Interview with “John Wick: Chapter 2” Director Chad Stahelski Part 1

“John Wick Chapter 2” hits theaters this Friday Feb. 10. Director Chad Stahelski has been a stuntman and stunt coordinator for over 20 years. Stahelski’s background is stamped all over the “John Wick” films and brings a human, realistic approach that many action films lack today. So, how do you avoid the dreaded sequel curse? We asked Stahelski and stunt coordinator J.J. Perry.

Simone Spinazze, Keanu Reeves, and Director Chad Stahelski on the set. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Simone Spinazze, Keanu Reeves, and Director Chad Stahelski on the set. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Interview questions by Catherine Gutierrez and various publications

On finding the cast:

Chad: “John Wick” has a mythology, a dialogue, and it’s a little left of center. It’s not really plot-motivated, but more TV-based, like “Taboo” or “Ray Donovan.” You just want to follow the guy and that’s how we modeled “John Wick 2.” We cast people who were willing to embrace those characters. That’s how we got Riccardo Scamarcio, who plays Santino D’Antonio, because he goes with everything. Ian McShane couldn’t be more embracive of a character than he is of Winston. From the very first page of the first film, he just got it. I challenge you all to take dialogue from the film and say it to yourself and not feel a little silly. But when you have Laurence Fishburne deliver it, you’re like that sounds really good.

What was it like on set when Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne reunited on screen again?

John Wick (Keanu Reeves, left) and The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, right). Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

John Wick (Keanu Reeves, left) and The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, right). Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Chad: The Bowery King was written with Laurence Fishburne in mind. I worked with him for 10 years on “The Matrix” trilogy and was very influential on how I see acting. Cut to a couple years later, I’m in New York prepping “John Wick 2” and Keanu walks into my office and says, “Hey I talked to Fish the other night and says he loved the first movie and why isn’t he in the second one?” I was like yeah okay. And Keanu was like no really and so I asked him if he wanted to be in the movie and he said yes. It was that simple and then the next thing you know he’s in the movie. Months later we’re on the rooftop in Brooklyn and he’s giving his lines and we tape the shot to a certain point and Laurence gets done. And then the set goes quiet. And Laurence looks over and says, “Are you going to yell cut?”

I was geeking out directing Neo and Morpheus and so that was my Hollywood moment where I was a little embarrassed and then yelled “cut.” To answer the question, it was pretty fucking cool to be a huge fan and be part of going from stuntman to stunt double to then directing two iconic characters.

Catherine: I want to ask about how you went bigger and badder in the sequel without falling into the pitfalls that most sequels fall into in doing the same thing over again?

Keanu Reeves stars as ‘John Wick.' Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Keanu Reeves stars as ‘John Wick.’ Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Chad: Bigger and better is always good if you use it in the right direction.You’ll never hear us bitch about more time and more money as long as you know how to spend the money and spend the time. We’ve all seen $200-million movies that have missed their mark and you’ve seen a $10-million movie, like M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split.” We’ve all worked with Night. He just nailed it. The movie hit some little core for $10 million and beat the pants off some of the several hundred million dollars movies and that makes us have hope when you have a little movie like “John Wick.”

We have a very good background in film, we were trained by some very good directors. The challenge becomes that we open our own doors and you have a movie where you created something original and now you have to do the sequel. And anyone in Hollywood calls it the curse of the sequel.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves, left) and Julius (Franco Nero, right). Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

John Wick (Keanu Reeves, left) and Julius (Franco Nero, right). Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

What does the audience want? You want “John Wick” again, but the problem is you already saw it. You know what was behind door No. 1 so there’s no surprise behind door No. 2. Do you just go fuck it then we’ll go deeper and that’s kind of what we came into, more of the television mentality. Let’s explore character, let’s explore world. Rather than talk about how bigger and badder let’s just do it. So the whole first part of the movie is not talking. The music is based on “Jaws” and that’s kind of what we want you to get to get introduced to the world.

Then we get in and we want to show you how deep the world goes goes. You can always answer a question with an answer which is satisfying or we can make you ask more questions. We’re going to answer your questions, where did John Wick come from, why the gold coins, we’re going to answer with because it’s just what we do, it’s a bigger world. Well what bigger world? Well that’s number 3. So we just keep trying pounding on and deeper and to make you ask us more questions so we have opportunity to answer them in the next one. Seems a little whacky, but that’s how most myths work.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” hits theaters Feb. 10. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Chad Stahelski and J.J. Perry. 

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