Behind the Scenes As Actors Train Up for the Stunt-Laden Sequel
John Wick: Chapter 2 is head-shotting and body-slamming its way to U.S. theaters this weekend. Box-office forecasts say the film is likely to place at #3 for the weekend, losing out to the kid-friendly Lego Batman Movie and the powerhouse R-rated Fifty Shades franchise. But assuming the film was made, like its predecessor, on a thrifty budget, that should still be enough to point the way to John Wick: Chapter 3. After all, John Wick movies don’t require all-star casts or eye-watering VFX budgets — just Keanu Reeves himself doing the work of a small army with the help of a stunt team inspired by the choreographed madness of Hong Kong action movies. Drawing on the studio’s production notes and other published sources, here’s what we know about John Wick: Chapter 2 and its state-of-the art stuntwork.
Behind the scenes on John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick’s origins date to The Matrix.
In an interview with IndieWire, director Chad Stahelski remembered the day he met Keanu Reeves. “I make it to this big warehouse and I step inside,” he said. “The first thing I see is Keanu, drenched in sweat and wearing a neck brace, a team of five kung-fu guys coming at him …. They beat the shit out of me for the next hour and a half.” The relationship that blossomed in that warehouse — Stahelski was Reeves’ stunt double on The Matrix and was promoted to martial arts stunt coordinator on its two sequels — led to Reeves sending Stahelski the script for the first John Wick, giving Stahelski his big break as a director. (Source: IndieWire)
Being in John Wick means months of stunt training.
“We asked Common, ‘How do you feel about spending the next eight weeks of your life living with the action team?’ Stahelski said, describing the film’s pre-production rigors to the actor, who plays a fellow assassin based on avenging the death of his ward. “And he’s like, ‘I don’t care what it takes. I just want to do this movie with you guys.'” (Source: Studio production notes)
Stunt coordinator J.J. Perry stacked his crew with military vets.
“I’m a combat veteran who served five years in the army, so I’m grateful for their sacrifice and I also recognize that these guys have a fantastic work ethic,” Perry explained. (Source: Studio production notes)
Keanu Reeves knows kung fu. He also knows Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Reeves favored a Brazilian fighting style exemplified by the Machado Family, five brothers who have helped popularize Brazilian jiu-jitsu by opening schools in the U.S. Reeves trained under them for four months in Los Angeles. “We used their style of jiu-jitsu as the base for all of Keanu’s groundwork and transition work,” Perry said. (Source: Studio production notes | Wikipedia)
Keanu Reeves trains up at TTI’s rifle range
Intense “gun-fu” training makes John Wick’s skills believable.
Reeves trained for months in live-fire sessions with three-gun champion competitive shooter Taran Butler of Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI) at Butler’s shooting range. “What I am trying to do is bring a different element to Hollywood,” Butler told Range365. “I want to bring a little more speed into it, more of the three-gun competition style of shooting that we do.” The above video of Reeves training for John Wick: Chapter 2 at the TTI shooting range went viral last year. TTI also contributed customized Glock pistols and a TR1 rifle to the film. (Source: Range365 | Internet Movie Firearms Database)
Reeves does a lot of his own driving, but driver Jeremy Fry pulled off the really killer stunts.
Specifically, it was Fry who executed the opening chase sequence’s showpiece “flying drift,” which sends a car airborne while executing a sideways-sliding “drift” move. “Jeremy’s the best stunt driver in the business, and Keanu asked him to come back,” said second unit director and stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott. “I pushed Jeremy to his absolute limits. He pulls off this flying drift, which is one of the greatest maneuvers I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting in my career. It wasn’t easy but, man, the final product is amazing.” (Source: Studio production notes)
Editor Evan Schiff’s Avid timeline for John Wick: Chapter 2
Editor Evan Schiff took a ruthless approach to excising exposition.
Schiff didn’t start work on the film until 11 days in, meaning it took a few weeks to catch up to the production. He worked closely with Prescott to assemble the big action scenes, and concentrated on ruthlessly decapitating the film’s talking heads. “Since we shot more dialogue than we needed, we also spent a lot of time figuring out what the minimum amount of information was that we needed to convey, and then trimming the rest out,” he wrote in a blog entry for Avid. “This is always a bit of a balancing act, since you don’t want to confuse anyone by moving too quickly, but you also don’t want an exposition scene to outstay its welcome.” (Source: Avid Blogs)
The body count counts.
One of the sequel’s mandates for the stunt team at 87Eleven Action Design, owned by Stahelski and David Leitch, was to kill even more people. “The feeling has always been that we killed 84 people in John Wick and we need to kill more in Chapter 2,” said producer Basil Iwanyk. The official body count on the sequel? 141. Mission: accomplished. Update 06/13/2017: The Blu-ray Disc is out today and includes a supplement featuring every confirmed kill in the film edited into a single supercut, with a running tally in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Conclusion? John Wick is an overachiever; the body count is actually 116. (Source: Studio production notes)
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