Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about "Speed."
In my whole career, I’ve never had to talk about it. I’ve never signed a copy of it, I’ve never sort of been a part of it. And I was proud of it, I worked hard on it, I had a really great time and I worked with really cool people. I thought it was good stuff. Graham has been very generous, but I did not get a credit on it. The studio gave me one, but then the Writers Guild of America took it away, and I was pretty devastated. I have the only poster with my credit on it.
Why did they pull your credit?
It has to do with WGA bylaws. You can come in and rewrite all of the dialogue, and still not get credit. They didn't think I made big enough changes to the plot. I actually did a lot of overhaul, but much of it was to a later draft, so it went back to what Graham originally had.
Graham credits you with most of the dialogue, and has mentioned that many of the more ridiculous scenes worked because of the lines you wrote for them. How did you go about handling those more over-the-top plot turns?
For me, it’s only about everybody playing the reality of the situation, and having time to take out some of the “movie stuff.” There was a draft -- after Graham’s, before I came on –- that was very not good. One of the things it had in it was that Sandra Bullock’s character was a stand-up comic, and I’m like, "Nobody can ever root for a stand-up comic in this kind of movie!" And they said, "Well, if she says something funny, that will explain it." [Laughs] I thought, "They’re all going to die and she’s trying to get new material? That’s not it."
Did you make a lot of changes to the characters? I know the biggest overhaul was with Alan Ruck [the tourist].
Alan Ruck’s character was written as an angry lawyer. He was a bad dude. He was like, "You are a bad cop! I want blah blah blah!” He was that guy. Nobody is doing that in a disaster. They’re frightened, and they’re pulling together. And what was a lawyer doing on a bus? So, I wanted him to be a nicer guy. In an earlier draft, there was sort of this format where everybody told their backstory, and I didn’t think we needed all of that necessarily. But the tourist, he’s a very grounding figure, and Alan is so sympathetic. For me, the whole essence of what I felt was useful in the movie was him saying, “We’re at the airport, I’ve already seen the airport.” When the absurdity has just gone to the point where I can turn to the mundane.
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