The Matrix Resurrections star Keanu Reeves was a major part of Speed’s success, so why did he not return for the movie’s sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control? Released in 1994, Speed was a high-octane thriller that proved a huge hit for stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. With a famously high-concept conceit—“Die Hard on a bus (and directed by Die Hard’s cinematographer)”—the irresistible action hit was a major blockbuster that grossed ten times its merger budget.
From off the Bill & Ted’s movies and Point Break, Reeves was making a name for himself as a leading man circa the release of Speed. His well-liked central turn helped redeem his career after an infamously (and unfairly) criticized role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, despite the stellar reception of Speed with critics and audiences alike, when the movie’s sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control was announced, Reeves was nowhere to be seen on the cast list. His co-star Sandra Bullock returned, but Reeves excused his absence by claiming he wanted some time away from the action genre and was replaced by Jason Patric.
However, in a 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel (via YouTube), the real reason behind Reeves’ understandable reticence was revealed. Per the man himself, he read the script for Speed 2: Cruise Control, saw that the infamously flawed sequel was set on a cruise liner, and immediately balked. Per Reeves: “It was about a cruise ship, and I was like … bus not so fast, but then a cruise ship is even slower than a bus. And I was just like, ‘I love you guys, but I just can’t do it’.” With Reeves’ screen career including some serious flops, it is only fair that he avoided this one despite being offered a serious sum for his return. Reeves rejected an offer of $12 million to reprise his role in the sequel, opting to work on other projects instead.
His decision proved prudent as, although Speed 2: Cruise Control performed passably at the box office, the movie’s reviews were disastrous, and it was soon counted among the worst action movies of the decade. However, both Bullock and Reeves managed to leave the franchise unscathed, with the pair remaining major stars into the 2010s and even reuniting for a romantic drama in 2006. Jason Patric was less lucky, as the star’s status as Reeves’ replacement meant he was more closely associated with the project after its failure. De Bont, meanwhile, had the unfortunate luck of following one miss with another in 1999’s Catherine Zeta Jones-starring horror The Haunting.
Since then, Reeves has continued to eschew big paydays in favor of whatever projects take his fancy, with his recent releases ranging from the sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix Revolutions to a cameo in Spongebob: Sponge On The Run. While his screen CV is dotted with occasional flops, few are as egregiously badly reviewed as Speed 2: Cruise Control, which is mostly remembered as an unfortunate cash grab. While few stars would be willing to turn down such a sizable payday, Reeves’ instincts turned out to be on the money when it came to Speed 2: Cruise Control.