20 facts you might not know about ‘John Wick’

Keanu Reeves has had an incredible career. He went from comedy goofball to a standalone action star. Then, he became the lead in a seismic sci-fi action movie,  The Matrix. Who would have thought playing Neo would tangentially lead to his next big turn in yet another action series? Although, this one is a bit more brutal than the last one. John Wick took the world by surprise, but we’ve had enough time to get used to its world (and its violence) to put together 20 facts about the first movie in the series.

1.Keanu was on board early

Keanu was on board early
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Derek Kolstad was able to sell his screenplay about a former contract killer seeking revenge, and once that happened, Keanu Reeves found the project. He was interested in starring in it and joined on but was also quite hands-on in the experience. Kolstad said that he and Reeves worked on the script together, helping to flesh out the character of John Wick.

2.Reeves is also responsible for the film’s name

Reeves is also responsible for the film’s name

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Kolstad’s screenplay was about a character named John Wick, but he had titled his movie “Scorn.” However, Keanu seemed focused on the character he was playing. Apparently, he would enthusiastically go around telling people he was working on a movie called “John Wick,” and he did it so much that they figured they might as well call the movie that instead of “Scorn.”

3.Keanu also brought the directors on board

Keanu also brought the directors on board

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Chad Stahelski and David Leitch would end up co-directing the movie, though only Stahelski is officially credited due to a Directors Guild ruling, and they can thank Reeves for that. Though they hadn’t worked as directors before, Reeves felt they could handle the action. After all, he had seen them work firsthand. Keanu first met the directing duo when they were stunt doubles on The Matrix.

4.Stahelski and Leitch contributed to the concept of the movie as well

Stahelski and Leitch contributed to the concept of the movie as well

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The duo of directors amped up the idea of John Wick as something of an urban legend. Other criminals and assassins speak of him in hushed tones and with nothing but respect and fear. The concept of Wick as a “Boogeyman” type figure came from the directors and was part of why Reeves was enthusiastic about having them on board.

5.The name was a shout out to a family member

The name was a shout out to a family member

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John Wick is now synonymous with the character, but it is not necessarily the most gripping name on paper. It was not developed out of whole cloth by Kolstad but was instead an homage to his grandfather of the same name. Fortunately, his grandfather was flattered and especially liked his name being used for a hitman character.

6.Reeves was not the inspiration for Wick

Reeves was not the inspiration for Wick

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While Reeves was in from the beginning, and now it is impossible to imagine anybody else playing him, he was not who Kolstad had in mind when writing the movie. As he was working on the screenplay for what was then “Scorn,” Kolstad was envisioning Paul Newman in the role. That’s not a bad choice for a hardened, retired hitman, either.

7.The impressive cast wowed some of the actors

The impressive cast wowed some of the actors

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There is a litany of notable names and faces in John Wick, and even actors in the film could not help but be starstruck. Alfie Allen, who plays the odious Iosef whose actions get Wick out of retirement, was reportedly stunned at the first cast-and-crew dinner when Willem Dafoe walked in the room.

8.Wrestling fans may recognize one of the actors

Wrestling fans may recognize one of the actors

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Francis, the bouncer at the nightclub who Wick chooses to spare, is a small role. However, it was filled by a big actor. Franchise is played by Kevin Nash, who you may remember as a pro wrestler. He was one of the original members of the nWo, and also wrestled as Diesel in the then-WWF.

9.One character name probably has mythological origins

One character name probably has mythological origins

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Lance Reddick plays the concierge of the Continental, the hotel for assassins, hitmen, and all sorts of ne’er-do-wells who need a safe place in the city. His character’s name is Charon, which could easily be a pseudonym for the man given his job. In Greek mythology, Charon gives you safe passage across the river Styx, provided you pay him in coins. In John Wick, Charon is paid in coins at the Continental.

10.You can visit the Continental (sort of)

You can visit the Continental (sort of)

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John Wick was shot in New York City, and it makes use of many New York locations. One is the Delmonico’s building, which is at 2 South William Street in Manhattan. Its exterior was used as the exterior for the Continental. The inside is quite a bit different, of course.

11.Some headwear was needed to cover up for an injury

Some headwear was needed to cover up for an injury

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The late Michael Nyqvist, who plays the main villain Viggo Tarasov, was apparently a game performer. Have you noticed in John Wick that sometimes Viggo is wearing a hat, while other times he is not? There’s a practical reason for that. While filming a physical scene, Nyqvist’s head was accidentally split open. It was nasty enough to need stitches, which meant a wig couldn’t be used. It was Nyqvist’s idea to wear a hat from that point on in the film, so any scene where he wears a hat is post-injury.

12.The movie is influenced by a couple of ‘60s classics

The movie is influenced by a couple of ‘60s classics

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Stahelski and Leitch had a couple of notable influences when directing the movie. Two they shouted out, in particular, were The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Point Blank. Now, if you’ve seen Point Blank, that influence should be clear, and there are even direct homages to the Lee Marvin revenge flick in the film. As for the Eastwood Western, the influence came more from having a lack of concern about the backstory and filling in all the gaps.

13.’John Wick’ was an unexpected hit

'John Wick' was an unexpected hit

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Reeves has been a big movie star at times, but in truth, after the Matrix movies ended, he had sort of settled into making smaller action flicks. As such, expectations for John Wick weren’t that big, especially since it was not based on a pre-existing property. Instead, it made roughly $43 million in the United States and approximately $88 million worldwide. It had a budget of between $20 and $30 million, which qualified as a big success.

14.The movie led to a couple of video games

The movie led to a couple of video games

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John Wick is, ultimately, about a trained killer going around New York shooting a bunch of people. That’s perfect fodder for a video game. Indeed, after the film’s success, there have been a couple of video games. The first one was a virtual reality game called John Wick Chronicles that came out in 2017, around the same time as the first sequel. Then came John Wick Hex, a prequel game in 2019.

15.Oh yeah, there’s been a couple sequels

Oh yeah, there’s been a couple sequels

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John Wick could have been a standalone film and worked, but there was money to be made, and Reeves seemed enthused about the franchise. Hence, we got John Wick: Chapter 2 in 2017 and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum in 2019. Both are at least co-written by Kolstad and directed by Stahelski. The fourth installment is due March 24, 2023, with John Wick 5 also in the works.

16.Leitch has moved on but found success

Leitch has moved on but found success

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While Leitch was technically considered a producer by the DGA on John Wick, he definitively was the co-director. However, for the sequels, Stahelski directed solo. However, Leitch is doing just fine. He made his solo directorial debut in 2017 with Atomic Blonde, a film starring Charlize Theron with a lot of John Wick vibes. Oh, he’s also directed Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw, two massive blockbusters.

17.One fight scene was truly impressive under the circumstances

One fight scene was truly impressive under the circumstances

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When it came time to shoot the fight sequence at the nightclub, Reeves was a bit under the weather. He had the flu and was running a pretty serious fever. On top of that, he had to learn the entire sequence that day. Despite how he was feeling, he memorized it and shot it smoothly. Reeves reportedly did 90 percent of his stunts on the film.

18.A similar story is a bit of an Easter egg

A similar story is a bit of an Easter egg

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In the film, a security guard that waves John Wick onto an airport runway is seen reading a book called “Shibumi.” That book, fittingly enough, is about an assassin who is coaxed back into action.

19.Wick’s tattoo may have military connections

Wick’s tattoo may have military connections

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John Wick has a notable, distinct tattoo on his back. It includes the Latin phrase “Fortis Fortuna Aduivat.” This translates roughly to “Fortune favors the strong.” It is a popular motto for military units all over the world. Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wick had some military experience in his past.

20.Reeves also “sacrificed” in a different way

Reeves also “sacrificed” in a different way

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Reeves did most of his stunts, even the dog-related ones. He had bacon grease on his face to prompt his dog to jump into bed to lick it. John Wick is a film filled with brutal violence and tragic revenge. Why not leave in the image of a dog licking Keanu Reeves’ face?

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