It’s pretty safe to say that one of the best (and definitely the most unexpected) action hit of 2014 was John Wick. Delivering gleeful full throttle fight sequences and a death toll to beat the band, all while proving that Keanu Reeves definitely still has his Matrix mojo, the would-be cult film has become a justified phenomenon in the time since its release. Two years later, John Wick: Chapter 2 has become a reality, a truth that proves that sometimes good things do happen to good movies. At this weekend’s New York Comic-Con, it was no secret that John Wick 2’s panel was one of the most anticipated and, it turns out, for good reason.
The panel opened with a behind-the-scenes sizzle reel, revealing a new Italian location, a fight sequence in an art gallery (and at a party, and by a slate of taxis, the list goes on) plus a plethora of firearms. Once the minimal look concluded, director Chad Stahelski, writer Derek Kolstad, producer Basil Iwanyk, Ian McShane, Common and the man of the hour – Reeves, arrived onstage. “I really like putting the suit back on,” he teased, to a chorus of enamored fans. Here’s what we learned from their talk:
- Considering John Wick began with John “temporarily” stepping out of retirement, the mere existence of a sequel might imply that Wick is back in the game for real this time. But commenting on the film’s new central conflict, Kolstad explained, “when we did the first one, we loved alluding to scenes we never see and referring to people and things just to pop it out a bit.” John Wick 2, which according to Stahelski begins just four days after the conclusion of the first film, will instead follow the immediate repercussions of John Wick’s return. “Throughout every script of the film, we referred to this item called the Marker,” Kolstad explained, “which is regulated by the Continental. And it’s kind of a blood oath, meaning that John Wick gave someone a request so that he could get out of the life. And because he’s resurfaced, they have resurfaced to actually capture him. But John Wick is changed.”
- When first asked to describe the tone of the second film, McShane jumped in – ”more of the same, but more and better,” a summation which garnered approval from Stahelski.
- When asked whether or not the film will take a chance to more fully establish the mythology of the original film, Stahelski was hesitant, but Reeves confirmed there will be a bit of time invested in world-building. “We learn a little bit more about the world of the Continental, Common plays a character who’s a part of that world. Ian’s role gets a little more international, we go to Rome and we’re introduced to another layer about a group called the High Table. So it starts to get out there, a little more.”
- Common, who is a notable addition to the cast, said that his immediate reaction upon seeing the first film was, “wow, this is some real cool shit.” (To which the crowd, and I, enthusiastically agreed.) “So when Chad and Basil said, ‘I want you for John Wick 2,’ I was like, ‘I’m in this, I’m ready.’” Common says he was warned he would have to get his fighting skills in tip-top shape, saying, “this is the highest level I’ve been in terms of fighting, action, ‘gun-fu,’ as we say, all these other new techniques and styles of fighting.” Confirming that he and John cross paths during the course of the film, Common said he “loved” being in scenes with Reeves, whose “intensity and drive” helped bring him up to a higher level. “We’re both competing, but he’s the champ, you know?” But are they enemies? “We have not quite a disagreement,” commented Reeves, “we have different points of view.”
- A thrill to most fans of the original, McShane will indeed be back for the second film, but don’t expect any extra action from the beloved actor. “He’s still running the hotel! Assassins never stop, you know? They come and they go. Winston provides a sort of grounding for the film.”
- But McShane and Common aren’t the only ones beefing up the cast of the sequel. “We tried to round out the cast with even more iconic assassins, so we’ve got Common and Ruby Rose, and of course, Laurence Fishburne,” Stahelski gushed. Fishburne, Stahelski and Reeves had previously worked together on the Matrix trilogy, and Fishburne’s character was written specifically for him. But Reeves really got the ball rolling after seeing Fishburne at a party. Reeves elaborated: “he was like, ‘hey man, I really like John Wick,’ and we were like, ‘oh yeah?’”
- And what about Wick’s new dog? Iwanyk joked, “whenever I told people there was going to be a John Wick 2, their first response was, ‘oh my god are you going to kill the dog again?’” And though the producer was concerned about getting too deeply into spoiler territory, he did offer up a little ominous tease: “over the course of the film, we kill about 80 Italians – and you guys will see what happens to the dog… It’s great.”
John Wick: Chapter 2 will hit theaters February 10, 2017. Click here to check out the first trailer.