'JOHN WICK' SCREENING: How Keanu Reeves Enlisted His 'Matrix' Doubles To Direct
by Zoey Francis
(snipped for interview content)
It's only been a couple of years since I saw Keanu Reeves in person, and I daresay, he seems to be in a happier place in his life. That's not surprising, given that at fifty years of age, his fierce portrayal of 'John Wick' has ignited a groundswell of newfound respect from both critics and audiences. With his own production company, he's spent as much time behind the scenes as he has in front of cameras in recent years. With projects such as the riveting documentary 'Side by Side', his directorial debut in 'Man of Tai Chi', and now 'John Wick', he's proven to be a versatile and prolific talent.
I wasn't able to make it to the Hollywood screening since it fell on a Thursday, but ArcLight exclusively presented the film in several locations (including La Jolla), and live-streamed the Q&A. I was thrilled when they chose my question for the filmmakers, because I'm such a huge fan of this project. Below is a portion of the Q&A, and my thoughts on why 'John Wick'is more than an action movie. Enjoy!
Q&A ON ACTION FILMMAKING:
Derek Kolstad (Screenwriter):
"I just wanted to do a revenge thriller, and I loved the story element of poking a bear that actually turned out to be the devil. The original script called for a much older actor in the early seventies, and I think that he'd had the dog for fourteen years, and I think twelve people were killed, but then when Keanu got involved, and every draft was like -- he would finish reading it and he'd be like,'But it could've been so much more!'" [Audience laughs.]
Basil Iwanyk (Producer):
"In a lot of these action movies that we've seen and that I read all the time are, you know like -- I was a green beret and I was in Iraq and my guys, you know, turn against me or, you know, I was a CIA guy -- this was something so simple and so relatable, and seemingly banal, but by the time the movie or the script ended, it felt much more mythic, and I just thought that was a way into an action movie that was very relatable for anyone, and I think that was what was lacking for a lot of the action movies that have been coming out, and a lot of the scripts that I was reading..."
Keanu Reeves (Actor):
"I met Chad on the first 'Matrix' in '98, and Dave on the second two, and you know, kept in touch through the years and you know, they started their own action design company 87eleven, and we had just been speaking about material -- they were kind of sharing some of the stuff that they wanted to do -- they wanted to be storytellers, and so when I sent them the script, I was like really secretly hoping that they would direct it, so there was kismet going on here... They were just geeked out on the script."
Chad Stahelski (Director):
"We knew that we wanted to do the kind of style of action -- our sensibilities are from Hong Kong cinema, Japanese anime, some of the nice '70's films that you still see the longer action takes, especially Asian cinema, and it's something we've always wanted to do, but a lot of times when you see modern day action or modern day fight scenes, there's frenetic camera movements or shaky-cam as they call it or the fast editing styles. It's usually out of 1) it's to infuse energy, or 2) it's to hide things. And a lot of times, it's because you don't get the actors to train or you don't have somebody that's more capable of the martial arts choreography, or the stunt team's over-choreographed or under-choreographed, not paying any attention to the cast member."
David Leitch (Director):
"One of my favorite days was -- we were shooting the finale sequence with Michael Nyqvist and Keanu. It was the day before, and the weather reports were coming in -- it was gonna freeze. We couldn't have the rain machines. Line producer was coming to us, he's like, "You're gonna put your actors out there in the rain?" Like it's gonna freeze, they're gonna be cold. How are we gonna get through this night, you're never gonna make your day, how are we gonna do it? Chad and I look at each other, we're like, we should just pull the rain machines, we should pull the rain machines. So we go to you [gestures towards Keanu] -- I don't know if you remember this, we're thinking -- it's going to be almost freezing, two degrees above freezing, we're gonna pull the rain machines, and you're like, 'Why?!'[Audience laughs.] We're like, 'Because it's cold, and you're gonna be freezing' and we're worried about you guys being there for twelve hours in freezing rain. Everyone else is under tents, and you're like, 'No! This is cinema! We're making this!' [Keanu's laughing and blushing] 'Alright, I guess it'll be rain machines...' 'Yeah! We're doing it!' 'Rain machines, then...' That's the kind of collaborator he is, by the way. Unrelenting -- your work ethic is crazy, and it's all for the betterment of the project, so it's great."
My @zen4zoey question to Chad and David:
Would you be interested in getting a female superhero film going? [Audience claps and cheers.]
Keanu: You'd better do that.
Chad: Yes, I mean one of the things we'd love to do, we're very hooked on the idea of a female action star. We don't think anybody's done it right, yet. We'd like to have a really good go at it. Hard-boiled.
Moderator: I assume it wouldn't be Aquagirl, right, that's definitely out?
David: May be out of our wheelhouse.
Moderator: What character would you be thinking of? What would you think of if you look at the pantheon of comic book characters, or maybe something even new that you guys would do it for?
Chad: I don't know. What do you guys think? Black Widow? Wonder Woman?
Audience member responds with Lazarus.
Chad: Ooh, nice. Good call.
Another audience member shouts, "Female Thor!" [Everyone laughs.]
Chad: What do you call her? Thare? [Laughter]
David: I think she actually exists, I don't know.
Chad: No, great. Love chicks with helmeted wings and stuff. [Laughter]
A big thank you to @InTheaterLive for selecting my question. You made my night!