How John Wayne Inspired Keanu Reeves’ John Wick

by Chris Piner

Throughout his time in Hollywood, actor Keanu Reeves has been in some of the most memorable films in the industry. He surfed through bank robberies in Point Break. Struggled to stop a speeding bus in Speed. And saved all of humanity as “the One” in the Matrix. Having enough accolades, the actor doesn’t appear to be stopping as he mastered the role of John Wick. While showcasing his talent and athleticism at 57-years-old, Reeves led the franchise to gross over $326 million. As for the success of the franchise, screenwriter Derek Kolstad admitted characters like John Wick might not have been possible if it weren’t for Western icon, John Wayne

Detailing where he drew inspiration for Wick, Kolstad explained, “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.” The writer added, “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.”

The Similarities Between John Wick And John Wayne

Another crucial dynamic to the character of John Wick focused on how he was self-sufficient when dealing with his problems. Although both John Wayne and John Wick share the same first name, they are also loners. While they might be able to make friendships and rescue those in need, at the end of the day – they rely only on themselves. And as mentioned above, it’s no coincidence that Wick was an older gentleman. For John Wayne, he continued acting well into his 60s, even winning an Academy Award for his role in True Grit

While Kolstad wrote the character to be violent, he noted that the original screenplay featured less violence until director Chad Stahelski entered the project. “I don’t like ‘torture porn.’ The scene in the subway with the crotch slash – I could have done without that. In the original script, 11 to 15 people were killed. In the final, it’s 86 or 88. Chad’s a little darker; I’m a little lighter. But we respect each other. I want to just ride the violence, for it to be ‘popcorn time.’”

Other Films Influenced By The Duke

It wasn’t only John Wick who drew inspiration from “The Duke”, as in the 1988 classic Die Hard, the action film featured not only a lone protagonist, but was riddled with phrases from Western films. At one point, antagonist Hans Gruber stated, “[t]his time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.” 

Passing away in June of 1979, it appears the legacy of John Wayne continues to be an inspiration for some of the biggest characters in Hollywood.  

Outsider.com