With John Wick—the third installment of which is out this May—Hollywood's most enigmatic leading man once again established himself as a bona fide action star. But who is he, really? Alex Pappademas sits down with the immortal Keanu Reeves in an attempt to separate the man from the myth.
March 26, 2019
One of the people you almost never get to talk with on a set visit is the director of photography. That’s because while the actors get to take a break between setups, the second the production gets the shot, the cinematographer is immediately moving on to the next location or set up and rarely has any down time.
But last summer, when I got to visit the set of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum with a few international reporters, we actually got a few minutes with Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen. If you’re not familiar with his resume, he’s shot a ton of movies including John Wick: Chapter 2, The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, and many more.
During our brief time with him, he talked about what digital cameras have been able to do with natural lighting, the look he’s trying to bring to the third installment, if he’s ever had to tell the director a shot was impossible, the challenge of trying to film Keanu Reeves in Times Square in the rain, how much he does previz before arriving on set, and a lot more.
In addition, when Laustsen had to go back to set, we got some time with John Wick 3 director Chad Stahelski. He talked about the massive motorcycle fight scene they were filming on the Verrazano Bridge at actual speed, how they solved all the impossible variables to pull it off, being inspired by the morcycle chase in The Villainess, and more.
‘John Wick 3’: Chad Stahelski on the Action Scene That’s a “F**k You” to Other Action Scenes
March 21, 2019
One of the many things I love about director Chad Stahelski is his unfiltered answers. Usually, when you sit down to talk with someone about their movie or show, they are very careful with what they’re willing to say, never wanting to be the person that rocks the boat.
But last summer, when I got to visit the set of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum when the sequel was filming outside New York City, one of the best things about the set visit was talking to Stahelski. Not only did he go into great detail about what he wanted to accomplish in the sequel, he was pretty honest about wanting to outdo what other filmmakers have done.When talking about the “horse sequence” which features Keanu Reeves riding through New York City beating up guys on a horse, Stahelski said:
“It’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my career. Same with Keanu. I mean, we’ve all done The Matrixs’, we’ve done 300, and a lot of the Marvel work. It’s all great and they all focus on one or two divisions of action. This is our ‘fuck you’ to everybody else. So, we’re just going to do a lot of everything and better than everyone. That’s a lot to say, right. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. We got tired of everybody getting slacky.”
I love this answer.
After two John Wick films, it would have been easy for Stahelski and Reeves to dial it back a bit and coast on the success of the previous films. But that’s not in their DNA. Both of them are perfectionists, willing to do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be.
In addition, during the wide-ranging interview, Stahelski talked about how the film opens moments after the second film ended, how the sequel has references to Die Hard, The Good the Bad the Ugly, and Akira Kurosawa, what Halle Berry did to train for being the dog handler on set, why it’s important to have big action set pieces throughout the movie, why they cast Boban Marjanovic for the opening action scene, how Reeves is always willing to push himself to the next level, and so much more.
Trust me, if you’re a fan of the John Wick films, you’re going to love reading what Chad Stahelski had to say below. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is in theaters May 17, 2019.
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“The Matrix literally transformed the industry,” says Chad Stahelski, who was Keanu Reeves’s stunt double in the film and went on to become one of the busiest stunt choreographers in the industry. Nowadays, he’s best known for directing the John Wick films, also starring Reeves. (Stahelski directed the first John Wick with fellow stunt veteran David Leitch, and has helmed the subsequent sequels by himself.) But he’d be the first to admit that those movies, not to mention most of the others he’s worked on, would never exist without The Matrix. “Back in the day,” he recalls, “fight scenes were secondary to car chases and horse chases and helicopter chases and motorboat chases.” And what fights there were focused on “single-gun battle stuff or Arnold Schwarzenegger pummeling you to death with his hands.”
But The Matrix showed that a fight sequence could be graceful and surprising, as well as tell a story. Even the nascent superhero-movie genre, which would soon become dominant, took a big page out of the Wachowskis’ playbook. Think of Spider-Man learning to use his powers, or Black Widow speedily dispatching a roomful of villains while still tied to a chair, or Wolverine slicing his way through armies of thugs. “Now,” Stahelski says, “action movies want their big sequences designed around the fights. Think of any action movie in the past decade or so that doesn’t have a bitchin’ fight scene. The Matrix said, ‘Look what you can do with your heroes.’” The director and stunt legend recently took a break from a busy schedule finishing John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum to talk with me about how The Matrix changed movies — and his life — forever.
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