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Keanu Reeves made the leap from Bill and Ted slacker to legitimate action star thanks to his role in 1994’s Speed. The movie made over $350 million (in 1994 dollars) and was one of the top 10 movies at the box office that year. The fact that a sequel went into the works is no surprise. However, when it came time to make the movie, Reeves ended up turning the role down, a decision which apparently sent him to “movie jail” for more than a decade. According to the actor…
Speed 2: Cruise Control was released in 1997 and The Day the Earth Stood Still came out in 2008. It seems that in that time, Fox was none to happy with Keanu Reeves. The actor doesn’t go into detail with GQ regarding “movie jail,” but it seems Reeves was well aware that it wasn’t a coincidence that none of his projects for the next decade or so ended up at the studio. Apparently, Fox was miffed that he turned down the Speed sequel. One certainly wonders what sorts of Fox projects Reeves could have potentially been a part of had it not been for his 10 year sentence to movie jail.
A brief look at the box office results makes it clear why Fox was unhappy. Speed 2 made $168 million, less than half what the original movie did. While it’s hard to chalk up all of that difference to the fact Keanu Reeves wasn’t in the movie, Reeves was certainly a bigger name than Jason Patric, the guy who took the role of male lead opposite Sandra Bullock in the sequel. Also, the simple fact that Reeves didn’t return could have potentially signaled to many moviegoers that the follow-up wasn’t worth their time. If Reeves was the reason you saw the first one, why bother with the sequel.
It’s unclear here if the reason Reeves didn’t reprise his role from Speed was because he had any issues with the movie itself. He chose to play Hamlet on stage in Canada instead, but he may have just really wanted to play Hamlet more than make the movie.
Of course, Reeves would go on to star in the Matrix trilogy which turned him into an even bigger star. Now he’s part of another major franchise, the John Wick series, which is produced by Lionsgate, a much smaller studio. In fact, as GQ points out, Reeves hasn’t made a movie with any major studio since 2013’s 47 Ronin, which was something of a flop, so perhaps the actor is actually back in movie jail, but just doesn’t know it.
At the end of the day, business is business, but those businesses are also run by people, and if you upset people, they can react in emotional ways. It seems that’s what happened here.