Collider (US), Mar 21, 2019
‘John Wick 3’: Keanu Reeves on Fighting Ninjas and Exploring More of Wick’s Past
by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
John Wick is getting his ass kicked in a massive room full of mirrors. As he stands up trying to get his bearings, he is attacked again and again by ninjas wearing all black. After putting up a worthy defense, one of the ninjas gets in a solid blow and Wick is thrown backwards through a glass case, completely smashing glass shards everywhere. After a moment, I hear director Chad Stahelski call cut.
Let me back up a second.
Last year, when John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was filming outside New York City, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters. While on set, I got to talk to a number of the people involved in the making of the movie and also watched an incredible-looking action set piece get filmed which featured Keanu Reeves doing his own stunts. Trust me, in take after take, Reeves was giving it everything he had and that included getting knocked down again and again. If you ever wondered if it really was Reeves doing his own stunts in the John Wick movies, I can confirm it is.
During a break in filming, I got to participate in a small group interview with Reeves. He talked about what they were able to do in the third installment that they couldn’t do before, how Parabellum features a horse action scene, how fans will learn more about John Wick’s past and the “High Table”, why he wanted to see John Wick in the desert wearing a suit, the challenges of learning the choreography on the day of filming, and more.
Check out what Keanu Reeves had to say below. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is in theaters May 17, 2019.
Question: This set looks spectacular. What we learned is that the movie raises the bar in all sorts of ways; from the action, to the set pieces, to even the soundstage. Can you tease us with what is coming in John Wick 3 that you haven’t been able to do in the first two?
KEANU REEVES: We got to build some more cool sets. (laughs). I’ll let Chad talk about the set because he has got a lot of his – it’s really his dream. He’s got a list of things that he wants to do and I think he put a couple of those in John Wick. So, it’s a kind of glass office, which I think is inverting the idea of the mirrors that was in the second one. There’s a lot of tech to this, in terms of the scale, the way it’s shaped. The anamorphic lenses – all of the lensing. Conceptually, it’s transparent, but there is ways to hide in it. There is really extraordinary lighting that’s happening. Another thing that Chad really loves is Shinobi. So, we’ve got Ninjas. Chad loves ninjas, so we’ve got some ninjas. They’ve been really doing some cool stuff with characters, assassins that are blending into backgrounds. Because it’s John Wick, there’s no cheating, so they’re really in a shot and you don’t see them until they come running up. Were you watching the monitors on the last sequence? That was one of the easier ones. Just someone running out of the darkness.
But there’s other stuff. At the end of – I always thought it would be fun for John Wick, because the film takes place just after the second one finishes, so he’s on the run, which I thought was cool. I thought it would be cool if John Wick escaped on a horse, so we got John Wick riding some horses, fighting with some horses. That was fun. I thought would be cool if John Wick was in a suit in a desert, somehow. So, we’re going to go some desert. We got some cool story there that is opening up the world. We’re really fans of the world. I love the character, so I was like, “How do we get John Wick on a dune?” We came up with an idea – we’re opening up the idea of the “High Table”, the world—the levels, architecture. If 1 and 2 were The Continental, and we kind of started to hear about the “High Table”, and now we’re going deeper into the “High Table”.
What else we got. We got ninjas, John Wick on a horse, and in the desert, lots of fighting. Technique wise – oh, we got some swords. What else. Lots of guns. Dan Laustsen, who was the cinematographer on the second one is doing the third one. There’s a lot of cool things that have been happening in lighting in the past few years that have been getting developed. So, there is a lot of being able to mobile light sources in any color temperature. So – and locations, so we’ve been filming in Times Square. We filmed in Grand Central Station. The palette is really big. We have a really intimate story, about John Wick trying to survive. Halle Berry is in it, there is a cool character there. What else we got. Any questions?
So you said Chad (Stahelski) has a list of things he wants to see. Do you have a list of things you want to John to do?
REEVES: Yeah for me, those were two of them. I wanted John Wick in desert, passing a dune. Saudi Arabia. Lawrence of Arabia, in a suit John Wick.
I imagine he doesn’t sweat, does he?
REEVES: (laughs) Yeah, look at me man. John Wick sweats, man. And I wanted John Wick on a horse. I started training a little sooner this time so my Judo is a little better. So, I have been doing – which is cool – we have a couple of Jiu-Jitsu stuff coming up, so it’s been fun to be back in the saddle with that. You know, I’ve spent more time, so I’m a little bit better than I was. Again, like I’ve said in the past, I’m like the bar. As I go, the action goes. So that’s been fun.
How many times have you been hit in the face?
REEVES: I’ve only been hit in the face a couple of times. I have only hit one person – well, two people once. (laughs). Everyone’s really good. Everyone’s really good. What else –
Are there ballerinas?
REEVES: Yeah, there’s ballerinas! Well, a little more – I wanted to bring in a bit more of John Wick’s past. Anjelica Huston is playing this cool character. We learn a little bit about John’s past.
A succession of assassins as well.
REEVES: I’ll let Chad speak about it but there – we’re trying to make it that there’s different tribes, different groups of people. Less nondescript assassins.
At this point in your life you have literally become John Wick. How do these skills help you in acting and in real life?
REEVES: It’s been really fun to be on a street and be in a store that people like, and sometimes love. That’s really nice. I love the character and I love the world. I don’t often times get to contribute to the story as much as I do with this project. Learning how to do that – learning how to collaborate with the writers, and with Chad, that’s been fun to explore. It’s great to have the voice to be able to do that.
To what extent do your new opponents scare you off because those two Indonesian guys-
REEVES: I know, Yayan and Cecep. I know them from The Raid series and they’re remarkable. I trained with them last week. They’re super cool guys and extraordinary martial artists. I think we start fight tomorrow or Monday. This is our Saturday. (laughs).
Chad mentioned that you have the world’s best people trying to figure out some of these action sequences, and he was mentioning how he was still trying to figure out how you were going to shoot certain things. Before filming began, was there a sequence or something that you were absolutely nervous about? Like “How the f are we going to do this?”
REEVES: Yeah, more than any of the other projects, this one has the least amount of choreography finished before I go to fight. When I did the fight with Common, that fight was choreographed. I don’t have that, so I kind of learn them – and if I do i get it the day before or the day of. The choreography I did today, I learned today. (laughs). So, we make shit up on the day.
Does this excite you? Or does it make you, like, freaked out?
REEVES: It’s both. You know, sometimes, I’m not very good, so I need a lot of practice. Because I did extra training, they know that they can – they have a tool box. So, Keanu knows these 21 throws, and he knows these things, and 50 whatever moves, whatever. So, that’s what we have to play with. Then I just show up. (laughs). Or, I’ll show up the weekend before. So, I’ve been training every weekend for the past month. So we just train on the weekend. Then, I learned some fights and invariably we’d come on the set and change things.
What are you most proud of about this franchise? There are so many action films but people responded and they loved these films. What do you think is unique about this film?
REEVES: Unique. I would say it’s the blend of elements that it has. I think the way the action is and the world that’s created. I think the cinema of the series is really strong – you know, the framing, the the camera movement. I think the set design is really great. So, I think the film is really easy to watch. It’s beautiful. There’s a character that we root for, hopefully. He’s fighting for his life. They’re not insulting. The films are fun, but they’re smart. There’s humor, and action. Comedy. It has a unique tone, I think. So, you can tell I’m a fan. So, I would say those are the elements.
You seem very excited to be playing John. Is there something about the character in particular that excites you and makes you want to keep coming back?
REEVES: Yes, he’s fighting for his life! He’s fighting for his life. He just wants his life back, which I think is good.