MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – JAGUAR OWNER FROM SPEED

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A minor role will usually only involve a few minutes of screen time but will usually see the character given a name and have some relevance to the main characters. A friend who in a twist is the key villain, a mother who only offers advice in one scene, somebody whose importance to the plot is only revealed at the eleventh hour. Other times it’s a showy role for only one scene and everybody is talking about that performance after they leave the film.

A long time ago there were these ice skaters named Torville and Dean. They scored a perfect 6 from all the judges in their final routine at the 1984 Winter Olympics and naturally became legends. Image result for torvill and dean in australia 1994Following their Gold Medal winning performance at the winter Olympics they went professional and performed for several years. In 1994 they returned to the Winter Olympics and won Bronze. Some time passed and they came to Australia to perform. My family were fans and on a whim one day decided they would see if they could get tickets. It was not in my parent’s nature to go to such shows, they were luxuries to be weighed up heavily. Hence the last minute enquiry and the resulting lack of availability. So as a consolation prize we decided we’d go to the movies. Speed termed as a “Die Hard on a Bus” was out  with Keanu Reeves playing against type. We knew of his Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Parenthood (1989) and Point Break (1991) although only the first had been really watched by me as the others were probably deemed too adult. We went in with no expectations, my father, mother and siblings. I still think about that night every now and again watching Speed up on the big screen. Kids become teenagers and get too old to go see movies with their parents. Then your parents tend to not want to go out to the movies because its easier to wait until it comes out on Foxtel. 🙂 Speed was on the cusp of that change and an unexpected gift. This action film inadvertently became a family film  because we all have that memory and we all enjoyed that night and that movie. A great movie will be universally loved and bring people together.

Image result for torvill and dean in australia 1994

Torville and Dean would have been a once in a lifetime experience but there are no memories from that day tinged with disappointment only amazement. It turned out Speed was to be bonafide classic with amazing cinematography, a rip roaring score, amazing stunts, witty dialogue, and a fantastic ensemble cast. There’s no denying that Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have a huge part to play in engaging the audience and making them care about the outcome. As a kid who’d never seen Easy Rider it made Hopper relevant again, it introduced the world to Sandra Bullock and it allowed Reeves to be seen in a new light. Yet there is not one speaking part in that film that isn’t memorable. That gun wielding latino “Stop the busss!”, the aw shucks tourist “We’re at the airport…I’ve already been to the airport.”, the lady with the G-string coming out of the elevator, the elderly African American couple weeping “The baby.” just before that incredible jump. I could fill out the rest of the year in this series of posts with actors from Speed. I’m half tempted to, but on initial viewing there was one guy who we all strode out of the cinema talking about-the black guy who’s car gets commandeered.

Credited as Jaguar Owner Glenn Plummer is still listed seventh on the cast listing at IMDB. An ordinary man finding himself in the extraordinary situation of flying down the LA Freeway after a commuter bus that has a bomb on it. I look back now and wonder how this played to African American audiences to see a black man in an expensive vehicle have his car commandeered at gunpoint by a white police officer (Keanu Reeves’s Jack Traven) who then proceeds to wreck said vehicle and put both of their lives in danger. Related imageAt the time this was standard behaviour for film action heroes to pull guns when civilians black or white did not play nice with them. Now I wonder if Plummer’s performance is a little over the top, at the time African Americans were featuring more and more in films and to Australian audiences any unique ways they spoke were lively and fresh and exciting to see. Bad Boys come out a couple of years later and the banter between Martin Lawrence and Will Smith was riveting because we weren’t used to seeing this in mainstream American films. Now two decades later I wonder if Glenn Plummer was encouraged to ham it up but I like to think he maintained his dignity. Related imageThe characters always plays as real to the situation, the off hand way he says “Take the phone.” after losing his car door feels right but you know a white guy wouldn’t say it the same way and that’s kind of the point. Well I guess it will be interesting to hear what you think but I thoroughly enjoyed  Glenn Plummer’s performance as Jaguar Owner and it seems I wasn’t the only one.

They made a point of having his character now named Maurice appear in a similar manner in the sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) courtesy of an amazingly ridiculous coincidence and he got some high profile roles directly after Speed in Showgirls (1995), Up Close & Personal (1996). More recently Glenn Plummer had roles in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Saw II (2005), Sons of Anarchy (2008) and Suits (2016).

He has also branched out into other jobs co-writing, producing and directing in 2006 VooDoo Curse: The Giddeh (2006) and the upcoming Charlie Charlie (2017).

Some people will remember him in his early work in Menace II Society (1993) and his break out role in South Central (1992). Others know him from his recent television work. Yet if you’ve seen Speed it’s doubtful you’ll not remember him in that. He took a small thankless role and sold every line, every joke, every reaction and I hope to see him again soon holding my full attention with his incredible talent.

-Lloyd Marken

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10 comments on “MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – JAGUAR OWNER FROM SPEED

  1. beetleypete says:

    When I watched ‘Showgirls’, I remembered him as the ‘car man’ from ‘Speed’. Another good call, Lloyd. I watched ‘Speed’ again on TV recently, and it still works. (Well, maybe not the bus jumping that huge gap…)
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Lloyd Marken says:

      I completely agree Pete. Some of the cop’s actions play as OTT Hollywood fantasy at the time but the actors make the characters so damn likeable. I guess it’s only a movie and by that standard it’s a personal favourite. The story behind the bus time is fascinating. It looked fake to me. The nose goes up too high, not everything is seen on screen and the final shot is slowed down with heightened sound effects. So it was interesting to find out in a behind the scenes featurette that I watched that the time was done for real. A lone stunt driver drove up to a ramp on the same freeway. The bus unexpectedly had its nose rise up in the air like that. If not for a last minute decision to place extra cameras for coverage the bulk of the bus would have been out of shot during the sequence. Secondly the resulting impact of the landing of the driver’s end was far more severe than originally planned and if not for a special harness rig he was wearing the stunt driver would most likely have broken his back. Incredibly the bus jumped that distance just like that. The only thing fake was with CGI trickery they put the gap in. There’s video of it somewhere on Youtube but bad picture quality. The build up to the scene is still one of my favourites. I was 14 and I think Speed is one of the first times I paid attention to how a scene is crafted to create an audience reaction.

    • Lloyd Marken says:

      The stuntman’s name is Jophery Brown.

  2. Jay says:

    I’d forgotten about that guy. I love this post, and your memory of how you first came to watch Speed.

  3. Don Ostertag says:

    Too bad your parents didn’t get to see Torville and Dean in person. I worked a week of their shows and was awe struck every performance. Saw Speed again last week and was again ‘awe struck’.

    • Lloyd Marken says:

      That would have been something else being part of their show and seeing them perform. I remember being very impressed watching them at the ’94 Olympics. It maybe a personal bias but I thought they should won. Mind you the kids today have taken it to a whole new level. Astounding athleticism.

  4. vinnieh says:

    Thanks for reminding me of this guy.

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