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Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood Rejected $881M Franchise Role, Forcing Studio to Hire Keanu Reeves: “Clearly, you’re not 75”

keanu reeves harrison ford clint eastwood

Before John Wick, there was Neo. The savior, the protector, the fighter, and the legend who operates between the boundaries of good, evil, and the impossible. In both, Keanu Reeves wasn’t the first choice. In both, he made the characters immortal. In both, there can be no other the fans can envision as the lead other than the unreal and timeless actor. And yet, there was a plan mapped out for the John Wick franchise that did not have a place for Reeves in it.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Keanu Reeves as John Wick

Also read: “Keanu and I are done for the moment”: John Wick 4 Director Gives Disappointing Update on Sequel Despite Keanu Reeves’ $587M Franchise Haul at the Box Office 

Keanu Reeves Bests Harrison Ford & Clint Eastwood

The original script for the John Wick movies was not meant for a 50-something actor in the lead. The story revolved around a 75-year-old assassin who, if all things went according to plan, would have enacted a much different version of the story than the one that we now know and love. In a new book titled, They Shouldnt Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action, penned by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, the tale of how Keanu Reeves, Harrison Ford, and Clint Eastwood were all intertwined in this journey comes to light.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
A still from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Also read: The Circle is Complete: John Wick: Chapter 4 Gives Keanu Reeves’ Deadly Hitman His Own Puppy Assassin

After reading Derek Kolstad’s script for the first film, producer Basil Iwanyk recalls how the events unfolded and Reeves was eventually brought on board:

One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called ‘Scorn’. The lead was a 75-year-old man, 25 years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. 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.’

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?’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘Keanu is one of the great action stars of the last 25 years — what happened to him? What’s he been doing?’ […] We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.’

John Wick
John Wick (2014) – where it all began

Also read: It was originally for a 75-year-old man”: John Wick Producer Reveals How Keanu Reeves Flipped the Script and Landed the Role Originally Meant For Clint Eastwood

But Reeves, by the time he read the script, was so fascinated by and drawn to the character that he immediately took charge. Kolstad reflects:

“I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script. 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.’”

Eventually, the script was revisited by Kolstad with a heavy influence from Keanu Reeves. Parts of the narrative were rearranged to make it more seamless for a 35-year-old assassin, and Reeves, as Kolstad remembers, was the one who “got his talons into [the script] and made it his own.”

Baba Yaga Returns For One Final Night of Kills & Thrills

We have all heard the tale: you do not wake up the Boogeyman from his retirement slumber, you do not touch, steal, or kill that which he loves, or you shall incur Baba Yaga’s wrath. The part that Keanu Reeves portrayed so perfectly, with grit, mettle, consistency, and honor is finally coming to a worthy end. With John Wick: Chapter 4, Keanu Reeve’s term and tenure as the titular assassin now comes to a close.

John Wick: Chapter 4
John Wick: Chapter 4

Also read: John Wick: Chapter 4 Review – A Bad Movie With Fun Action

As for the plot of the grand finale, Chapter 4 will be an extension of the events of Parabellum which found Reeves’ antihero going up against countless assassins in the streets of New York after being declared Excommunicado. Chapter 4 will see him take the fight to the High Table in an all-out war and a bid to win back his freedom from the clutches of the shadowy guild and its relentless assassins.

John Wick: Chapter 4 premieres on March 23, 2023.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Written by Diya Majumdar

Having graduated with honors in literature from Miranda House, Diya Majumdar now has more than 1300 published articles on Fandomwire, and her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema. She happens to be a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for Monet, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh, along with an obsessive collection of Spotify playlists