Watching John Wick carve his way through his enemies is one of life’s little cinematic pleasures. The first movie came out of nowhere with that refreshing, no nonsense action approach that seemed straight out of the 80s.
Now Entertainment Weekly has given a tantalizing glimpse into what nearly happened with John Wick when covering a new book, called They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.
In the book, producer Basil Iwanyk has revealed how Wick was originally envisioned to be much, much older.
Screenwriter Derek Kolstad had originally written the John Wick character to be 75 years old. Iwanyk explains:
“One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called Scorn. The lead was a 75-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. I thought, ‘Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.’ Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”
Reeves was much younger than they originally planned the character to be. So what happened? Iwanyk lays it out:
“My other best friend in the world, this guy Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu. And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘Keanu is one of the great action stars of the last 25 years — what happened to him? What’s he been doing?’ And he was directing his movie, Man of Tai Chi, and doing 47 Ronin. We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.'”
Writer Derek Kolstad picks up the story:
“We had talked internally about actors, but it was Keanu Reeves — a voracious script reader; anything he gets his hands on, he reads — who got his talons into it and made it his own. I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script.
When I first went and met with him and walked into his house, and as he rounded the corner to say hello to me, it’s a nice house, it’s not ostentatious for a guy who’s worth, I dunno, billions, and I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything that UTA, WME, William Morris sends out. He reads them all.
And so to think that he read something on a Friday, in ninety minutes, and was like, ‘I want to do it.’ In that moment, before I met and really clicked with him, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do it, too.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”
So there it is. John Wick was very nearly a completely different kind of movie with a very different leading man. Could you see Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford in this role? Would we have a big franchise on our hands if they had taken it?
A fourth film in the franchise is on the way. That will be here on March 24, 2023. The fifth and final movie is in the planning stages.