The original John Wick script described the character as a 75-year-old man, so Keanu Reeves was not one of the actors the John Wick filmmakers first thought of…
Thinking about anyone other than Keanu Reeves playing the iconic character John Wick (in the franchise of the same name and who will return for the fourth time in John Wick: Chapter 4) just feels wrong; no one could’ve played John Wick better than Reeves.
And yet, when the first John Wick movie was in the early stages of development, Reeves was not one of the actors the filmmakers were initially considering.
A new book, called They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action, has just been released and reveals that the John Wick character originally was a 75-year-old man who had retired from assassin work 25 years earlier.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the book features written accounts from various people involved with the John Wick franchise, and producer Basil Iwanyk said that after reading the John Wick script (which was originally titled Scorn) only two actors sprung to mind.
“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.’”.Basil Iwanyk, John Wick producer
However, when Reeves was alerted to John Wick by his agent, who asked Iwanyk to give Reeves the script, the Matrix actor became interested and soon became the obvious (and only) choice for the role.
“My other best friend in the world, this guy Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu. And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’… We give [Reeves] the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.’”Basil Iwanyk, John Wick producer
Reeves was instantly drawn to the project despite being much younger than 75 so he met with John Wick’s scriptwriter, Derek Kolstad. Kolstad recalls in the book that the first time he met Reeves, Reeves demanded the John Wick character be changed from a 75-year-old to a younger man, so he could play him.
“When I first went and met with [Reeves] 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… The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.’”Derek Kolstad, John Wick screenwriter
No disrespect to Eastwood or Ford but we should all thank our lucky stars that the script was changed and that Reeves was eventually cast as John Wick.
There’s no way it would’ve become the successful franchise it did without him; seriously, who else, other than Keanu Reeves, could say, “You stole my car, and you killed my dog!” in Russian with such dynamism and emotion? No one, that’s who.