John Wick was almost a half-century older before Keanu Reeves signed on.
The “Matrix” actor led a script rewrite with screenwriter Derek Kolstad before the 2014 action franchise was spurred, helmed by former stuntman Chad Stahleski. For the original screenplay, then titled “Scorn,” the Wick character was supposed to be 75 years old, with the revenge story taking place 25 years after his retirement.
In an excerpt from the upcoming book “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 (via Entertainment Weekly), out July 19, “John Wick” producer Basil Iwanyk explained that the lead was imagined as an old-school type action hero returning to form.
“It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass,” Kolstad explained. “I thought, ‘OK, 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 for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”
Yet Reeves immediately connected with the character: Then directing “Man of Tai Chi” and starring in “47 Ronin,” Reeves was “clearly not 75” according to producer Iwanyk.
Reeves added, “Basil brought the script to me with the idea that I would be a part of such a great collaboration. We all agreed on the potential of the project. It has this character of John Wick, but then you also have the real world, and at the same time this kind of underworld. This den of thieves that have this honor and a code. It has this emotional connection with John Wick, who’s grieving, who’s lost the love of his life and has this mythical dark past. And I loved the quest that he goes on to reclaim his life. And the world he moves through to do it.”
Screenwriter Kolstad spent two months at Reeves’ house rewriting the script to tailor it to the “Point Break” star.
“The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘OK, Derek, I’m going to play him 35,'” Kolstad remembered. “And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”
“John Wick: Chapter 4” currently has a March 24, 2023 release date. Director Stahelski teased that the latest installment finds “new and interesting ways to have John Wick suffer” with Reeves performing most of his own stunts and fight choreography.
The fourth film is written by Michael Finch and Shay Hatten. In addition to Reeves, the film stars Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Shamier Anderson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Asia Kate Dillon, and Ian McShane.