EXCLUSIVE: Director Chad Stahelski Details The Insane Amount Of Prep That Goes Into A JOHN WICK Movie

EXCLUSIVE: Director Chad Stahelski Details The Insane Amount Of Prep That Goes Into A JOHN WICK Movie

<font color="red">EXCLUSIVE</font>: Director Chad Stahelski Details The Insane Amount Of Prep That Goes Into A JOHN WICK Movie

With the arrival of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum on 4K Ultra HD today, i was granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with director Chad Stahelski and learn more about his immense prep work.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum was undoubtedly the best action movie of the year - and arguably, one of the best action movies of all-time - and with the film making its debut on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD today, I was recently granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with director Chad Stahelski to talk about his latest John Wick blockbuster. 

Considering the absolute high-level of action seen and made famous in the John Wick films, Stahelski, who co-owns the stunt company 87eleven with friend and former John Wick co-director David Leitch, spoke to me about the immense level of preparation he, Keanu Reeves and his entire team go through to get ready to shoot a film like Parabellum.
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ROHAN: I don’t think audiences realize the insane amount of prep you, Keanu and the team do for these John Wick movies. You're filming some of these high stakes action sequences in a matter of days when it may take other units several weeks or months even.

How early does that process typically begin?

CHAD STAHELSKI: Yeah, I guess, after ten years of actually directing in second unit - when you're on a second unit, you're actually very responsible for your crew, your budgets and your time. You basically have to do twice the work for half the cost and half the time that the main unit gets.

So, you learn a lot of tricks and you learn what you really need and what you want to say with the stunts. It’s become kind of a norm on units where maybe the director or the filmmakers aren’t that experienced with overall blocking, whether it's action or dialogue, and they tend to over cover, overshoot, then it becomes the editor's job to pull it together.

I'm definitely from a different school of thought, having been trained and having experience with action and being exposed to people like The Wachowskis and James Mangold, and I’m a big fan of Spielberg’s and Fincher’s stuff where they're really trying to say something with the camera.

We sort of do the same things with action, try not to have excess. We're not above shooting with more than two cameras, but most of the time, I just do my A & B camera and because of the amount of prep we put in and what I'm trying to say, it's very easy for me, because of my experience in choreography and martial arts and action, that I can talk to my stunt teams and very - I hope - very clearly communicate what I'm trying to get out of each scene and what the gag or the thematic is and to a point where they know to choreograph very directly. We’re not trying to find any meaning or any kind of gag or any kind of rhythm or tone in editorial, we're trying to enhance it in editorial.

So, we kind of go in with a great idea and to answer your question, it's all different timing. Even now, as soon as we were wrapping John Wick 3, my head's already going into John Wick 4. “What can I do better? What can I do better? What can I do better? What are different thematics?” I mean when you have a full-time stunt team like I do, that's your gig, four times a week I'm in the gym choreographing with them just to stay in practice and just teach.

We have ideas for days. It's just a matter of what fits for the storyline. So, in answer to your question, the prep starts, well, it just never stops. Like you're always thinking, you're always doing, you’re always rehearsing. If my team is not on the set, they're in our facility training and experimenting and so, we're just constantly immersed by that.

If it's specifically on the prep, you know, I walk through an antique store in early prep on John Wick 3 and got this great idea about how to use all this stuff - antique knives and swords, and stuff like that - I scouted the New York Public Library, I’m very inspired by location and architecture and schematics and overall spatial awareness. So, when you're in a library, like, “wouldn't it be great if you had a really tall guy in a really small spot and then, in the big glass house, how do we hide ninja?” We start with simple things, it's not so much choreography, but it's what would make this fun. It's kind of like the same mentality Jackie Chan would use.

Doing a fight scene is one thing, doing a fight scene with an opponent of equal skill or equal size is another thing and then, really subverting what we think. I mean, how many knife fights have you seen in movies in just your lifetime? Hundreds, right? And, what happens in every one of them? The good guy picks up a knife and suddenly he's an expert and he throws it an insane distance of 20-something feet and it always sticks in the bullseye and the guy always drops dead. And we're like, and I'm sure you've, in your childhood, picked up mom's kitchen knife and thrown it against a tree and I bet you nine out of ten times, it’s bounced back and almost hit you in the face? And, no one’s looked very cool doing it. So, we're like, that happens to all of us, wouldn't it be fun if that was what was really going on with all these guys? We called it the snowball fight. You know, you and your little brother just throw a snowball till somebody is hit in the face and then you go, “oh, shit, I'm sorry.” So, it's kind of that mentality and we take a little real world and then, we mix it with the fantasy land or hyper-real Hollywood action and we kind of play with it. And all these ideas just happen through life, so we just kind of infuse them.

To train the cast, we train our cast very, very differently like we'll get Keanu five or six months out and we won't train him with specific moves like a lot of people - A lot of teams will get the cast three or four weeks out and by that time, the fight is already choreographed and the actors just learn the moves, they don’t actually become good. That's why so many fight scenes look the same, because they have to be edited, because the cast doesn't have the training to do at all. We go out of our way to make the cast part of the stunt team. We train them like our stunt guys, we train them in martial arts choreography - Keanu actually learns jiujitsu, he actually learns judo, he learns sambo, he learns street wrestling, he learns tactical gun work - and then from there we can choreograph anything we want on location because a lot of times, you may choreograph something and then find a location which you have to change the choreography or you may choreograph something and then find a better location - or guess what, if I trained you ten weeks ago, you’re just going to keep getting better.

So, we have to keep updating the choreography. We leave it like, “Look, we’re going to keep training you” and we're always adapting. We might even be choreographing on the day to make the choreography come alive more, so our process is very organic and there's no start or stop moment. It's just constantly, constantly evolving and trying to get better. I know it sounds confusing, but we just don't stop whereas other teams go, “Okay, we got that fight, check the box. Let's go to the next one. Check the box. Go to next one.” We don't stop, like even now, Keanu in his downtime, after Bill & Ted, will jump back in the gym and he may not be training hardcore, but he’ll be backing, getting his head around it, becoming part of the team again. Same with Halle, same with any other guest casting we may use in the next John Wick. They’ll already be jumping in before the fights or locations are even found. That's part of the John Wick ethos.

Look, you want to be in a John Wick movie and you want to try and have fun and be trained in an entirely different way, on an entirely different level than, really, just about any other cast members in Hollywood with any other stunt team. That's the little hook we try to use. We'll give you skills for life, not just memorizing moves.

ROHAN: Awesome, yeah, everyone looks so [frick]ing cool. Keanu’s always awesome and I loved Halle too. She looked like a complete pro in her big shootout with the gun and the dogs.

CHAD: Yeah, she trained with the real people and got really good. She's great.
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John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD - click any of the covers below to order a copy for yourself today!

 

 

In this third installment of the adrenaline-fueled action franchise, super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. After killing a member of the shadowy international assassin’s guild, the High Table, John Wick is excommunicado, but the world’s most ruthless hit men and women await his every turn.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum features:
Director: Chad Stahelski
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Halle Berry as Sofia
Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King
Mark Dacascos as Zero
Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator
Lance Reddick as Charon
Anjelica Huston as The Director
Ian McShane as Winston
Saïd Taghmaoui as The Elder
Jason Mantzoukas as Tick Tock Man
Robin Lord Taylor as The Administrator
Jerome Flynn as Berrada
Tobias Segal as Earl
Boban Marjanović as Ernest
Arjon Bashiri as an assassin
Yayan Ruhian as an assassin
Cecep Arif Rahman as an assassin
Tiger Hu Chen as an assassin
Vladimir Mihailov as an assassin
Vlado Mihailov as an assassin
Danish Bhatt as an assassin
Candace M. Smith as an assassin


John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum hits Digital HD on August 23
and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on September 10
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