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Movie Villain Monday: Howard Payne - Speed (1994)

It’s Movie Villain Monday and this Week’s villain has been suggested a couple of times over recent months.

It’s Howard Payne from Speed (1994)

Who is Howard Payne?

Howard Payne is the main antagonist in the 90s adrenaline fuelled action thriller, Speed. He was played by the late Dennis Hopper in what is arguably the highlight of his later career.


Disgruntled ex-member of the Atlanta bomb squad, Howard Payne was forced into retirement after severely burning his hand and losing a thumb while defusing a bomb in the line of duty.

Feeling bitter and angry at how he was treated by his employers, Payne uses his explosives knowledge to become a terrorist and eventually plants a bomb on a bus that will explode if the bus’s speed drops below 50mph.


Payne wants money and revenge.

After his first bombing attempt at the beginning of the movie is thwarted by LAPD SWAT bomb disposal officers, Jack Traven and Harry Temple (Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels) and he fails to get his $3 million ransom, Payne fakes his own death in order to escape. He doesn’t waste any time though and is soon back with the bus plan and a bigger ransom demand of $3.7 million.


As dangerous and psychopathic as Payne is, he’s also very smart and good at what he does (not to mention likeable).

He’s cynical and has a sharp wit but is cold and ruthless and totally willing to kill anyone who threatens his plan.


It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Dennis Hopper playing the crazed bomber, but both Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro we’re considered for the part.

In fact, Howard Payne almost wasn’t the movie’s main villain!

The original idea was to have a twist where it turned out that Jack’s partner, Harry (Daniels) was the brains behind the whole thing all along and that Payne was merely an accomplice. In the end though it was thought that Jeff Daniels was too likeable for audiences to believe he was the bad guy, so the story was changed and Howard Payne became the main villain.

The film (originally titled “Minimum Speed”) was offered to a number of directors before Jan De Bont (Twister) signed on. These directors include John McTiernan who thought the story was too similar an idea to Die Hard (one of his earlier films), Renny Harlin (who coincidentally directed Die Hard 2) and Quentin Tarantino. Although Tarantino turned down the chance to direct Speed, he’s since said it’s one of his favourite movies from the 90s.

“Poor people are crazy Jack. I’m eccentric.”

Another great movie villain suggestion!

Who should I feature next week?


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