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.
Question: How’re you holding up? You feeling good? Day 35?
CHAD STAHELSKI: Yeah. It’s easy.
Keanu was telling us you have a list of things you really want to do with the third one. Can you tell us about it?
STAHELSKI: Ever since I was a second unit director and action director I’ve been keeping a notebook of all the weird shit I want to do in a movie. So, when they asked us to do number 3 I was like as long as I get to use my notebook. (laughs). I don’t think anybody knew what that meant, and the studio went, “Sure!” Now they’re finding out.
So, this is in the notebook?
STAHELSKI: This is in it. I love architecture. Grew up with my dad building houses. I always wanted to a house made out of glass. So about two years ago, me and my production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, were sitting in the office and I found this great architectural digest thing about an office building. It was all glass. I was like, “We’re going to build that some day and we’re going to do a gun fight in it.” So, two years later I built it and I’m doing a gun fight in it.
Be careful what you wish for right?
STAHELSKI: They should be careful what they let me do.
STAHELSKI: No one quite got it. I was like, “I’m going to put a bunch of ninjas in a glass house,” and they were like, “Well how are you going to do that?” I was like, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve got Dan Laustsen.” The cinematographer who can make the best black in the world. He does all of Guillermo Del Toro’s stuff. He just did Shape of Water. So, we have him on this.
STAHELSKI: Yeah. Who else let’s you do – I’ve got horses, dogs, cats, a raven, a bunch of pigeons. Motorcycle chase, car chase. Halle Berry, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick. Shotguns, guns, and ninjas.
STAHELSKI: I’ll take on bombs. Let’s go. Bring it.
You mentioned recently that you had a few action set pieces, like the world’s best people working on these and you had not cracked how you were going to film it. Which sequence, or sequences, are you still trying to crack, and are you still trying to crack them?
STAHELSKI: This is one, so you guys get to see it now. We have Yayan and Cepcep, from The Raid series here with us. We brought them in. Plus our stunt team, plus some of the best fight guys in the states right now, I think martial art wise. We wanted to do something that was – to tell you more about John Wick 3, it is kind of a big amalgamation of all the things I love. There’s a reference to Die Hard, there’s a reference to The Good the Bad the Ugly, there’s a reference to Akira Kurosawa. There’s all these great little references we drop in because I love the genre stuff. So, what better form than to use this as a genre thing. Part of it is martial arts. So, we want to do something other than just shaky cam or try to upgrade martial arts. We want you to see cool martial art guys doing cool martial arts stuff. How do we work that into the story about modern day New York? So we came up with the ninja idea. We don’t actually call them ninjas in the movie. But the character Zero has this little group of guys that can only beat John up, but Zero has to kill John to collect the bounty. So, we wove that into the mythology and that’s when we kind of collected our best fight guys from all over the world.