‘John Wick’ Producer Initially Thought Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford Should Play Keanu Reeves’ Role of Wick

by Alex Falls

Keanu Reeves received a major career resurgence after his turn in the John Wick franchise captured the hearts of action film fans. Over the last decade, the franchise has earned huge success across three film installments. They triggered a renaissance in Reeves’s career after he starred in several less well-received film roles. But John Wick helped solidify Reeves as the all-around solid dude the people love today.

However, Reeves was not the first choice to take on the role. Initially, the story revolved around someone much older. According to Entertainment Weekly, the tale of how the story came to the screen is detailed in the new book, They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action, by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

In the book, John Wick producer Basil Iwanyk detailed a screenplay originally titled Scorn. Given to him by one of his best friends, Iwanyk said the script was “subversive and really fun,” and a “great premise for an action movie.” But he had not yet envisioned Reeves in the role.

“The lead was a seventy-five-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired,” Iwanyk said. “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.”

Bringing Reeves into John Wick

Once the script hit the market, a huge bidding war ensued. It eventually caught the attention of Reeves’s agents. Once he got his hands on the story, he knew it was special.

“Basil brought the script to me with the idea that I would be a part of such a great collaboration,” the actor said in the book. “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.”

The film’s writer, Derek Kolstad, recalled when Reeves finally came on board the story finally came together. He recalled Reeves hard work ethic and how the story of John Wick stuck out to the actor.

“I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script,” Kolstad said. “When I first went and met with him and walked into his house…  and I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything… And so [I] think that he read [Scorn] 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.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”