Beginning in 2014, the John Wick franchise has quickly evolved into a worldwide phenomenon. Following a retired assassin's desire for revenge, the first film grossed over $88 million while the second reached an overwhelming $171 million. Intended to be a story about "the worst man in existence [finding] salvation," the first film sets out to explore the vulnerable, emotional side of a violent killer as he seeks revenge. Centering around themes of loyalty and betrayal, the second film has John Wick playing a dangerous game when he is forced to return to a life he had wished to keep dead and buried. Inspired by classic action thrillers, much of the adoration for the films is due to the attention to detail regarding the visual effects and choreography.
Seeking to finish the last chapter of Wick's story, a third and final installment of the John Wick films was announced in January 2018. After breaking a cardinal rule, Wick finds himself the target of his fellow assassins and is forced to rely on himself and the few remaining allies he has to survive. The final film teases a return of familiar faces and the introduction of new foes as well as new locations for the famed killer to seek refuge. In an attempt to satisfy the growing interest in exploring more of the assassin's complex universe, various spin-off series have also been announced. Seeking to gain entrance into this criminal underworld, CBR has compiled a list of secrets and rumors regarding the John Wick films.
25 FACT: BETTER WITH AGE
During the first film's initial stages, John Wick was supposed to be much older. Given his legendary mythic status as a "Boogey-Man" figure, Wick was written as "a man in his mid-sixties."
For believability purposes, Basil Iwanyk, head of Thunder Road Pictures, stated he'd prefer "someone who is not literally older, but who has a seasoned history in the film world." Though close in age, Keanu Reeves' impressive acting career proved he was up to the challenge of portraying the hardened assassin.
24 FACT: ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN
Despite being the reason for Wick's return to his vigilante lifestyle, the directors were given notes by the studio department heads not to kill off Daisy. The assassin receives the beloved beagle as a gift from his late wife. When he's attacked by Iosef and his men, they savagely beat Daisy and leave her beside Wick to find when he wakes up.
Trainer Kim Krafsky remarks filming the death scene was emotional, especially for Omer Barnea who played the killer: "He felt horrible. Every time the director yelled 'cut", he just picked up the dog and cuddled him."
23 FACT: ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT
Casting the role of Viggo's arrogant son Iosef came easy for the directors, who chose Game of Thrones alum Alfie Allen. Wanting the audience to sympathize with Wick over losing Daisy and his determined need for revenge, they purposely sought an actor who "looked like a complete [jerk]."
As Theon Greyjoy, Allen was able to draw from his character's narcissistic and ignorant personality and amplify it during his performance as Iosef. In complete contrast to both these characters, the directors found Allen to be genuinely charming and nice.
22 FACT: ONLY A FLESH WOUND
Michael Nyqvist, who plays Viggo Tarasov, suffered a horrible injury on set when his head was sliced open during a fighting scene. The event resulted in a severed ear and required 80 stitches. Due to the severity of his injury, numerous scenes during the end of the film had to be re-shot to hide the actor's noticeable scar.
As Viggo, Nyqvist plays the leader of one of New York's most notorious crime families. Upon completing an "impossible task," he released John Wick from his employment to care for his ailing wife.
21 FACT: MISCHIEF MAKER
Dean Winters plays Viggo's closest associate Avi, who underestimates John Wick's killing capabilities. After placing a sizeable bounty on Wick's head, Avi is contacted by Miss Perkins, who seeks to put an end to the feared assassin's long reign of terror and claim the fortune for herself.
Some may recognize Winters as the Allstate Insurance spokesperson Mayhem. Portraying everything from "an emotionally-compromised teenage girl" to "a four year-old ring bearer with a bad habit of swallowing stuff," Winters has made a hilarious career out of demonstrating all of the awful things that can happen to those without insurance.
20 FACT: RESPECTING THE MASTERS
During hand-to-hand fighting scenes in the film, John Wick shows himself as a practitioner of traditional Japanese jujutsu. His reliance on head and arm throws demonstrates his training as a Judoka; someone who practices Judo which emphasizes a competitive takedown of an enemy using hand and feet strikes.
In contrast, Wick's rival Miss Perkins uses Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which emphasizes the use of a person's smaller frame against a larger person; relying on chokeholds and joint locks to take their opponent down. One of these techniques can be seen when Perkins uses her jacket to put Wick in a wing choke hold.
19 FACT: LOCKED AND LOADED
Along with demonstrating impressive fighting techniques, John Wick is also an expert marksman. During various confrontations, Wick changes between shooting styles. In restricting, confined situations, he uses a Center Axis Relock stance which emphasizes a "close-to-body firearm hold." By holding the gun closer to their face, the stance allows the shooter to have better vision when targeting their subject.
When it comes to shooting with longer ranges, Wick uses a Weaver or Isosceles stance. Positioning his feet "in a boxer stance" and holding the gun with both hands allows Wick to have "faster, follow-up shots" to take down his opponent.
18 FACT: FANCY FOOTWORK
One of the most intense fighting sequences in the first film is the Red Circle nightclub scene when John Wick attacks Iosef and his men. Despite the complexity of the choreography, Keanu Reeves was able to learn and memorize it all within the first day of shooting.
Not only that, but Reeves performed the scene while suffering from the flu with a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Reeves, he performed roughly 90% of his stunts in the film.
17 FACT: A LITTLE MORE ACTION PLEASE
The directors' commentary for the first film reveals the original cut was over two hours long, which led to them cutting over 39 minutes of footage. One scene that had to be edited was the ending fight between John and Viggo due to their belief that "Viggo shouldn't really pose a big physical threat to Wick."
David Leitch also admitted "there's a ton of great shots... that's just Keanu Reeves walking in cool environments" that had to be left on the cutting-room floor.
16 FACT: GUN-FU FIGHTING
In order to be better prepared for the action-packed sequel, Reeves had to undergo intense weapons and fighting training for three months. The training involved practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, driving lessons, and "Gun-Fu." Training under champion competitive shooter Taran Butler, Reeves was able to "expand martial arts beyond hand-to-hand combat to encompass gun-play."
In this film, Reeves performed roughly 95-98% of his own stunts. The only ones he didn't perform were when his character gets hit by a car and his fighting scene with Cassian in which he falls down the stairs.
15 FACT: CAR-FU FIGHTING
One of the most unique aspects of John Wick: Chapter Two is the use of "car-fu." Using cars as weapons, the fight sequence in the taxi warehouse "took three months to choreograph."
Stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott praised Reeves as "one of the best actor-drivers in the business," though during one of the scenes in which he has to drive backwards, Reeves admitted "I hit the car so hard, I ripped the steering wheel." To better illustrate the "vehicular mayhem," the crew used realistic quality crash-test dummies to get an understanding of how certain joints would react to such intense injury.
14 FACT: A MOMENT TO REFLECT
Inspired by the mirror scene in Enter The Dragon, director Chad Stahelski sought to re-create it in Chapter Two. Despite comments that such a complex scene would take too much time and money to create, Stahelski was adamant on showing Wick's reflection on his two dueling personas: "the grieving husband" versus "the assassin."
Using three dozen moveable mirrors, the crew spent hours determining the correct angles and staging visual gags throughout the scene. They took three months to plan choreography that would hide the cameras' reflections, but also highlight the skilled gunfights that would take place in such a maze-like area.
13 FACT: SHARPENING HIS SKILLS
Borrowing from Joker's playbook in The Dark Knight, Wick uses a pencil to kill two assassins wanting to collect the bounty on his head. The act was hinted at in the previous film where Viggo tries to instill fear in his son after learning he attacked John Wick: "I once saw him kill three men in a bar... with a pencil, with a [expletive] pencil."
Reeves revealed he had to fight for the scene to be included in the film: "I wanted to have a pencil fight... I kept saying 'Where's the pencil fight?'"
12 FACT: DO YOU BELIEVE IN FATE
In John Wick: Chapter Two, Reeve is reunited with his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne who plays Bowery King. As leader of The Soup Kitchen, an underground intelligence organization using operatives disguised as New York's homeless population, King is able to spy on everyone.
In The Matrix franchise, Fishburne played Reeves' mentor Morpheus who strongly believes Neo is "The One" who will end the Machine War. While the actors enjoyed their reunion, they also praised the lasting legacy their first film together still has: "It's a huge blessing to know you've done something that has affected people the way The Matrix has."
11 RYMOR: AN AUDIENCE WITH THE DIVINE
In a deleted scene, John Wick pays a visit to the Vatican. After a brief encounter with the front desk clerk, Wick is given permission to speak to a high-ranking member of the Catholic faith, who greets him with the same words tattooed across his back: "Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat" meaning "Fortune Favors The Bold."
A reason for both the inclusion and removal of the scene has yet to be known, but one theory on Reddit suggests Wick might be a literal "Hitman of God" and goes on to hint at a possible connection between the holy Catholic Church and the seedy underworld in which the assassins operate.
10 RUMOR: BACK FOR MORE
Formerly referred to as "Alpha Cop," the third installment of the John Wick trilogy is now known as Parabellum. While weapons experts know the new title references a German automatic firearm, it also issues a warning to "prepare for war." The title is fitting, seeing as how we last we saw John Wick excommunicated and on-the-run for breaking the law of the Continental to never kill on their property.
As for the strange work-in-progress title, some believe "Alpha Cop" may have been in reference to NYPD Officer Jimmy, who visited John on two occasions, curious about whether the retired assassin was "working again."
9 RUMOR: ON THE RUN
Picking up where the last film ended, the final installment in the trilogy will see John Wick on-the-run after being made a worldwide target for his fellow assassins. Set to be released May 17, 2019, the film's synopsis reveals that after being completely cut off, Wick will be forced to stay alive by any means necessary.
The directors purposely wanted to drive the character toward the realization "he's starting to become a little anti-establishment." No longer confined to "the rules and world that he lived by," Wick is free to leave as much devastation in his wake as he pleases.
8 RUMOR: THE END OF AN ERA
Seeking "a nice completion to Mr. Wick's journey," the third installment promises to wrap up the loose ends left over by the previous films. The film is teased to delve into Wick's personal background and how he earned the mythic "Baba Yaga" title. It will also provide more history behind the secretive council known as The High Table.
Though fans of the film franchise would like to see it expand further, director Stahelski sees Wick's tale coming to an end with the trilogy. To dull the anguish over seeing their beloved assassin's story ending, various spin-offs are in the works offering more insight into John Wick's world.
7 RUMOR: MORE RESERVATIONS EXPECTED
Referred to as John Wick: Parabellum, the last film in the trilogy promises to introduce new faces. One includes Halle Berry, who will be playing a character named Sophia. Judging by the photo above, it appears she may be a among the guests of the Continental.
Slated to make appearances are Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillion, and Jason Mantzoukas. The later all play various assassins while Huston has been teased to portray the Director of the mysterious High Table.
6 RUMOR: BACK FROM THE DEAD
Along with a new cast, a few returning faces have been teased to make an appearance. Ruby Rose and Common are rumored to reappear as Ares and Cassian. Last we saw them, both had been left for dead after being stabbed by John Wick. Leaked footage from the set suggests confirmation of these rumors, but IMDB has yet to list them as part of the cast for the third installment.
Laurence Fishburne is also rumored to return as Bowery King, a former frenemy of Wick turned possible ally. Confirmed to return are Ian McShane as Continental Hotel owner Winston and faithful concierge Charon.
5 RUMOR: SEEKING A FRIEND
With both familiar and new faces joining the cast of John Wick 3, one person Reeves has expressed interest in having among the cast is Tilda Swinton. Having previously worked together in Constantine and Thumbsucker, the actor revealed he'd love the opportunity to join forces again, saying, "She's a remarkable person and actress, so I'm all aboard with that!"
Swinton expressed her desire for a reunion during promotion for Snowpiercer. Though a match made in Heaven, no word has been made regarding the actress' possible involvement in the film.
4 RUMOR: A NEW VILLAIN
Remaining unconfirmed, a persistent rumor suggests Hiroyuki Sanada will be playing the villain in John Wick 3. Speculation has it that he will be the leader of the Japanese crime syndicate known as The Yakuza. Despite their violent nature, this mafia-style organization is well-known for a sense of honor and loyalty. If the rumor proves true, this will be the second time Reeves and Sanada have worked together; having co-starred in 47 Ronin.
Various articles and leaked footage suggests instead of Sanada, Mark Dacascos will be facing off against John Wick. Though well-known as the chairman of Iron Chef America, Dacascos is also a well-respected martial artist and film actor.
3 RUMOR: NEW LOCATION(S)
Keeping in mind the assumption of a Japanese villain, one of the locations suggested for John Wick 3 is Tokyo. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad revealed his vision of having Wick's "defining character moment" in the beautiful city.
Stahelski expressed his desire to explore the United Kingdom, Paris, and possibly the Middle East. Spain and Russia have also been reported as possible filming destinations while Reeves sought to have his character venture to Jerusalem; a location "older and more mythic" than the second film's Rome.
2 RUMOR: CHECKING IN
With the John Wick franchise coming to an end, Starz announced a spin-off series focusing on The Continental. Being the safe-haven for New York's assassins, the series would delve into the "compelling characters who inhabit this underground world." Not wanting to veer from their source material, the show would also provide "thunderous fight sequences and intensely staged shootouts."
Though still kept under-wraps, Lionsgate expressed a desire to expand the franchise with a La Femme Nikita-inspired series called Ballerina. The show would follow a young female assassin seeking revenge against her family's murderer(s).
1 RUMOR: DIVINE INTERVENTION
Inspiration for the John Wick franchise may have come from Greek and Roman mythology. Taking into consideration various character names, many draw their source from Greek gods and mythic monsters. If the hotel is considered "the Underworld," Charon is paid in gold coins to "ferry" each guest to his / her room. In Chapter Two, Wick faces off against Ares, named after the God of War.
Other characters reference famous emperors: combining William Dafoe's Marcus and John Leguizamo's Aureilo to form "Marcus Aureilo" and Franco Nero's ode to Julius Caesar. Wick's wife Helen could also reference Helen of Troy, known as "the most beautiful woman in the world."