Imagine a version of John Wick where the main character is too old for this shit. That’s what was originally on the page before Keanu Reeves “got his talons into it,” according to screenwriter Derek Kolstad. In the new book They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History Of John Wick, Gun Fu, And The New Age Of Action, by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman (as excerpted by Entertainment Weekly), the team behind the film explains how John Wick went from an old geezer to Reeves.
Producer Basil Iwanyk recalls enjoying Derek Kolstad’s script Scorn: “The lead was a seventy-five-year-old man, twenty-five 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. Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together.”
Iwanyk’s “best friend in the world” just so happened to represent Reeves. “And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’” He shares. “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.’”
Despite the steep age difference, Kolstad said Reeves, “a voracious script reader,” ended up making the part his own. “[He] read something on a Friday, in ninety 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.’” Obviously, that decision worked out quite well for all involved–though perhaps, if the franchise persists, we may yet someday see a 75-year-old John Wick.