‘John Wick’: How Keanu Reeves Completely Reinvented the Character

by Samantha Whidden

Although the “John Wick” movie franchise has become a huge hit thanks to Keanu Reeves, the original concept of the films had noticeable differences – including the main character’s age. 

Entertainment Weekly reports that in his new book, “They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The company Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick,” franchise producer, Basil Iwanyk revealed that the title character was actually a 75-year-old man in the original script. 

“One of my best friends in Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this scripting from Derek Kolstad called ‘Scorn,’” the “John Wick” producer writes. “The lead was a 75-year-old, 25 years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. I thought, ‘Okay, there’s probably or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.’”

Iwanyk then shared that his best friend, Jimmy Darmody, is also an agent at CAA, which represented Keanu Reeves. While discussing the script, Darmody asked the “John Wick” producer if he knew of any action movies 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?’” Iwanyk wrote. “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.’”

Although he wasn’t what was described in the script, Keanu Reeves told the producer that he immediately knew “John Wick” would be a “great collaboration.”

“We all agree on the potential of the project,” Reeves recalled in the book. “It has this character ‘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.”

Keanu Reeves Would Not Be Playing a 75-Year-old Man in the ‘John Wick’ Franchise 

Meanwhile, screenwriter Derek Kolstad stated in the book that while the writing team, producer, and Keanu Reeves agreed “John Wick” would be a great collaboration, everyone also agreed that Reeves would not be playing a 75-year-old man. 

“We had talked internally about actors, but it was Keanu Reeves – a voracious script reader; anything he gets his hands on, he reads,” Kolstad said. “Who got his talons into it and made it his own.”

Kolstad then said that he spent two months at Reeves’ house on the weekends working on the “John Wick” script. “I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything that UTA, WME, William Morris sends out. 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.’”

Kolstad then added that in that moment, before he met and really clicked with him, he wanted to do the film too. “The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.’”