Keanu Reeves’ Iconic “John Wick” Role Almost Slipped Away As It’s Meant For A 75-Year-Old Star

Keanu Reeves’ Iconic “John Wick” Role Almost Slipped Away As It’s Meant For A 75-Year-Old Star
Keanu Reeves’ Iconic “John Wick” Role Almost Slipped Away As It’s Meant For A 75-Year-Old Star

It's interesting to think about what could have been if the actor didn't take on the legendary hitman role.

Acclaimed actor Keanu Reeves, renowned for his riveting portrayal in the adrenaline-charged “John Wick” series, has a fascinating backstory tied to his inclusion in the franchise. Intriguingly, the original script featured a 75-year-old protagonist, a vision that significantly transformed once Reeves entered the scene. This story chronicles the surprising evolution of the movie’s vision, made possible due to Reeves’ participation.

keanu reeves

Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman’s exhaustive work, “They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action, delves into this remarkable transition (as reported by Entertainment Weekly). The book explains how the script initially pictured an elderly man at the helm of the action.

The producer, Basil Iwanyk, shared his insight into the screenplay’s early stages, saying, “One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called “Scorn.” The lead was a 75-year-old man, 25 years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass.”

“I thought, OK, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford. Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script for “John Wick” was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional throughline and a great premise for an action movie.”

keanu reeves john wick

Derek Kolstad, the scriptwriter, noted that he accepted the lowest of five offers presented for “John Wick,” sharing, “My agent at the time, Charlie Ferraro, came to me with five offers for the script, and he didn’t tell me the first four. He said, ‘They’re huge, but you should really take the lowest-paying one because they want to make the movie now.”

“If you want to have a career as a writer, we should take this.’ You know you have a good agent when he’s looking at the long game. John Wick was sold in February, and the movie came out in November. That never happens.”

The said book also narrates the transition brought about by Reeves’ involvement. The actor, renowned for his enthusiasm for script reading, went beyond his role, influencing the entire script direction. Moreover, his keenness for the character’s journey, especially the encounters in the thieves’ den, made him an integral part of the narrative’s development.

Kolstad added, “We had talked internally about actors, but it was Keanu Reeves — a voracious script reader; anything he gets his hands on, he reads — who got his talons into it and made it his own. I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script. When I first went and met with him and walked into his house. I see he has 300 screenplays stacked on his desk because he reads them all.”

keanu reeves john wick 4

“And so think that he read something on a Friday, in 90 minutes, and was like, ‘I want to do it.’ In that moment, before I met and really clicked with him, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do it, too.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘OK, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.’”

“John Wick” not only reignited Reeves’ career but solidified his status as a top-tier action star. The film series has flourished into a franchise, with each sequel expanding its narrative canvas, escalating the dramatic tension, and intensifying the action sequences. With that, one of the future projects of the franchise, “John Wick 5,” is eagerly anticipated after the release of “John Wick 4” this year has been made. 

In addition, a spinoff television series titled “The Continental” is also on the horizon. Moreover, a spinoff movie starring Ana de Armas as a young, revenge-seeking female assassin is under development. As it turns out, the initial decision to accept the lowest offer has paid dividends for Kolstad, leading to a venture far more successful than he could have initially envisaged.

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