John Wick Was Originally A 75-Year-Old Man Before Keanu Reeves Got The Role

It is difficult to imagine anyone other than Keanu Reeves kicking butt and shooting the baddies in the "John Wick" films. The first kinetic action movie, which starts out as a story of personal loss and trauma before descending into a pulpy revenge thriller, perfectly harnesses Reeves' particular set of skills — his natural emotive blankness paired with an incredible knack for physicality would turn Reeves' John Wick into a Buster Keaton-like icon for the action movie age and reinvigorate Reeves' career.

Before Reeves assumed the role, however, the original script of "John Wick" by screenwriter Derek Kolstad was about a significantly older man, whose age did not stop him from beating the bad guys into pulp. Here's a look into how that storyline was conceived and what changed after Reeves took on the role — basically, a glimpse into what could have been.

They absolutely shouldn't have killed his dog

The details of how Reeves came to assume the role of John Wick have been chronicled in Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross' "They Shouldn't Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun-Fu and The New Age of Action" (wow, what a mouthful). The book is basically a look into the behind-the-scenes of how "John Wick" was conceived, replete with interviews and statements from the cast and crew who weigh in on the process of shooting challenging action sequences that led to the reinvigoration of the action-thriller genre.

According to a recent breakout piece on Entertainment Weekly, Kolkstad's script about an older John Wick was originally titled "Scorn," and the book explains how it revolved around a 75-year-old man, which naturally propelled producers to consider actors like Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford for the role:

"The lead was a seventy-five-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired. I thought, okay, there's probably one or two names you could do this with Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford. But the tone of the script for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional throughline and a great premise for an action movie."

The very nature of the storyline prompted a bidding war, as this was the kind of film that would absolutely resonate with its intended audiences, leading to much competition among prospective scriptwriters and actors who wished to be a part of the project.

How Keanu Reeves landed the role

Before starring in "John Wick," which was released in 2014, Reeves appeared in a bunch of averagely-received films, such as "Generation Um" and "47 Ronin." Reeves was not exactly at a career high at the time, and his agent had inquired about the script for "John Wick," which was handed to him with the note: "Clearly, you're not 75."

While this is funny to an extent, Reeves is clearly a standout figure in the action genre, having spearheaded the revolutionary "Matrix" films, along with "Speed" and "Point Break." Also, Reeves is no stranger to playing complex characters, as evidenced by his roles in "Constantine" and "The Devil's Advocate," in which he's constantly undergoing some sort of torment, of an emotional and moral nature.

Reeves was instantly drawn to Kolkstad's world building, and connected to the character of Wick instantly. In a statement made in Altman and Gross' book, Reeves says that he immediately saw the potential of the character, and forged an "emotional connection with John Wick, who's grieving, who's lost the love of his life and has this mythical dark past." Reeves loved the idea of a man on a "quest to reclaim his life" and while Kolstad was clear that Reeves could not play an elderly man, the actor's dedication to the role and deep understanding of "John Wick's" world, eventually led to Kolstad changing this aspect of the character.

All it took was for Keanu to say "Okay, I'm going to play him [Wick] 35," to which Kolstad agreed.

How Reeves made John Wick his own

While it would definitely be interesting to see an older, retired assassin diving back into action after he is pushed too far, what Reeves has done with John Wick is nothing short of phenomenal. So much so that the "John Wick" franchise is still evolving, having spurring two more installments, with a fourth being on the way (along with a prequel series). The reason for the franchise's immense popularity can be traced back to the heart-thumping action sequences and gun-fu fights, and the stylish fight choreography alone makes the films worth watching.

However, it is Reeves' portrayal of Wick that allows for his story to bloom and take off in such a convincing fashion. Wick is a hardened, stoic man, who gave up his job as an assassin in favor of a peaceful life with the woman he loves. After losing her, he only has his dog Daisy to dote on, and even she is taken away from him in a rather cruel manner. While very much an antihero in many ways, John Wick as a character always warrants empathy, and his trajectory is extremely badass and heartrending at the same time, which is why it works so well.

Reeves is set to return in "John Wick: Chapter 4," and we expect more death-defying, extremely cool looking stunts in the upcoming movie, which is expected to release on March 24, 2023.