9 Insider Stories From The ‘John Wick’ Franchise That Make Us Love It More

The Mirror Scene In 'John Wick: Chapter 2' Took Months To Plan

In 2014, John Wick opened in theaters and became the sleeper hit of the year. Now with three sequels to boot, the franchise has become one of the most successful action sagas ever.

Keanu Reeves’s preparation process for one of the most blood-soaked, action-filled, anti-hero roles in cinema history was extensive and fascinating, and he’s done it repeatedly. Read about how he prepped, how cats almost derailed a crucial sequence in the third film, and just how “car fu” works.

These behind-the-scenes stories from John Wick and its sequels will make you appreciate Keanu Reeves and the entire crew involved even more than you already did.

1. Keanu Showed Up On His Own Birthday To Watch Lance Reddick Work In ‘Chapter 4’

Keanu Showed Up On His Own Birthday To Watch Lance Reddick Work In 'Chapter 4'

Throughout the series, John Wick has a quiet ally in Charon, the concierge of everybody’s favorite assassin sanctuary/classy hotel. The late Lance Reddick, who passed away before the release of John Wick: Chapter 4 in 2023, meaing that sequel and Ballerina are among his final roles.

Thought Charon is a fixture in the first four films, schedules meant he and Reeves were not always on set together for long stretches.

Despite this, in an interview with Vulture before his death, Reddick recalled a surprising appearance from Keanu:

During John Wick: Chapter 4, my first day of filming happened to be Keanu’s birthday. But he wasn’t in the scene. He came to the set anyway at nine o’clock at night with his girlfriend who I had never met… And she told me that she asked Keanu what he wanted to do for his birthday and he said, “I want to go see Lance.” He’d never done this before, but he wrote me a note thanking me for what I brought to the character in these movies. And he wanted to give the note to me. I’ll never forget it. I’m going to cry now.

2. Keanu Gave The Stunt Actors T-Shirts With Their Death Counts On Them

Keanu Gave The Stunt Actors T-Shirts With Their Death Counts On Them

John Wick: Chapter 4 features an unforgettable fight sequence in which the titular hero must work his way past dozens of assailants as he approaches Paris’ Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Unfortunately for Wick (and Keanu Reeves), the path to the iconic church includes over 200 stairs that he must ascend… twice.

Within the choreography of the sequence, Keanu worked alongside 35 stunt performers, many of whom portrayed multiple foes that take a beating from John Wick. Clearly, Keanu was taking mental notes during the production. Once Chapter 4 had wrapped, Reeves presented members of his stunt crew with t-shirts indicating their “death count,” aka how many times they were killed on screen by John Wick. For some performers, that number was as high as 20.

3. NBA Player Boban Marjanović Was “Down” To Fight Reeves

NBA Player Boban Marjanović Was "Down" To Fight Reeves

The first bit of well-choreographed on-on-one violence in Chapter 3: Parabellum pits Wik against a hulking assassin in the New York Public Library. Always eager to keep fight scenes fresh, the filmmakers had a fun notion: make Wick’s opponent very, very big. As Stahelski explained:

But rather than use a regular-size stunt guy, we’re going to use the biggest stunt guy we can find. Keanu won’t be able to get around him, and that’ll be funny to try to shoot—like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bruce Lee in Game of Death. We’re going to do that, but we’re going to put it in a tight space. We’re going to make it difficult for our camera team.

Still finding the right person for the job was tough:

We couldn’t find an 8-foot-tall stunt guy and, to be brutally honest, I know zero about the NBA. But our producer, Basil Iwanyk, is a huge NBA fan, and he’s like “You need a Boban.” And I was like, “I don’t know what a Boban is.” He showed me what a Boban was, and he was great.

Marjanović, a Serbian ex-pat who has played for NBA teams including (but not limited to) the Clippers, 76ers, and Rockets, stands at 7-foot-3-inches tall, which presented unique challenges, according to Stahelski:

So, we flew Boban to New York and stuck him with the stunt team for two weeks to choreograph around what his body was capable of doing. Obviously, when you have an individual with those physical attributes, there’s no stunt double. We told him on the phone, “Look, you’re going to have to learn this. You don’t get to sit down for a whole night for 14 hours. You’re going to get to fight Keanu Reeves in this fight scene, but we need you to do it.” He just smiled and said, “I’m down with it.” Then we worked through his fight choreography skills, and at the end of the first week we were like, “This is the right guy.” Then we just pushed him for the next two weeks and shot it all in one night.

4. The Mirror Scene In ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Took Months To Plan

The Mirror Scene In 'John Wick: Chapter 2' Took Months To Plan

Everyone warned director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator J.J. Perry that the mirror scene would be way too hard to shoot, but the men didn’t listen. Stahelski wanted the John Wick sequel to be bigger and badder than the first, and he had the idea to pay homage to the famous mirror scene from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. To pull off the epic fight scene, it was going to take an incredible amount of time, patience, and of course planning.

“We’d have to go after hours and figure out angles. You’re looking into a reflection that is a reflection that is a reflection of the real people. So we were trying to find those kinds of targets for Chad way back in preproduction,” explained Perry.

It would take the crew months to coordinate just the preproduction stages of the mirror scene. “We started prepping all of our action sequences three months before anybody even unpacked a camera. And unlike a lot of other crews, my cameramen were in rehearsals,” said Stahelski. “My cinematographer went to stunt rehearsals. My production designer came to the stunt rehearsals.”

Of course the production team would have to work extensively with the actors as well. “Little bits [of the scene] that are great throws, that transition to another move… we train Keanu on those, even if we don’t know where they’re going to go,” said Perry. In the end, the single scene took five days to shoot, which was 10% of the 50-day shooting schedule.

5. Keanu Reeves Insisted On The Pencil Fight In ‘Chapter 2’

Keanu Reeves Insisted On The Pencil Fight In 'Chapter 2'

In the first John Wick movie, there’s a rumor that the assassin once killed three men at a bar using just a pencil. Reeves wanted to turn the rumor into a reality for the movie’s sequel. “In the second [film], I really fought for the pencil fight,” said Reeves. He said they discussed the scene in the first movie, and he was insistent that it be included in the second.

6. Neo And Morpheus Reunited In The ‘John Wick’ Franchise

Neo And Morpheus Reunited In The 'John Wick' Franchise

Who wouldn’t want to see The Matrix’Neo and Morpheus reunite? One of the most anticipated aspects of John Wick: Chapter 2 was the big-screen reunion between Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne.

The original film’s co-directors both served as stunt coordinators on The Matrix trilogy. For the movie’s sequel, Chad Stahelski took sole directorial custody of the scene. He discussed how important it was to cast Fishburne for John Wick: Chapter 2.

“… John Wick’s, I guess, pseudo-ally in the movie, [is] Laurence Fishburne. You may know that Keanu, myself and Laurence all worked together on the Matrix trilogy. So when Derrick had written the character that Laurence plays in the script, it was really written with Laurence in mind. We hadn’t worked together in a very long time. Keanu gave us a nice intro when they bumped into each other.”

7. Reeves Did Almost Most Of His Own Stunts, But He’s Humble About It

Reeves Did Almost Most Of His Own Stunts, But He's Humble About It

John Wick is one of the most violent, action-packed movies of the past decade. Reeves faces off against a number of professional fighters, and he didn’t shy away from performing most of his own stunts. But Reeves is a humble guy, and he contends that he actually didn’t do any stunts for the film. “I haven’t done any stunt work… I don’t do any stunts.” He added, “If I’m doing it, it’s not a stunt. Stunt men do stunts.”

When asked about what he does, Reeves explained his role as he sees it: “I get to do some physical acting. I get involved in some action, but they’re not stunts. I flip over guys, I get flipped, I run, I jump, I play.”

8. The Directors Had To Edit Out Almost 40 Minutes From The First Film

The Directors Had To Edit Out Almost 40 Minutes From The First Film

Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch explained in their director’s commentary that the original cut of John Wick ran 2 hours and 20 minutes. That means that they had to edit out almost 40 minutes of footage. One scene that ended up on the chopping block was the final fight scene between Wick and Viggo.

Typically in a revenge movie, the final epic fight scene is the ultimate battle between the hero and the main villain. However, the co-directors justified the edit on common sense — Wick spent the entire movie fighting and gunning down some massive opponents, so why should he have so much trouble taking care of Viggo when the audience just watched Wick “kill dozens of far fitter bad guys?”

9. Reeves Spent Three Months In “Boot Camp” To Prepare For The First Sequel

Reeves Spent Three Months In "Boot Camp" To Prepare For The First Sequel

To prepare himself for the first follow -up, Reeves had to go through three months of John Wick “boot camp.” The rigorous training included martial arts, fight choreography, stunt driving, and gun work.

Reeves was already adept in both judo and jiu-jitsu from his training for the original film. However, action sequels always go by the principle that bigger is better. The actor spent hours training in every area; his work included learning all aspects of gun training, including how to draw, reload, and shoot a weapon.

“Basically [you] just take the gun home, start walking around, practice spying rooms, practice your draws,” Reeves said of his training. “And with John Wick, [you] practice your reloads, transition from weapon to weapon, footwork, and then kind of come up with the John Wick style.”