Keanu Reeves has turned John Wick into an iconic action hero over the last seven years, but it turns out the role was originally written for an actor more in the vein of Harrison Ford or Clint Eastwood. Franchise producer Basil Iwanyk confirms in the new book “They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action,” that the title character was a 75-year-old man in the original script.
“One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called ‘Scorn,’” says Iwanyk in the book (via Entertainment Weekly). “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, ‘Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.’”
“My other best friend in the world, this guy Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu,” continues Iwanyk. “And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘Keanu is one of the great action stars of the last 25 years — what happened to him? What’s he been doing?’ And he was directing his movie, ‘Man of Tai Chi,’ and doing ’47 Ronin.’ We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.’”
Reeves says in the book that he immediately knew “John Wick” would be “such a great collaboration,” adding, “We all agreed on the potential of the project. It has this character of John Wick, but then you also have the real world, and at the same time this kind of underworld. This den of thieves that have this honor and a code. It has this emotional connection with John Wick, who’s grieving, who’s lost the love of his life and has this mythical dark past. And I loved the quest that he goes on to reclaim his life. And the world he moves through to do it.”
According to screenwriter Kolstad, it was Reeves himself “who got his talons into [the script] and made it his own.” “The Matrix” actor loved the script so much that he overhauled the character so that he could play him.
“I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script,” Kolstad says in the book. “When I first went and met with him and walked into his house, and as he rounded the corner to say hello to me — it’s a nice house, it’s not ostentatious for a guy who’s worth, I dunno, billions — and I look in his office, I see he has 300 screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything that UTA, WME, William Morris sends out. He reads them all.”
Kolstad continued, “He read [the script] 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, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.’”
“They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog,” written by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, will be published on Tuesday. Reeves, meanwhile, will return as John Wick in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” opening March 23, 2023 from Lionsgate.