Exclusive: ‘John Wick 2′ Story Details Revealed

     October 5, 2015

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Around this time last year, action fans were treated to John Wick — a slick, stylish revenge actioner bolstered by top-notch fight choreography, continuous break-neck set pieces, a hint of world-building, and the best use of Keanu Reeves‘ talents in a decade. Reeves played the titular retired hitman of mythic stature who goes on an all-out retribution rampage after a gang of entitled mobster brats kill his dog and steal his car. It is, full stop, one of the best action movies in recent memory, so I thank my lucky stars that we live in a world where John Wick 2 is just around the corner.

While speaking to Keanu Reeves for his upcoming horror flick Knock Knock, Steve took the opportunity to ask about the upcoming John Wick sequel and got some great information on how writer Drew Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski (who co-directed the first film) are approaching the story, their plans to top the first film’s excellent set pieces, and more.

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Image via Lionsgate

With regards to the story, Reeves revealed that there are essentially two characters at play — John, the guy, and John Wick, the legendary assassin — and for the sequel we can expect to see John Wick going to battle for John.


 

“I think we have a really good premise, and it’s an organic premise. It’s basically — to me there’s John Wick and then there’s John. You know, John is the married guy whose wife just died, and that five years of his life. Then there’s John Wick, who’s the mythical assassin. In this, John Wick’s past comes and infiltrates John’s life and John Wick, in a way, has to fight for John.”

According to Reeves, one of the major questions was trying to find a reason to keep the story going without rehashing the same emotional beats from the first film.

“‘Why tell the story? Why do we need to do this again? How do we do that without doing another dog?’ So we speak about John Wick, the next chapter, and what is that emotional hook? What is that? So I think we have a good idea of that.

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Image via Lionsgate

And if you were a big fan of the Hotel Continental and the idiosyncratic world-building component of the first film, expect to see that interest paid off. Kolstad and Stahelski have paid attention to what the fans want and they’re looking to “open up” that world in the new chapter.

“Chad and the writer, Derek Kolstad, they’ve really listened to what people have enjoyed about the work and how they speak about it. So there’s definitely that influence of the other world, the Continental world, the look, the feel, what it is about the movie, what made people like it; is definitely being paid attention to and the world opens up in this chapter.”


 

Reeves revealed plans for a tentative start date at the end of this month, and said that he’s been training for months to ensure that the set-pieces in John Wick 2 not only match the level of the first film, but mix it up and bring something new and different to the action. Speaking about their approach to the fight scenes, Reeves said,

“We’re gonna do the same kind of thing in the sense of — what are the guiding principles? So it’s longer takes, know where you are on the space, who’s doing what, action with consequence. And then going to other levels of what the gun-Fu was, which was Jujitsu and Judo mixed with weapons and different styles of weapon training. So we’ve been opening up, I’ve been learning some other tools and different styles of that, and trying to develop some more techniques in terms of Judo and Jujitsu and bring those elements into the work. And then we have some other things that might be a little different…But it’s all organic. It’s not like all of a sudden John Wick has superpowers, it’s got to be connected to the character.”

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Image via Lionsgate


 

In terms of possible future installments, Reeves still isn’t certain if that’s the direction the story will take. For him, it’s all about the character, and while he’s excited to play Wick a second time, he’s not sure if a long-running franchise is in the cards.

“I’m interested in what happens to the guy and in this world. So when we were speaking about it, obviously it did well enough for the investors to want to do another one, which is cool, and it’s great to have the opportunity to further the story. But we had to come up with a reason why, and we came up with a reason that was good enough, that didn’t suck, and we’re just trying to make it better and better. In terms of a franchise, I don’t know, until you do it and it’s done, you don’t know, because it’s not source material, this is original goodness.”

So there you have it. John Wick 2 is headed into production soon, possibly by the end of this month. They’ve got a good reason for another chapter, they’ve got plans to build the world of assassins even further, and they’re trying really hard to make sure it doesn’t suck. For those of you who want all the details, check out the full transcript below.

Collider: I need to ask you about the movie that I’m incredibly excited about, which is the sequel to John Wick, I’ve said again and again how much I loved that fucking movie

KEANU REEVES: Oh, great. Yeah.

john-wick-2-posterI am anxious and when the CEO of Lionsgate announced that it could be a franchise or a sequel I was very happy, because sometimes Hollywood makes shitty sequels.


REEVES: No, there’s a great pressure. Chad Stahelski, the director, spoke about how there’s one challenge of the first film, but then the second one it’s like the second record, it’s like the “What do you do now?” So yeah, there’s a big concern and we don’t want it to fucking suck. I think we have a really good premise, and it’s an organic premise. It’s basically — to me there’s John Wick and then there’s John. John is the married guy whose wife just died, and that five years of his life. Then there’s John Wick, who’s the mythical assassin. In this, John Wick’s past comes and infiltrates John’s life and John Wick, in a way, has to fight for John.

That’s interesting, because I was gonna say that one of the things that resonates with everyone who has seen the movie is: you don’t fuck with the dog. There’s that emotional connection where everyone is like, “Just kill them all”, based on that. So I guess what I’m saying is, that has a strong emotional resonance, so is there a pressure to top that emotional hit, if you will?

REEVES: I don’t know if it’s to top that emotional hit, but it’s certainly to have an emotional hit. It’s like, “Why tell the story? Why do we need to do this again? How do we do that without doing another dog?” So we speak about it as John Wick the next chapter, and what is that emotional hook? What is that? So I think we have a good idea of that. What’s the next dog? Why does this go on?

One of the things I loved, and everyone loved, was all the stuff at the Hotel Continental. It was like a world within the world and it was just really cool. Is the hotel and that inner world part of the sequel?

REEVES: Yeah. I mean, Chad and the writer, Derek Kolstad, they’ve really listened to what people have enjoyed about the work and how they speak about it. So there’s definitely that influence of the other world, the Continental world — the look, the feel, what is it about the movie, what made people like it — is definitely being payed attention to and the world opens up in this chapter.

john-wick-2-keanu-reeves

Image via Lionsgate


Do you know when you’re filming it?

REEVES: We’re scheduled to start at the end of October, maybe. Right now that’s kind of the target date but we’ll see.

But it’s pretty soon.

REEVES: Yeah. Hopefully pretty soon. Yeah.

Are you guys doing New York again?

REEVES: Yeah.

That’s very cool. There’s a lot of cool locations in the city that can be used.

REEVES: Yeah, yeah. We’ve just touched the surface.

One of the things that I really respected about the first one is the different and varied action set pieces. There was a lot of physicality and it didn’t feel like any action set piece was repeating itself, they all seemed different. Is there a challenge in your mind in topping that, and how have you maybe been working with 87Eleven, have you already started on that?

REEVES: Yeah. I started training a couple of months ago. We’re gonna do the same kind of thing in the sense of — what are the guiding principles? So it’s longer takes, know where you are on the space, who’s doing what, action with consequence. And then going to other levels of what the gun-Fu was, which was Jujitsu and Judo mixed with weapons and different styles of weapon training. So we’ve been opening up, I’ve been learning some other tools and different styles of that, and trying to develop some more techniques in terms of Judo and Jujitsu and bring those elements into the work. And then we have some other things that might be a little different.

keanu-reeves-john-wick-2

Image via Lionsgate

I like the tease. But I’m also impressed with the fact…

REEVES But it’s all organic. It’s not like all of a sudden John Wick has superpowers, it’s got to be connected to the character. For me it’s character, character, character and for Chad as well, and Derek.

Do you envision this for you as a new franchise? Because the first one was so – I mean critically, people loved it and it did very well, and if the second one performs, is this something that you’re really down with the character, did you think this could be a franchise?


REEVES: No, I still don’t know. I mean, I think for me I’m interested in what happens to the guy and in this world. So when we were speaking about it, obviously it did well enough for the investors to want to do another one, which is cool, and it’s great to have the opportunity to further the story. But we had to come up with a reason why, and we came up with a reason that was good enough, that didn’t suck, and we’re just trying to make it better and better. In terms of a franchise, I don’t know, until you do it and it’s done, you don’t know, because it’s not source material, this is original goodness.

It’s not an IP. It’s nice.

REEVES: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is cool because there’s almost nothing you can’t do except just don’t be shitty, and so we’re trying not to be. And if it succeeds hopefully, knock on wood, we get to make a great movie.

Look for our full interview with Reeves next week. For everything we know on John Wick 2, click here.

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