When we think of the John Wick films, the image of a spritely Keanu Reeves’ in a suit doing fast-paced action comes to mind. It’s impossible to imagine the franchise without The Matrix star who has become the face of it. However, the role of the titular hitman wasn’t even conceived for Reeves or anyone in his age group. What’s even more eyebrow-raising is that the character of John Wick was intended to be played by Harrison Ford or Clint Eastwood.
Keanu Reeves Wasn’t The First Choice For John Wick
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Keanu Reeves as John Wick in the films. However, at the beginning of it all, he wasn’t the person the role was created for. The character was originally intended to be 75 years old and the makers wanted either Harrison Ford or Clint Eastwood to play the role. Basil Iwanyk, a producer of the franchise said in the book, They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action:
“The lead was a seventy-five-year-old man, twenty-five 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 and Harrison Ford. Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”
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No doubt Ford or Eastwood would have been phenomenal if they had played the character. However, this does raise the question of- how did the script land with Reeves? As per Iwanyk:
“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.’”
So when talks on making the film progressed, Reeves wanted to make one critical change to the film and the titular character because without it the movie wouldn’t have become what it is today.
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Keanu Reeves Changed John Wick’s Age
In the book, screenwriter Derek Kolstad mentions that Keanu Reeves wasn’t happy with the age of the character and wanted to bring down the age of the titular assassin by a solid 4 decades. As per Kolstad:
“The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”
The screenwriter also praised Reeves for his dedication and for choosing the film among the 300 screenplays he had the option to select from. Kolstad said:
“I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk… He reads them all. And so think that he read something on a Friday, in ninety minutes, and was like, ‘I want to do it.’ In that moment, before I met and really clicked with him, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do it, too.”
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The age change was necessary because if Reeves had played John Wick as a 75-year-old man, the movie would probably have been mocked by audiences. Even though the film would have been interesting with a 75-year-old lead, it can’t be denied that Reeves brings his own brand of charm and charisma that’s impossible to imagine the franchise without.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is now playing in theaters.
Source: John Wick Book