Director Chad Stahelski Explains the Influences Behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ and the Franchise’s Future

VANAPHASE™ the Vanadium powerhouse!

Chad Stahelski

John Wick took action fans by surprise. It was an original idea from writer Derek Kolstad and helmed by first-time director Chad Stahelski, a stunt performer who had also worked as a second unit director on various action films. Keanu Reeves’ world class assassin coming out of retirement to kick all sorts of ass seemed like a revelation, as John Wick featured some of the best action sequences of recent memory. Now the gang is back together for John Wick: Chapter 2, which sees Stahelski returning to direct and proving himself to be among the best action filmmakers working today. I recently got to sit down and talk with Chad Stahelski about his cinematic influences, his working relationship with Reeves, and the possibility of a John Wick: Chapter 3.

“I grew up through the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I think the composition back then was very much like Sergio Leone. It was super-wide, extreme close ups. I’ve always liked that,” Stahelski says of the films that influenced his style of action filmmaking, a style that presents action in a visually clear sense that establishes spatial relationships between its dueling characters. “I came up with the Jackie Chan crowd in the ‘80s. So I like seeing things. Huge fan of Akira Kurosawa, and more than any of that I started watching silent films in, I think, my freshman year of college. I was hooked with Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin, which brought me into the Jackie Chan thing. To this day I still love The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly, Japanese animation. I love some of the artistry in that. Ghost in the Shell being one of the all-time best composition things I’ve ever seen.”

For Chad Stahelski, everything about John Wick and its success begins and ends with his star Keanu Reeves. “If you want great action, it starts with the guy. Without Jackie Chan you can’t do Jackie Chan action. You just can’t,” he said. “So we started with that process. Keanu’s doing it. So what’s he going to be? He’s going to be the best goddamn three-gun guy out there. He’s gonna be the best jujitsu, the best judo. ‘Alright, so I’m the best guy. How much time do we have?’ It doesn’t matter. Whatever money we need for prep, whatever money we need for training we’re going to take it out on the film. We’re gonna take the best stunt team, the best trainers, and Keanu’s gonna do it. Now we’re gonna get the best cameraman, because without a cameraman you’ve got nothing. Everybody rehearses stunts, nobody rehearses the camera moves. If you don’t have the cameraguy with a 90-pound camera rehearsing the moves with you, you’re not gonna get it.”

“A lot of modern day filmmaking, especially in action part, becomes – it’s not what I want you to see, it’s what I don’t want you not to see. One is about exposing. One is about hiding,” Stahelski elaborated. “I don’t want to you to see the cables. I don’t want you to see the stunt doubles. I don’t want you to see that my actor can’t kick. I don’t want you to see that he can’t reload a gun. I don’t want you to see where the lights are. And that is not choice, that’s taking away choice and give it that aesthetic of ‘Let’s just swish the camera around and call it energy.’ That’s not energy. 20 years ago that was called bad filmmaking. A cameraman would get fired for that shit.”

What’s Stahelski’s secret for making action visually clear? “We try to keep things in focus, which I think is a good idea. We try to keep things in frame, which I think is a good idea,” the director quipped. “We try to see that we spend all this time and money on an actor to make him believable. What we had said in the press conference wasn’t a fallacy – do you feel better believing in a super-assassin as the camera swishes around and you don’t see any of it, you just think, you think or you’re supposed to think he’s a badass? Or do you just want to see him being a fucking badass? You see, Keanu’s a good badass. I’m sold. He’s a badass. Done, let’s move on. That’s what we tried to do but it takes a lot of planning and a lot of prep and it takes the director telling his crew, and I don’t mean the stunt team, I mean the entire crew from wardrobe to hair, everybody’s gotta be dialed in. We’re doing big takes, we’re doing less cuts, we’re doing real action. I make my whole crew come to the rehearsals and they witness the rehearsals and everyone goes down the list: What’s your role? How are you gonna make it? How do you do this? And that’s how you pull it together. It’s really about just prep and thinking.”

As he mentioned earlier, the silent movies have greatly informed the directorial style of Chad Stahelski. “I guess the other thing is we call fragmentation. Dialogue scene, dialogue scene, dialogue scene – everybody cares about and that’s where we throw all the time and money. As soon as an action scene comes up, everybody goes, ‘Let’s just hurry up and get it done,’ or, ‘We don’t need that, we’ll give it to stunt doubles and second unit.’ The silent movie stars’ story continued through,” he explained. “There was no break between story and action. Action just happened between story and story happened between action. There was no break. It just continued right through and I think that’s the process we like. You should be learning something about the character by seeing the character. You should be invested in the character throughout action and dialogue or standing around or walking. It shouldn’t matter.”

John Wick: Chapter 2 marks another collaboration with his star Keanu Reeves, who Stahelski met while working with him on The Matrix as his stunt double. “I met Keanu, I think, in 1996,” he recalled.  “I went through a couple auditions, met Keanu Reeves through the auditions, got the job, fortunately. And I was already, I’d say fairly successful or fairly high-level martial arts stunt performer at the time. When I met Keanu I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ You should see his work ethic, like he is a freak. He would never leave the gym. He would practice all the time. I’m gonna have to work overtime to keep up with this guy. It was the first time I ever dealt with a cast member who was training harder than I was. Oh, ‘I’ve gotta step it up.’”

Amazingly, Keanu’s training regimen came shortly after the star had just undergone surgery. “He had just come from neck surgery. He had two vertebrae fused and he was working out eight hours a day,” Stahelski said of Reeves. “He was a psycho. He was nuts. He was awesome, just an incredible work ethic.”

Beyond being the eponymous character, there’d be no John Wick if not for Keanu Reeves’ involvement and passion for the project. “He was the one that brought John Wick to us, I don’t know if you knew that. I was looking for a project to direct, couldn’t find something which I felt could showcase what we have to offer,” Stahelski recalled. “I get a random phone call from Keanu Reeves on a Friday going, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ ‘Good, what’s going on?’ ‘I have this script. It’s a small low budget action movie. Give it a read.’ Read it and went ‘Woah, I think I’d like to direct this.’ He’s like, ‘Absolutely,’ and he really pushed it through once we got our pitch. So he was the main reason that I got to direct it.”

Finally, the question that’s on everyone’s mind – will there be a John Wick: Chapter 3? Chapter 2 leaves it wide open for a sequel and though it hasn’t been given the greenlight yet, Stahelski certainly seems to have a grasp on where a third installment will take us. “Number one was an intro,” he said. “Number two was about taking things away, introducing the audience to John and John Wick and then taking everything that he had, or we spent time showing you, away. So the third one is about the entire underworld looking for John Wick and what he does to resolve that and how he manages to work his way back in and who is on his side and who is not.”

John Wick: Chapter 2 opens on Friday and should more than tide over action fans until, hopefully, we get a third chapter in what has become the premiere action franchise.

YogaOutlet.com

No Responses

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mystical Man
Cinepocalypse 2018 Review: ‘The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mystical Man’

We’ve all heard the stories in one form or another. Bill...

Invincible
Amazon Studios Greenlights Invincible from The Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman

Amazon Studios greenlights Invincible, from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman,...

The Catcher Was a Spy
‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ Turns an Amazing True Story Into a Mediocre Movie

Being a baseball fan means that you’re keenly aware of the...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
LGBTQ Video Game Archives
Temple Professor Helps Launch First Exhibit of LGBTQ Video Game Archives

Temple University’s Dr. Adrienne Shaw is serving as a curator in her role...

Talking Tom Jetski2
Take a Virtual Beach Break with Talking Tom Jetski 2

Outfit7 celebrates 8 billion downloads of its mobile games with the...

PowerA Xbox One
Up Your Game with New Enhanced PowerA Xbox One Controllers

Up your game and get ready for the upcoming Xbox Exclusive...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Batman / The Maxx: Arkham Dreams
Sam Kieth Makes Long-Awaited Return to The Outback in Batman / The Maxx: Arkham Dreams

SAN DIEGO, CA and BURBANK, CA (June 21, 2018) – Batman...

Wrestling Writer Legends Bill Apter & Gary Morgenstein Announce, ‘The Last Wrestler’

To names that are synonymous with professional wrestling journalism and well...

thousand year beach
The Thousand Year Beach – Viz Media Debuts Acclaimed Sci-Fi Novel

“The Thousand Year Beach presents an idyllic virtual world, still running...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Solo Lightweight Backpacks
Solo Lightweight Backpacks for the Late Summer Heat

Beat the heat with the new line of Solo lightweight backpacks: Peak,...

Out Of Space on Your Xbox One? Fantom Drives Has Your Back

Fantom Drives will ensure you have enough space on your Xbox...

New Toast Covers
A Toast to New Toast Covers, Now Covering More Than Tech

Raise your glasses for a toast to New Toast Covers for the...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Jeanie Buss & MGM TV Tags AXS TV to Broadcast WOW-Women of Wrestling Events

Jeanie Buss and MGM Television Tags AXS TV to Broadcast WOW-Women...

Kevin Belington Faces Martin Nguyen for the ONE FC Interim Bantamweight Title

From ONE FC – 07 June 2018 – Manila, Philippines: The...

Showtime to Air ‘Bipolar Rock ‘N’ Roller’ Mauro Ranallo Doc on May 25th

From Bellator MMA and Showtime – New York – April 30,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Cultural Junkdrawer – Season’s end: The Flash season 4

CULTURAL JUNKDRAWER   SEASON’S END     THE FLASH Season 4...

Adult Continuity Issue #13 – Avengers XXX – A porn parody

I review AvengersXXX and make masturbation jokes. Be smart with your Fapdollar(tm);...

Comics on the can – Black Panther (Priest run) Issue #46

Comics on the can muses about Black Panther during Priest's legendary...

Event News Event Reviews
Mr. Mercedes Immersive Experience
AT&T Audience Network Bringing Mr. Mercedes Immersive Experience to SDCC

AT&T AUDIENCE Network to Bring ‘Mr. Mercedes Immersive Experience’ and Show...

Shout! Factory Anime Expo 2018
Shout! Factory Anime Expo 2018 Lineup Has Big Brands and Big Names

Shout! Factory Anime Expo 2018 lineup includes interactive fan activities, exciting...

Flavors of Youth
Netflix Premiering New Original Anime Flavors of Youth at AX2018

Netflix will host the world premiere screening of their new anime...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming. Related

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack
Blake Neely Behind-the-Scenes Recording of Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack

Check out this exclusive Behind-The-Scenes video with Blake Neely as he...

Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

%d bloggers like this: