call from Payne.
Spunky Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) boards the bus at Ocean Park Boulevard and Main Street. Much of the bus ride was filmed on the I-105 in South Central Los Angeles around Watts. Pretty much the same stretch was used for the spectacular opening number of La La Land.
The spectacular bus jump on the unfinished freeway used the recently completed Glenn Anderson Freeway (Century Freeway). The yawning gap was added later with computer- generated imagery.
The bus is finally diverted to the airstrips of ‘Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Kind of. The airport actually used for the filming is Mojave Airport and Spaceport, at Mojave in Kern County, seen also in S.W.A.T., Die Hard II and Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers.
The money drop is at Fifth and Hill Streets, by the steps at the northeast corner of recently renovated Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles. Here too is the station of, what was then, the recently completed first section of the long-awaited Los Angeles Metro, Metro Red Line at Pershing Square Station.
Most of the underground sequences were filmed on studio mock-ups, but it’s on the real Hollywood Boulevard, just outside TLC Chinese Theatre which, let's face it, will always be known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, between Highland and La Brea Avenues (near the – then uncompleted – Hollywood/Highland Metro Station), that the train finally explodes into daylight.