Keanu Reeves Argued He Wasn’t an Action Hero in ‘Speed’ and He Made Some Good Points

Keanu Reeves first dabbled in action with Point Break. Speed was the movie that confirmed he could be an action hero. Reeves would later star in the Matrix and John Wick movies, as well as some other action movies in between. At the time of Speed’s release in 1994, he did not consider himself an action hero, and before The Matrix he may have been right. 

Speed costars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock making handprints
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves | Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

At the 1994 press junket for Speed, reporters asked Reeves about his foray into the territory of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Reeves demured, and he was right. 

Action movies with Keanu Reeves

As prolific as Reeves would became making action movies, he was not exclusively an action star. When people were calling him one after his second action movie, he didn’t buy it.

“I know it’s a piece of fiction,” Reeves said. “It’s not my ambition and hopefully the film will be successful and people will go.”

Reeves was also modest about his role in saving everybody on the bus. He acknowledged that bomb squad agent Jack Traven (Reeves) had help.

Keanu Reeves waving at the Speed premiere
Keanu Reeves | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“I don’t think that the part really is that kind of turn,” Reeves said. “The part, to me, really feels like an ensemble piece. I think that’s the strength of the film. The character, the protagonist is not highlighted in such an important way. He’s part of it. He’s not in the prow of it.”

‘Speed’ still put Keanu Reeves in action

Perhaps people got the idea that Reeves was an action hero because he did some of his own stunts. In the early ’90s films were allowing lead actors to be more and more involved in the stunts.

“I wasn’t fearless,” Reeves said. “It was just important for me to be there, to do as much as I possibly could. It was the same, Gary Hymes the stunt coordinator, he had just come from Jurassic Park. I had seen in that film that the actors were very much involved. It was great to have that importance with him as well.”

The action was just part of the character

Reeves described one of Speed’s major set pieces, in which he jumps from a Jaguar onto the bus. Reeves performed the jump.

“When I was jumping from the Jaguar to the bus, there were considerations,” Reeves said. “If they’re not lined up, don’t jump. But in that, I have fear. I’m going 45 miles an hour. I’m standing outside a car and I’m going to do it..”


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Reeves did not have extensive bomb squad or police training. So, performing some of Traven’s heroics helped him get more into character.

“So the emotional feelings into the analysis of action brought me closer to what I felt the training of what Jack Traven would be,” Reeves said. “I was just trying to have that head. It really helped me so when I was acting the scenes of peril with other people that everyone else is freaking out and their emotions are getting the better of them. Jack is just dealing with whatever is in front of him.”