Exclusive LRM Interview: Keanu Reeves for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
by Gig Patta
Beware of the Baba Yaga.
The myth, the man and the legend of The Boogeyman returns in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2.
Keanu Reeves returns to play the legendary hitman from the surprise hit of 2014. He is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rom where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo and Bridget Moynahan return for this sequel. The newcomers are Common, Riccardo Scamarcio and Ruby Rose. The movie is directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad.
LRM had a sit-down interview with actor Keanu Reeves late last month to discuss the action, weapons training and working with his co-stars for the film.
LRM: So, you survived Sundance Film Festival. How was that?
Keanu Reeves: It was fun.
LRM: You were promoting something called TO THE BONE?
Keanu Reeves: That’s correct. There’s a film there in competition called TO THE BONE. It’s directed by Marti Noxon. I have a supporting role in it. It got really well received. It’s a really great film.
LRM: Why did you want to play... the doctor, right?
Keanu Reeves: Yeah, yeah. The script. I read the script. It was amazing.
LRM: Well, we are here to talk about JOHN WICK 2. I’ve seen it. You’re such a great bad-ass this time around.
Keanu Reeves: That’s kind. I loved the role. I loved the action. I loved all the new characters. The world expands into the Underworld. It’s getting bigger. Yeah, it was a really great experience.
Keanu Reeves: If you have to describe John Wick in words—how would you describe this character that made people love him?
Keanu Reeves: When I think about him, I think about him as John and John Wick. I think of John Wick being the assassin part of John. I would say that guy has strong will; never gives up; he’s kind; and there’s honor about him. He’s also a man of strength. There are even some vulnerabilities to him. Most importantly, he’s good at his job.
LRM: Are you glad in the sequel it’s not about the dog anymore? [Chuckles]
Keanu: Yeah. In the sequel, we couldn’t possibly do that again. Once that story is told, we don’t want to go back through the [same thing again]. I still have the dog [from the end of the first movie]. And he is part of the story. That relationship is important. It’s part that keeps John into the normal life.
LRM: This being an action movie, since you have a strong reputation being an action star—how did you want to approach or train differently in JOHN WICK 2 this time around?
Keanu: I did do some things different, but it’s different on basically the same things. Because I have the background from the first film, it was really the first time I was doing judo and jiu-jitsu. I could take that training from [the first film] and applying to having that experience. When I started on JOHN WICK 2, it’s a little bit more advanced. So we can now go to another level.
A lot of throws in the second film are a little more advanced. I could do more of those [throws]. For the gun work, I had more of the basic training from the previous [movie] and the weapon work I have done in the past. In the second movie, it really went on into another level. I’ve done the three gun training, where you worked with the pistol, rifle and shotgun. So that all is in the film.
If you like that kind of thing, then it’s to another level. Transitions. Presentations. Reloads.
LRM: I’ve noticed that you had a certain way of holding the guns. There’s a special style on holding the guns by checking the clips, reloading the clips or at a 45-degree angle—is that your style or was that a John Wick style?
Keanu Reeves: When I did the first one, I worked with different practitioners. I worked with a gentleman from LAPD SWAT, who had a certain technique. I also ended up meeting some Army guys. The [tilted] angle influence from Army close contacts. The elbows are up and out. There’s a close presentation—very close to the body.
For me, I liked it and I put my own little flavor. There was a little exaggeration a little bit. That’s a really effective entry technique. There’s not a lot of weapons shoot at and not a lot of target to come around. So it was kind of a mixture.
John Wick does all these different techniques. Everything is available to him. There isn’t one way of working a weapon. I like the reload with the flick going outside. That movement of getting rid of the magazine is to go sideways with it.
LRM: That can’t be easy to do. How much practice did you have to do with that?
Keanu Reeves: You have to find the right timing. I also did another lateral technique, in which you just go down with the pistol. Yeah, it takes practice. The stuff takes practice. If you want to feel real, you’ll just need to practice.
LRM: How is your real shooting style today? You’re pretty accurate? You go to the gun range?
Keanu Reeves: I worked with an exceptional shooter. His name is Taran Butler. He’s a three-gun champion. He is very, very, very accomplished. I had the opportunity to train with him.
I’m okay. I’m not bad. [Laughter] I’m not bad.
LRM: So which one is your favorite weapon?
Keanu Reeves: [Long pause] I don’t know. In JOHN WICK, I’m using the pistol, rifle and shotgun.
LRM: You use a lot of things.
Keanu Reeves: No, I just use those three... and I knife. Oh, I did use a garrote. I used a garrote too. So there! I’ve expanded the toolbox. The garrote work was pretty good. They didn’t speed that up.
LRM: Oh, wait. You use a pencil!
Keanu Reeves: Oh, yeah! The pencil! You finally get to see John Wick use the pencil!! I liked that fight. Did you like that fight?
LRM: I loved that fight. I was like, “That must’ve been some choreograph to pull that off.”
Keanu Reeves: It’s fun. They allow me to collaborate in the choreography. I can say, “What about this? What about that?” The pencil had a lot of influence in that.
If I had to pick a favorite—I would pick the pistol in the end.
LRM: You had so many fights in this movie. You had fight, after fight and after fight. Which one was the hardest one you had to actually do or choreograph?
Keanu Reeves: I would say the fight with Cassian. That’s the fight that Common plays. It’s the longest man-to-man fight on one-on-one.
LRM: You actually had two fights with him.
Keanu Reeves: Right. We had one in the subway and the streets of Rome. I would have to say the streets of Rome fight. It’s very technical. It also had some gunplay and knifework. There were transitions. That was probably the most technical fight.
LRM: When I was watching that—I said to myself, “Oh, c’mon. Keanu can take on Common. I’ve seen Common in person. You must be much taller and bigger than him.
Keanu Reeves: No, I’m not actually. Common is a badass.
He really loved the first film. It’s part of the reason on why he agreed to play Cassian. It’s a great role as another assassin who honors the code. He was really enthusiastic and committed to the training to make this John Wick action. It’s no joke.
He was right there. He is very talented. Didn’t you believe him as a badass?
LRM: I believed him to be the absolute badass.
Keanu Reeves: He got so much dignity in him. There is the compose, the honor and the deadliness. We fought. We fought and trained a lot.
LRM: Since Laurence Fishburne was also in the movie, didn’t you miss another chance to fight against him?
Keanu Reeves: Yeah. It was just really cool to have Laurence [in the movie]. He had the same reaction for the first film and was opened to participating in the next one. Chad Stahelski and Derek Kostad designed the role of the Bowery King for him. It’s really cool that Laurence responded to the role. I was just glad to act with him again. He is so charismatic and professional. He is just amazing and cool.
LRM: Ruby Rose must be the tiniest person on the set.
Keanu Reeves: Oh, yeah. She is a badass too.
LRM: Was it tough to think you had a fight a woman like this?
Keanu Reeves: Well, I had the fight in the first one.
LRM: Oh, yeah. You did.
Keanu Reeves: In this film, I had two fights with a woman. Ruby was game for it too. She came in really enthusiastic and did some training. She has a lot of style. She backs it up. She was going for it. I thought we had a really good fight. And it was dramatic on the way it ends.
LRM: Obviously, this sets up to complete a trilogy. What are you hoping to see in the next film if you had a wishlist?
Keanu Reeves: It’s up to the audience. I love this film. This film was made with love and affection for the world and the characters. Hopefully, people will respond to it. If they do, then there will be an audience for the third one. I would love to play the role again. I am interested to see what happens.
Once in a while, Chad, the director and I would chat to say, “Wouldn’t it be cool—that we would have go to Jerusalem?” Or visit Rome to look at its history, codes and tribes. We wanted to look at all these different things that could happen.
There are these little ideas for now. We’ll see.
LRM: I want to talk about your other upcoming projects.
Keanu Reeves: Sure.
LRM: Someone told me about this project called SWEDISH DICKS. Could you care to elaborate on this?
Keanu Reeves: Oh, yeah! That’s Peter Stromare’s [project]. He is in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. He is producing and acting in a Swedish television show called SWEDISH DICKS. I think I’m in five episodes for this. It was fun to work with him. I once worked on a film with him on CONSTANTINE. We became friends. He had this project and I was, “Yeah, man. It’s funny. Let’s do it.”
Now there was a project called TO THE BONE, that was just playing at the Sundance Film Festival.
LRM: I know you probably been asked a million times before, but four or five people reminded to ask you about the next Bill & Ted movie. Is that starting?
Keanu Reeves: No. Bill & Ted movie is still waiting on another draft of the script for the business part of show business to work out all of its deals, rights and all of that stuff.
LRM: You’re definitely looking forward to be in that role again.
Keanu Reeves: I haven’t played that role in [a long time]. I think they still have a really good story to tell. The studio that is trying to make it had some notes, so we still need to do another draft.
LRM: Once last question, you’ve done so many action heroes in your entire career...
Keanu Reeves: Have I? [Laughter] I’ve played like four.
LRM: Well, then. Let’s say you have your four. Rank the most favorite to your least favorite for me.
Keanu Reeves: Why?
LRM: I just wanted to...
Keanu Reeves: To know what that answer may be? I don’t really know. They were all so different. POINT BREAK was the first action film that I got to do. There’s a special place in my heart for that. It’s a really great film.
With SPEED, I got to take some skills I had from POINT BREAK and use it here. Jan de Bont did such a great job and it was special on its own. The MATRIX trilogy, from an action standpoint, you get to do all the movie kung-fu and all the wirework. It’s a project that really changed cinema. It really changed so many people in their lives. Myself included.
If I go to CONSTANTINE, it’s not really a full action film although there are some action in it. Now to JOHN WICK, it’s a different kind of style. There are many influences of work I’ve done in the past to bring to this. It is such a unique flavor.
All those films have such different tones. They all have characters who are vulnerable, but strong. Sometimes they are reluctant heroes. Or to even have a hero desire. It’s like Jack Traven in SPEED wants to be the hero. He wants to save the day. Thomas Anderson didn’t really want to save the world. But, he did learn on how to fly. And finally, you have John Wick fighting for his life.
LRM: Well, thank you for speaking with me.
Keanu Reeves: Thank you.