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Who was originally supposed to play John Wick?

Keanu Reeves has made the character famous, but the movie nearly had another actor take on the iconic role.

Keanu Reeves has made the character famous, but the movie nearly had another actor take on the iconic role.

It may be almost impossible to imagine anyone besides Keanu Reeves playing John Wick, but there was a time when the character was originally written to be played by someone over twice his age.

Back in the first film’s development stage, older actors were imagined taking on the role, including Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford. Here’s how Reeves won the role instead.

John Wick was originally a man in his 70s

“The lead was a 75-year-old man, 25 years after being retired,” said Basil Iwanyk, producer for the John Wick movies, when he received the script written by Derek Kolstad.

“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.

“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.

Reeves gets a hold of the script

While the movie’s script, then known as ‘Scorn’, was up for a bidding war, ‘The Matrix’ actor Keanu Reeves was alerted to the script via his agent at the time, Jimmy Darmody. Darmody asked Iwanyk if he had any interesting roles for 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? And he was directing his movie, ‘Man of Tai Chi’, and doing ‘47 Ronin’. We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75,” Iwanyk said of considering Reeves for the role instead.

Reeves immediately warmed up the world of what is now known as ‘John Wick’, seeing the potential contained in the script.

“Basil brought the script to me with the idea that I would be a part of such a great collaboration,” Reeves said in the book ‘They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action’ written by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

We all agreed on the potential of the project. It has this character of John Wick, but then you also have the real world, and at the same time this kind of underworld.

This den of thieves that have this honor and a code. It has this emotional connection with John Wick, who’s grieving, who’s lost the love of his life and has this mythical dark past. And I loved the quest that he goes on to reclaim his life. And the world he moves through to do it.

Reeves, reportedly a voracious script reader, met with scriptwriter Kolstad to discuss the script, which Kolstad said he read in 90 minutes.

“[Reeves] 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.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.’” Kolstad says of the moment Reeves was hired on to play John Wick.

Since then, the ‘John Wick’ movies have gone on to reach critical acclaim. The fourth installment in the franchise, ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′, is out in theaters on Friday, March 24, 2023.


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