- John Wick: Chapter 4 has the best reviews yet in the franchise and Lionsgate is campaigning for multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
- The John Wick franchise has had a huge impact on the action genre, inspiring other filmmakers to create elegant and successful action movies.
- Lionsgate has been a supportive and collaborative partner, allowing the filmmakers to bring their crazy and unique vision to life, even as the budgets have increased.
Keanu Reeves and his team are eyeing Oscars gold with John Wick: Chapter 4. In addition to being the biggest installment yet in the franchise, the fourth installment has scored the best reviews yet for the action movie series, with Lionsgate currently mounting a campaign for it to net multiple nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Chad Stahelski, Best Cinematography for Dan Laustsen and Best Production Design.
Alongside Reeves, John Wick: Chapter 4‘s ensemble cast included Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Rina Sawayama, Clancy Brown and Hiroyuki Sanada. Despite seemingly killing off Wick for good in the movie’s finale, Lionsgate is pushing ahead with development on a potential John Wick 5, as well as a new TV show set in the universe and next year’s Ballerina spinoff.
In honor of the movie’s Oscars campaign, Screen Rant interviewed producer Basil Iwanyk to discuss John Wick: Chapter 4, the legacy of the franchise, Reeves’ previous pitches for Wick’s death and the Ballerina spinoff.
Basil Iwanyk Talks John Wick: Chapter 4 & Ballerina
Screen Rant: I’m super excited to talk with you about John Wick: Chapter 4. It’s amazing to think that it’s already been a decade almost since the original came out. How is it for you reflecting back on the franchise, especially as Chapter 4 has seemingly closed the doors on Keanu’s tenure?
Basil Iwanyk: Underline the word, seemingly. Italicize it. [Chuckles] Grant, this sounds cheesy, but everybody that’s in the film business and television business are dreamers, right? And so you get a script and you get to page 1, and there’s a part of you that goes, “Could this be the script, could this be the project that can change my life and change my career?” And even if it’s dug deep, you still think there’s a little bit in there. And the idea that we got this script that no one bid for, no one really cared about, called Scorn, and we put it together, we made it under the radar.
We didn’t even think the movie was going to be released [in theaters], to be here 10 years later, to talk about this as this franchise, and not just on a commercial level, but on a creative level, on a zeitgeist level, it’s kind why you go to showbiz. You dream about these things happening. And we are a family now, this Wick team, and we deeply care for each other. All of our lives have changed, including Keanu, who was, of course, Keanu Reeves, [already] a gigantic movie star. All of our lives have changed, and we’ve done it together. And it’s on a personal and professional level, I’m not kidding you, it’s a bit overwhelming.
Well, I’m glad that you’ve gotten to experience it and that this franchise, this character has gone the way he has, because it’s really been exciting to see. It’s also gone on to inspire a lot of other similar style action genres, David Leitch obviously went on to helm a bunch of his own and produce a bunch of his own. What has it been like for you also seeing that spark of action stardom after John Wick blew up?
Basil Iwanyk: Incredibly flattering, of course. But also satisfying in that I love action movies. I mean, we’ve done other non-action movies, but I love action movies. When Thunder Road first started, once we left Warner’s, my whole pitch was we wanted the American version of Luc Besson’s company, EuropaCorp. For me, I think there should be an action movie in the theaters at all times, so I think the John Wick franchise has activated people who make movies and distribute movies like, “Oh, you can actually make an action movie that’s elegant, and it looks great, and people will go see it.”
So, for me, just as an action nerd, I love it. Because I mean, listen, a lot of the great action movies now are on Netflix and there’s foreign ones, but it’s awesome. It’s awesome that people are watching Korean action films because of all the [options], they’re going to Donnie Yen’s movies. That’s awesome. And yes, of course it’s flattering, but as a movie nerd, I think it’s great because it’s more for me to watch and me to see.
I’m the same way. I grew up on action movies, so I’ve loved seeing everybody take a page out of your guys’ playbook and keep it rolling. One thing I find amazing about Chapter 4 in comparison to the rest of the franchise is that it is the biggest budget of them all, and yet still somehow retains that same level feel of the original of very practical elements and shooting and everything. How has it been working with Lionsgate closely as the budgets have increased across sequels to still ensure that it feels wholly like Chad and Keanu’s vision for each movie?
Basil Iwanyk: I have to hand it to Lionsgate. After the first movie, we always talked internally, but quietly going, “God, we could do another one of these.” But the first movie, the domestic box office was okay. And I know we made money on the ancillaries, but we were more joking about making a second one. Lionsgate is the one that came in and said, “There’s something here. We’re going to give you a little bit more money. Let’s see what we have.”
So, Lionsgate as partners have been amazing because one, they believed in the film commercially from the get go. And two, they’ve realized that the Wick movies are so crazy and weird and are so specific that the rules of traditional notes and studio process don’t really apply. What I really admire and am thankful about the studio for is they don’t just go, “Do whatever you want to do,” and will wave their hands off. But they allow us to make the film we want to make, as crazy as it is, and cast it and all that stuff. And they give us all the leash we need to make something nuts. A perfect example of John Wick 4, the movie’s long, right?
The movie’s two hours and 47 minutes. The studio was like, “Okay, we think it may be long, but let’s show it to an audience, because it doesn’t matter what we think.” The audience was like, “We love it.” And the studio was like, “Great, let’s do it.” There’s a faith that they’ve shown in us that is incredibly valued. And I think that as the films have gotten bigger and they’ve gotten more nuts, I think that… I’ll put it another way, I think Chad has gotten everything he’s ever wanted in the John Wick movies. I could honestly say, I go back to all the ideas, there’s never been an idea where he wishes like, “D—it, those freaking studio guys, they didn’t give it to me.” He’s gotten everything he’s wanted.
That sounds like a great partner to have in putting these movies together, because some of these ideas are crazy indeed.
Basil Iwanyk: I know. I do feel bad as a ex-studio executive myself, I oftentimes feel bad, I can only imagine what they’re thinking when they see some of the dailies or see some of the stuff. They’re like, “What the hell is this?”
Well, one of the crazy ideas that Chapter 4 threw out that we hinted at earlier was that John seemingly dies at the end of the movie. When Chad, Keanu, and the writers first approached you with that idea, what was your initial reaction to hearing that?
Basil Iwanyk: I mean, they came to us on 2, 3, and 4. [Chuckles] These movies beat the crap out of Keanu, right? Physically, in ways that I don’t think people can ever understand, because it’s not just the shoot. He’s training three, four, five months before, and in every part of it, it’s a little bit of the Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, like, “I’m getting too old for this s–t.” On every movie, he’s like, “This is when I die. I’m done.” We always shoot options. We shoot one that he’s completely alive, one that is a little vague, and one that he’s dead. I remember, I think it was on John Wick 2, he was like, “Here’s what happens. They cut my head off. They cut my head off.” And I’m just like, “There’s no chance you’re getting your head cut off.” [Laughs]
So I think that what I love about the end of John Wick 4 is if this means that there’s never another John Wick movie, it’s a nice elegant way of ending it, right? If there is another John Wick movie, which I do believe there will be, we don’t know what it is yet, but I do believe. I do feel like it will be a completely other book. If these movies were four chapters, you kind of blame it on the metaphor. The next John Wick will be another book. It won’t be like six months later from John Wick 4. We just don’t know what that is.
But we all love spending time together, and we love the process. The more time that goes by, the more we miss it, ss demented as it sounds, and these movies are really hard to pull off, there’s something really exciting about making these movies. And I don’t even mean talking to you, and the box office, I just mean mounting it, preparing for it, casting for it. It’s fun as s–t.
I can only imagine, especially when you have so many big action stars like Donnie Yen coming in for these sequels, it’s exciting to see what they’re going to do with it. Speaking of, even if we don’t get an actual John Wick 5, there are a number of characters that could get further expansions. We already have Ballerina coming up next year, we just had The Continental. Is there any character in particular you would love to see be expanded upon, in a spinoff or in another chapter in this universe?
Basil Iwanyk: I like the Bowery King a lot, and I like that world. We scratched the surface of who he is, and who these men are and women, and why they do what they do. I think there’s something really cool about these people who make conscious choices to be in the shadows, and be the people that we look through every day when we walk down the street or we go, “Oh, this person wants money from me?” I think that’s a world that we haven’t touched yet, which I think could be really cool and really edgy and rough, dark. I don’t know, that is something that I’ve always been really intrigued with.
Anything with Laurence Fishburne chewing up the scenery I will take. Especially if Jason Mantzoukas can be there as his comedic foil, I will take it.
Basil Iwanyk: That’s amazing. All of the Bowery King group, they leave an impression on every movie that they’re in. Because there’s also the guys in The Continental, they’re like knights or samurai, it’s very formal. And the Bowery King people are crazy and fun and informal. And I think that’s a great. — I don’t know, I have no idea what that world is, we’re making this up as we go along. But man, that world intrigues me a lot.
I would love to see more of it myself. So what are some of the big things then that you do look for when mounting a spinoff within this franchise?
Basil Iwanyk: Well, I think it’s the — we know that Keanu is a singular movie star. And between his empathy, and the character that we created formed 10 years ago, what he’s able to do physically, his everything, his charisma, he’s a movie star. And so the key is to not do the B-level Keanu, right? And also, how do we take the Wick action that we’ve done really well and not just replicate it and just do it again just with different characters? So I think it’s a combination of who our lead is, and what his or her backstory is, and why we should care about them.
Knowing that we don’t have the goodwill that we set up 10 years ago on John Wick 1, how do we give the action fans, because people go see Ballerina or any action, anything offshoot of John Wick, are going to be action fans. How do we give them something that they go, “Well, that’s different and cool. And I haven’t seen that in the Wick movies.” And then I think that it’s that fine balance of a movie that could stand on its own, if you’ve never seen anything from John Wick. But if you have seen the John Wick films, it actually, you enjoy it on another level. So how much inside baseball did we layer into this stuff is a big question.
Listen, we’re going about it for the first time on Ballerina, we decided to put a lot of people from the John Wick world into Ballerina. I think that’s just a bridge for people to go, “Okay, now I know. It’s like this is the John Wick world.” It’s like Sam Jackson in all the Marvel movies. I just saw another, Eternals or whatever it is, and there’s Sam Jackson again. I’m like, “God, it’s like…” [Laughs] And so I don’t think we’re going to do that. But I think it’s just that balance of enough new s–t that people go, “Okay, this is worth a spinoff.” But also enough of the stuff that people respond to on the Wick movies. So it is a tough balance. It is a really tough balance. And it’s something we — struggle is the wrong word, but it’s something we are constantly contemplating.
Well, I love that you have that thought process, because as a fan of the franchise, I don’t want to just see recycle, I want to see fresh stuff. I actually did want to look at Ballerina, there’s so many amazing elements to this movie behind and in front of the camera. One that I find really intriguing was that I read that Ana de Armas brought on Emerald Fennell to help rewrite some of the script. Were you privy to that, and how much of the script changed from when you first saw it to after Emerald got her hands on it?
Basil Iwanyk: Yeah, listen, we hired Emerald. I think Shay Hatten wrote a really cool script, right? Really, really cool script. He’s a terrific writer. This was the first script he ever wrote, he wrote it when he was like 22. I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, he looks like he’s 14. And we got his script to a certain point, we bring in Ana, and our promise to Ana was always at a certain point when we get the structure right and the action, we want to bring in a female writer in, because what we don’t want — and this is important — we don’t want an action movie where we just took a male character, put in a female, and then just call it a day.
We wanted this character to feel real, to feel feminine, to feel she wasn’t sexless, but she wasn’t objectified sexually. She wasn’t someone who doesn’t smile. All the tropes that you see on a lot of female assassin movies, we wanted someone that felt legit and real and grounded female character. And Emerald is a gigantic John Wick fan. It’s just shocking how many fancy people love the John Wick movies. It’s like they apologize too, “Oh, I know.” I’m like, “It’s okay. You could admit it.”
Emerald loves the John Wick movies. Loved it. And she was like, “I don’t see these kinds of movies. This is awesome.” And she wrote a f—-ng great draft. And we used a vast majority of it, and she gave that character, Ana’s character, some real — it felt real. I don’t want to say real, because remember we’re talking about the John Wick world, but it felt grounded, emotionally grounded as a female character. That, mixed in with her lethality is really, really f—-ng cool.
About John Wick: Chapter 4
Following the events of Parabellum, John Wick has found a new path to defeating the High Table and is taking the fight to them. But before he can try to earn his freedom, a powerful new enemy will turn even more people against Wick, including one of his oldest and most dangerous friends.
Check out our other John Wick: Chapter 4 interviews here:
John Wick: Chapter 4 is available now on Digital, 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, and On Demand.
Source: Screen Rant Plus
John Wick: Chapter 4
- Release Date:
- Chad Stahelski
- Hiroyuki Sanada, Clancy Brown, Scott Adkins, Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Rina Sawayama, Donnie Yen, Lance Reddick, Shamier Anderson
- 169 minutes
- Thriller, Crime, Action
- Shay Hatten, Michael Finch
- Distributor :
- John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
- John Wick