April 20, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

Derek Kolstad

By Dianne Bennett
Published: 2017-06-10

The number of bullets fired seems limitless. How committed are you to some level of realism?

The film has to not only look good; it's cool that it also makes sense. The stunt guys talk to me. In the sommelier scene [in John Wick 2, the "sommelier" is the supplier of weapons, not wine], all the stunt guys are in the room with me. They are telling me what kind of weapons work and how they work. I don't have to go to Wikipedia. It's gun porn. I want that scene. And the tailor in the movie really is Keanu Reeves' tailor. We had a Chinese tailor written into the script and Keanu said, "the Chinese are good tailors, but the best tailors are Italian." We did a screen test with his tailor, and Chad said, "Let's go with him."

You originally wrote John Wick with an older character in mind. Keanu Reeves, who is now 52, plays John Wick, and he seems genuinely exhausted by life, by his career as an assassin, by being beat-up. Why focus on older, seemingly worn-out characters?

I love Westerns. And the young guy always gets his ass handed to him. The old guy seems like a cynic, but he isn't. He sees himself; he can be outside of time. He can ignore technology. The film has a lot of analog in it. [Take] the old Telex machine. The scene with the [telex] operators is a visual feast. It makes you think how vast the world is. These systems have been in place for a long time. Films I like have a heart and soul at their core – "Die Hard," "Point Blank." We genuinely care for the characters.

John Wick seems isolated, without a love interest. Even his dog has no name. Why?

John was the devil and then he found love. He found the perfect love and lost it. [John Wick's wife dies of an illness in the first film.] How many of us never get to see it or have it? It's irreplaceable. I didn't want to replace it in the sequel. The dog is an extension of John. John understands that, begrudgingly. The dog just follows him.

The original is mostly set in New York City while the sequel is all about Rome. Why Rome?

It's a great location site, and [Rome has] a great scene; it has tone. It's iconic. The city you're seeing is a character and you have to respect it. Chad is very specific as to the look and feel of the film. The version that's impossible would be in the Vatican, but we had great location scouts to find other places. Sometimes you lose your scene the day before and you have to make it up. Rome was great for us. I wasn't there. They didn't need me at that point. But I'd like to know where that flight of steps is [where a crucial hand-to-hand fight scene occurs].

I think the steps could be the ones leading to San Pietro in Vincoli, which houses Michelangelo's Moses statue; that's in Monti near a street where another fight occurs. But do you know the hotel locations?

No, but I think it was two hotels – an outside location and an inside. When we filmed in New York City, people who know the city well said, "That wasn't one location; that was four locations." So I get it when people know the locations well. We wanted Il Continentale to be an Italian version of The Continental [the hotel where major U.S. underworld characters convene in both films]. And we wanted an Italian version of Winston [Julius, played by Franco Nero]; it's a way of explaining the world.

Can you tell me the location of "John Wick: Chapter 3"? Will it be international?

I wish I could tell you the location, but not yet. The international aspect is important. We referred in "John Wick 2" to the "High Table," which is international. [The High Table is the international crime syndicate.]

You started with "John Wick." "John Wick 2 " is now out. We know "John Wick: Chapter 3" is in the works and possibly a TV series. Did you write your original script with sequels in mind?

"John Wick" was stand-alone, but one always dreams of sequels. When the first one came out I mentioned the idea of seven to Keanu and he said "one at a time." But at the premier for "John Wick 2," he said, "I can see this." As for me, I don't need a gun to my head; I'll do as many as I can.

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