By Gabriel Neeb
Did the John Wick film series need a history? Three films into the projected five film series and a couple of ancillary projects in the works, the answer is obvious. Of course it did!
In Room 32ABC at the San Diego Comic Con, authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross showed up to argue the case with panel moderator Scott Mantz. Mark and Edward showed up because they have a new book entitled They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, about the creation of the Keanu Reeves-starring John Wick film series. These authors have already written oral histories of TV shows like Star Trek (The Fifty-Year Mission) and the Buffy, The Vampire Slayer series, so they turned their attention to John Wick.
The authors couldn’t just start anywhere, so they started with the dog. They found out that people have a thing for dogs. Their interviews found that when John Wick was first being discussed with studios, that one of the biggest obstacles was… the dog.
The inciting incident of John Wick is the death of a dog that Wick’s late wife left him before she died. This propels John into a rampage of violence against the gangsters who killed the dog, starting in New York City and continuing over three continents through three movies.
The filmmakers couldn’t get rid of the dog’s death.
But I’m getting ahead of things. In order to tell the story of John Wick, the authors needed to do a quick history of the action film genre. You know, starting from the first projected train arrival that scared people when they saw it
Movies were new. Mark and Edward then spent sixty pages recounting highlights of action movies from James Bond to Die Hard leading to… the origins of John Wick.
Thing about the early John Wick script is that John Wick was written as a 70 year old man. Until Keanu Reeves came on board, and the original writer, Derek Kolstad, “aged down” the character. Even this didn’t guarantee production, nor did the presence of Keanu’s stunt double from The Matrix, Chad Stahelski, as director because no one makes a stunt man the director [Hal Needham, director of the classic SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, would beg to differ if he weren’t busy in Heaven driving fast cars]. Finally, after numerous meetings with studio executives that complained about killing the dog, Lionsgate stepped in and John Wick went into production.
Production went well. Keanu Reeves was more than willing to undergo the training and rehearsal schedule (four months worth) with the production team and the stunt troupe 8711 to perfect the action sequences. It helped that Keanu is renown for being one of the nicer guys in Hollywood and those around him were more than happy to work with him.
John Wick opened and grossed $43 million dollars on a budget of $20 million. The sequel, John Wick 2 did much more and John Wick 3 did even more than that. As of this writing, a series based on the Continental Hotel is in the planning stages, as is one with Ana de Armas called The Ballerina.
Today’s celebration of all things John Wick did not end when this panel did.
Down in Hall H, as part of Collider.com’s panel about directors, John Wick director Chad Stahelski showed up to discuss filmmaking with Deadpool director Tim Miller and Andrew Stanton. During this panel, the moderator introduced a special guest star named “Jay Utah.”
Turned out this “Jay Utah” was Keanu Reeves.
Keanu didn’t do much… except introduce the panel to the new John Wick 4 trailer.
The crowd reacted enthusiastically and when Keanu left the stage (to probably fight ninjas or something) the several hundred denizens of Hall H rose to give him a standing ovation.
After you watch the trailer, I hope you’ll understand why.
John Wick 4 will be released on March 23, 2023.
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!