Keanu Reeves always shines as John Wick but for the third film, there was a lot that he had to go through with his performance.
John Wick was not a film made with a sequel in mind – but John Wick: Chapter 2 definitely was. In fact, plans for a third installment were given the green light before the sequel had even hit cinemas. John Wick: Chapter 2 ending up taking the franchise to a whole other level with bigger stunts, better action, and more of the mythology behind the character. All of which made developing a third film a tough balancing act. While there remained a need to crank up the high-octane action, director Chad Stahelski and series’ screenwriter Derek Kolstad needed to be careful not to become too bogged down in the John Wick universe.
John Wick 3 Was The Biggest Physical Test Yet For Keanu Reeves
Reeves has been put through his paces on every John Wick film so far but he definitely ranks the third chapter as the most demanding yet. “The vision for this film was so ambitious that I went into serious training four months before,” he told the Indo-Asian News Service [via Business Standard].
“There are so many different kinds of action sequences—not only more styles of martial arts and more gunplay, but also motorcycles, horses and dogs, so the training was intense. But honestly, I love it. I love this character and I love the John Wick universe we’ve created.”
Reeves Learned How To Throw Knives For Real
The incredible fight scene down the hallway of knives required Reeves to undergo extensive training with real and rubber knives in order to perfect his technique. “We trained with rubber knives and I trained with real knives,” he told Uproxx. “We were trying to get the technique and how you would throw… I was also practicing techniques where you didn’t spin the knife.”
Even so, Stahelski was eager to “throw a little reality in there” by having many of the knives go wide of the mark. “We wanted to have a realistic snowball fight with knives,” the director told Observer.
It Was Keanu’s Idea To Have John Wick In The Desert
It was Reeves who hit upon the idea of sending John Wick to the desert, although it’s fair to say he was inspired by a Hollywood classic. “I wanted John Wick in desert, passing a dune,” he told Collider. “Saudi Arabia. Lawrence of Arabia, in a suit John Wick.”
“I thought would be cool if John Wick was in a suit in a desert, somehow… I love the character, so I was like, ‘How do we get John Wick on a dune?'” Stahelski loved the idea and, with writer Kolstad, worked out the how and why of getting there.
John Wick’s Martial Arts Skills Were Seriously Upgraded
John Wick’s hand-to-hand combat skills received a major upgrade. Reeves stepped up his preparations this time around with a particular focus on his Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. “I started training a little sooner this time so my Judo is a little better,” he explained to Collider. “It’s been fun to be back in the saddle… I’ve spent more time, so I’m a little bit better than I was.”
A little better is an understatement. Working with renowned trainer Rigan Machado, Reeves was able to execute a variety of throws including Ippon seoi nage, Kataguruma, and several different armlocks.
Reeves Was Blown Away By The Sahara Desert
After Reeves pitched the idea of John Wick walking through a desert, it was up to director Stahelski to scout locations. He eventually settled on the Sahara after falling in love with the location during a visit. But if the director thought the Sahara was special, it was nothing compared to Reeves.
“I had never been to the Sahara, and to go there, what a magical and amazing profound place,” he told Heavy. “For me to be in a John Wick suit playing John Wick while walking in those sand dunes was just a moment of my life.”
The Library Fight Was Inspired By Bruce Lee’s Game Of Death
Stahelski took inspiration from Bruce Lee and the New York Public Library to conjure up the scene where John Wick goes in search of a book containing emergency cash and weapons only to find his exit blocked by Ernest, a 7-foot-3 assassin played by NBA star Boban Marjanović
He liked the idea of Reeves going up against the “biggest stunt guy we can fin” in such an enclosed space. “Keanu won’t be able to get around him, and that’ll be funny to try to shoot—like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bruce Lee in Game of Death,” the director told Observer.
Keanu Had To Learn How To Get Beat Up Realistically
As well as learning martial arts moves and how to use firearms, Reeves had to develop another set of skills for the film – he had to learn how to get beat up. Or, more specifically, how to get beat up and make it look realistic to an audience.
“He’s not heroic all the time – he gets beat up,” Reeves explained to Heavy. “And that is another kind of skill, to be able to take the reactions – it is one thing to hit somebody but it is another thing to get hit, that is a different part of the dance.”
He Views The Film As A Battle For John Wick’s Soul
John Wick 3: Parabellum is ostensibly about a hitman doing battle with an army of assassins, but Reeves viewed it as “a battle between two sides of himself that I call John and John Wick.”
He told NBC: “John is the guy who just wants to be left alone, who seeks a quiet life in which to remember his wife. In order to do that he has to engage the side of himself that is John Wick, the side that knows how to fight to the death. John Wick is the only one who can help John survive.”
Mark Dacascos Was A Mentor To Keanu Reeves
Martial arts legend Mark Dacascos makes a memorable appearance as Zero, the most lethal of all The High Table’s assassins dispatched to deal with John Wick. A real-life karate and kung-fu champion, Reeves credits Dacascos with adding another layer of authenticity to the film while helping him reach new heights in terms of his fighting skills.
“Mark brought Zero to life with both a hard-boiled noir quality and a tongue-in-cheek humor,” Reeves told Girl. “It was an especially good experience for me to train with Mark because he’s such an expert that he pushed me that much more.”
John Wick Came Under Attack From Feral Cats
John Wick had more than just an army of assassins to contend with. He also had to deal with cats. Lots of cats. When Stahelski first scouted locations in Morocco it was winter and there were only a few around. That situation had changed by the summer.
“We show up to shoot and there were literally a thousand cats, okay? And the cats have balls of steel. They’re not afraid of anything.” He told Entertainment Weekly that wranglers had to round-up the cats in massive cages where they were kept and fed while Reeves and his co-stars filmed.
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