Can the Sandra Bullock action sequel become another blockbuster?

So what do you do for an encore after your $35 million high-concept action flick about a bomb on a bus detonates into a $121 million-grossing blockbuster? Well, if you’re Twentieth Century Fox and the film is Speed, you go on a sea cruise and pray for smooth sailing. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

A lot has changed in the three years since Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s pulse-pounding commuter trip. At the time, expectations on Speed rivaled those of a Pauly Shore comedy: The film had a first-time director (Jan De Bont), an unproven action hero (Reeves), and a relatively unknown costar (Bullock). But then the movie hit it big, and before anyone could say ”pop quiz,” Fox executives found themselves dealing with a big-budget, heavily anticipated sequel. In other words, this film’s got issues. For example:

PLOT The original’s story line was novel: Don’t let the bus fall under 50 mph. For Speed 2: Cruise Control, De Bont came up with the idea of setting the action on an out-of-control luxury liner. But a speeding boat just doesn’t seem as threatening as a speeding bus. After all, why not just bail out? ”You can’t just jump off a ship while it’s moving at full speed,” explains producer Michael Peyser. ”You would get sucked under the boat and sliced and diced in the engine pretty quickly. In the film, the captain goes over first, and his death gives a pretty convincing argument.”

SCHEDULING You know it’s going to be a cruel summer when Speed 2 is only the third-highest-profile sequel of the season. Opening May 23 is The Lost World, and hitting theaters on June 20 is Batman & Robin. So Fox slated its mayhem-on-the-lido-deck adventure for June 6, smack between the two. Unfortunately, Disney picked the same day for Nicolas Cage’s Con Air. Last week, Fox blinked and bumped Speed 2 to June 13. ”This is not called playing chicken, it’s called good distribution,” says Tom Sherak, Fox’s domestic film group chairman, who adds that the release was delayed to make more prints available. However, the date change gives Speed 2 only a one-week window at the box office before battling the Caped Crusader.

STAR POWER Casting became tricky when Reeves passed to jam with his band, Dogstar. Fox decided to rely on Bullock to carry the film and to fill Reeves’ spot with quiet, brooding Jason Patric. That, to say the least, may be a gamble. ”It was Keanu and Sandra’s chemistry that made the first one work,” says one casting director. ”I know Jason Patric’s a great actor, but he’s so serious.” De Bont counters that ”the chemistry between Sandra and Jason is great.”

MONEY Bullock snagged about $500,000 for the original. But according to several sources, she’s now raking in $12.5 million, Patric $4.5 million, and, after Twister, De Bont’s price tag is around $5 million. That, along with pricey location shoots, helps explain why the budget has ballooned to $105 million (a source at a rival studio says it’s $140 million). Another reason the numbers are high is…

Speed 2: Cruise Control
  • Movie
  • 121 minutes