Ballerina Producer Explains Why The John Wick Spin-Off Took 5 Years To Make [Exclusive]

Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves have once again proven there's an endless appetite for exquisitely crafted combat sequences, with "John Wick: Chapter 4" breaking franchise box office records. The latest installment in the massively popular action saga ramped things up considerably, delivering a high-octane 3-hour-long action cinema masterclass, cementing the "John Wick" movies' standing as bonafide blockbusters. That's impressive considering the first "John Wick" film (still the best, by the way) was initially expected to be yet another flop for the then-struggling Reeves.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" looks set to continue the series trend of making a lot more money than its predecessor, which in Hollywood means one thing: more of the same is coming. In fact, that's been the case since 2017, when "John Wick: Chapter 2" made $171 million at the box office — more than double the first entry's take. Naturally, Lionsgate and Thunder Road Productions hastily cooked up some spin-off ideas in the form of the TV prequel series "The Continental," which is set to follow the eponymous hotel's owner Winston in the 1970s, and the Ana De Armas-led film "Ballerina."

Back in 2017, as per The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate won a bidding war for screenwriter Shay Hatten's script about a ballerina who seeks revenge on the people that killed her family. Then, at one point in 2019's "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum" Reeves' hitman spotted a ballerina in training to become an assassin — hinting at the upcoming spin-off. Yet, here we are in 2023 without anything except the main "John Wick" movies to give us our fill of assassin action. "Ballerina" has been in development since 2017, as has "The Continental," which will be heading to Peacock in the near future. But why has it taken so long? Well, there are a few reasons...

'It was not something we rushed'

With "John Wick: Chapter 4" proving such a success already, there's absolutely no doubt both fans and Lionsgate/Thunder Road execs are eager for a sequel. And while nothing has been confirmed as yet, franchise director Chad Stahelksi has at least said he's open to making "John Wick: Chapter 5." But while we wait for any official news to emerge on that front, the question remains: where are our spin-offs?

/Film's Vanessa Armstrong interviewed John Wick producer Erica Lee, who at least helped shed some light on why things have taken so long with "Ballerina." The producer, who's been with the franchise since the first movie, said:

"We had some time to work on it. It was not something we rushed. I actually read it five years ago for the first time, and then we spent a lot of time developing it and finessing it once 'John Wick 3' had shot, and then 'John Wick 4,' and how does that world inform the timeline and how does it all work? So we're trying to be really thoughtful about it."

Once "John Wick: Chapter 3" was out the way, it seems Lee and co. were planning to let the events of the fourth film somewhat dictate where the Ana De Armas movie would go. Unfortunately, "John Wick: Chapter 4" was itself delayed, having been originally planned to release in 2021 and shoot back-to-back with a fifth installment. Now, with "Chapter 4" only just arriving, "Ballerina" has been forced to take a back seat while Stahelski and his team finished up the main timeline. Finally, with filming already wrapped on the spin-off movie, it seems we can expect big "Ballerina" announcements in the near future.

Flipping the narrative

Aside from giving us an insight into what's taken so long with "Ballerina," Erica Lee provided more details on what we can expect from Ana De Armas' debut in the assassin-verse:

"It's, aesthetically, slightly different than the 'Wick' movies. Ana de Armas is an incredible actress and she's amazing. I think what's different about her in 'Ballerina' is that Wick in 'John Wick' is always trying to get out, and the character that Ana plays in "Ballerina" is trying to get in. So what does that mean for the character? What does that mean for the High Table, the world, the Continentals, all of that?"

The concept of a ballerina trained to kill was already an intriguing premise, but flipping things around so that Armas' character is trying to do the opposite of Reeves adds an extra layer of intrigue. We've seen John Wick battle across four movies to gain his freedom from the underground criminal society to which he gave so much. But seeing someone battle their way into that society could make for a refreshing addition to the world of "John Wick."

What's more, Lee promised what many have been expecting by confirming there will be plenty of, "cameos and appearances from some of our friends from 'Wick' world." Does that mean we'll see Baba Yaga himself pop up in "Ballerina"? That seems to be the caseThe "John Wick" franchise has done an excellent job of building a shared universe thus far, and now we at least know things are finally coming together on this long-gestating spin-off.