The Morning Cup of Coffee
Why not start your day at the exact location where Officer Jack Traven starts his? The Firehouse is a real restaurant/coffee shop in Venice at the corner of Rose and Main Street. The restaurant is housed in a former fire station. Around the corner is a Gold's Gym and a few blocks away is the beach. It's a place where meatheads and beach bums intersect.Actually, that just might be Venice. Have a cup of coffee and a muffin. To go.
The First Explosion
Immediately after leaving The Firehouse a bus explodes and the pan reveals both a street sign and an odd local fixture: Main Street and a hobo clown ballerina statue. But you're not a hotshot officer on duty. Go west and you hit the Venice Boardwalk!
That hobo clown was put in place in 1988 by artist Jonathan Borofsky, meant to capture the spirit of the boardwalk, where many street performers perform for cash and good spirits. Currently the fiberglass performer stands above the entrance of a CVS and his mechanical leg is no longer functional. But if you venture a little to the west you'll encounter more performers than you probably want to. And snakes. And Jim Morrison impersonators. And weed physicians. Oh yeah, and the ocean. A lot of folks seem to miss that.
Alright, you've gotten your fill of Venice -- now you're a local. Head to Santa Monica. More specifically Annie's bus stop. That's at the corner of Ocean Park and Main Street. You'll notice that not only do the busses look different -- playfully adorned with big letters for "the big blue bus" -- but also that the mural that Annie runs in front of to catch the bus she's about to miss, is no longer there.Jane Golden painted "Ocean Park Pier" in 1976. It depicted faceless figures walking to the Santa Monica Pier circa the 1920s. Of course, as a prime graffiti target, the mural changed many times over the years. By the time it was painted over in 2011 the 1920s figures shared the wall with some alien blobs shooting hoops. In 2012 a new mural was commissioned to represent the Chumash Indians who previously lived in the region.The new (and old) mural is on the side of ZJ Boarding House, a massive surfboard and skateboard shop that's operated on that corner since 1988. Since 1996, Golden has held post in Philadelphia - painting over graffiti with city commissioned murals.
Oh and that stop is for the 1 (which goes to UCLA) and the 8 (which goes downtown). Don't wait for the 33 (the bus that Annie catches) that's at Ocean and Santa Monica.
The Magical Freeway
It was French auteur Francois Truffaut who said you could never watch a movie shot in your city. It takes you out of the moment when you realize that your neighborhood coffee shop is being filmed as an Italian restaurant. Well, everyone knows how much people talk about interstates, secret routes and traffic bummers in Los Angeles. Nothing sticks out to Angelinos more than street directions being wrong in movies. But, of course, for big set pieces it's entirely necessary.Leaving Santa Monica you get to choose your own adventure. Why? Because while the film makes you think that they're traveling eastbound on the 10, they're actually filming miles south, eastbound on the 105. The reasoning for filming on the 105 was simple: that interstate wasn't open yet. So Jan de Bont and his crew could easily control all the moving car elements without having to shut down a major interstate for a few hours at a time.
So you can choose whether to take the 10 or the 105 eastbound toward Western Ave. But we suggest stopping at the iconic Randy's Donuts to make your decision. It's situated between both interstates in Inglewood. The donut shop (with a giant donut on the roof) wasn't featured in Speed. But it has been featured in Earth Girls Are Easy, Mars Attacks!, Iron Man 2, The Golden Child and an iconic episode of "The Simpsons" (obviously).
The exit where Tubeman (Glenn Plummer) crashes his Jaguar? Crenshaw.
Plowing Through South LA
Construction on the 105 was a 30-year endeavor. The interstate operates as a southern parallel to the Imperial Highway (the I-10) and connects South LA to the I-5. The reason why it took so long to build was due to opposition to clearing away huge swaths of neighborhoods that are primarily African American. A tax revolt, air pollution concerns and a few earthquakes also halted production. After years of jockeying, buying and demolishing houses and securing extra police security for building crews in high-crime areas, the 105 opened in 1993 -- just after Speed filmed.Since this is also Annie's most destructive route (exiting the interstate, plowing through cars and into city traffic), why not focus on destruction for this section?
If you chose the 105 from Randy's Donuts then you can get an early start, pulling over in Hawthorne to view the Beach Boys Memorial: a brick landmark that features a stone sculpture of the Surfer Girl album cover. This structure was built where the childhood house of Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson stood for decades (it was demolished for the interstate). And if you chose either the 10 or the 105 for your route, you could stop in at the Inglewood Park Cemetery - a massive mortuary and park where you'll find grave sites for Ray Charles, Sugar Ray Robinson, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker and, most recently, Paul Walker.
Okay, now we're all back on the same route: you will have to be on the 105 for the climactic jump. However, while, yes, the 105 wasn't open yet while Speed was filming it wasn't missing that climactic chunk. CGI removed the road over a freight tunnel underpass.
While this part of the film was immensely exciting, you probably won't feel that while driving east. But if you're like Stephens (Alan Ruck), the annoying LA visitor on the bus, and you flew into LAX from further inland, be sure to try to spot the 105-110 interchange from above. In all its "Sim City" loopy glory.
We're skipping the airport. Like Stephens, you've probably "already seen the airport."
Officer Jack has safely removed all the passengers before exploding the bus and a freight plane. But the madman still thinks he's due his ransom and instructs the LAPD to place his money in a trash can at Pershing Square. So the journey continues! Onward to Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.
Pershing Square has been renovated numerous times. In the 1930s it incorporated tropical plants. In the 1950s it was a lawn on top of an underground parking garage. During the filming of Speed it was undergoing a facelift of waterfalls and structural art. There are currently proposals to update the park again, with AEG (which owns and operates the LA Live cluster of entertainments in downtown LA) sponsoring a re-design.
Ditch your car. You'll take the metro here forward. So reward yourself with a drink at The Perch, a rooftop bar that overlooks Pershing Square, The Biltmore Hotel and -- for John Fante fans -- Bunker Hill.
Officer Jack, Captain McMahon (Joe Morton) and a SWAT team are watching that Pershing Square trashcan from an adjacent barber shop.
If you desire a cut, shave or shoe shine (and another brew) head to Bolt Barbers, similarly adjacent to Pershing Square. Bolt specializes in flattops, fades, mohawks and tapers. Go in Johnny Mnemonic, come out Theodore Logan.
The Metro Red Line
My how public transportation has improved in Los Angeles in the past two decades! And we don't just mean because busses aren't rigged to explode.
Since Speed filmed, four new lines have been built: the Green (which actually hugs the 105 to the airport; I suppose you could get the Speed layout, since it's mostly above ground, by just riding the Green Line, but what's the fun in that?) in 1995; the Gold (to Pasadena) in 2003; the Purple (to Koreatown) in 2006; and the Expo Line (to Culver City) in 2012.
The Pershing Square station (the one where Howard abducts Annie and puts a bomb around her waist) was completed in 1993. But the furthest that it went at the time of filming was to MacArthur Park, which was only 1.5 miles from Pershing Square.
In Speed there were only four passengers that Payne had to kick out of the train. Now an average of 170,000 passengers pass through a day. Most of them go beyond MacArthur Park; like Officer Traven, Payne, Annie and now you.
Officer Traven and Annie shoot out through the uncompleted rail system into Hollywood Boulevard, directly in front of the Mann's Chinese Theatre. But you can safely exit at the Hollywood & Highland rail station.
Ending Speed at this location is a great wink at action movies, as this stretch of Hollywood Blvd. is populated by people dressed as Captain America, Batman, and other heroes. And only a Hollywood movie could end this ludicrously. But can we just warn that this section of Hollywood Blvd. is awful? It's as if Times Square dry-heaved blinking lights and stargazers into a well-lit alley.
If you're like Jack and Annie -- who've decided to base their relationship on sex -- you probably want to get above this crowded mess. They should grab a room at Hotel Roosevelt, kitty-corner to the Chinese Theatre. But if you can't afford that, perhaps grab a drink at one of the four bars inside. Perhaps by the pool? Or if you're a hotshot show-off, the upstairs bowling alley at The Spare Room.
And if it's a Monday, they've just started a game night hosted by The Revelry Collective. Maybe there'll be trivia. Or a pop quiz.
Remember where you parked your car. It's in Pershing Square.