The Director Had To Fight For The Long Takes In John Wick [Comic-Con]

As an action franchise, "John Wick" has set itself apart from the competition since its first installment. The story of Mr. Wick and his seemingly never-ending path of fighting and carnage has gone on for three chapters now, with a fourth on the way next year. With its massive success, one might believe the movie was an instant sell to studios, with little interference on the creative process. "John Wick" is a film series celebrated due to its dedication to visceral, creative, and realistic action that is bound in practicality without an overreliance on CGI. 

Surprisingly, it's the distinct action of "John Wick" that was the hardest selling point for director Chad Stahelski. The stuntman-turned-film director revealed during Collider's Directors on Directing Panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 that one of his biggest struggles when getting "John Wick" off the ground was staying true to the vision for the fight choreography, and in turn, the film's cinematography.

It's all about the long takes

The panel featured a discussion between directors Tim Miller ("Deadpool," "Terminator Dark Fate"), Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo," "WALL-E"), and Chad Stahelski. When each director was asked about what detail or decision they had to fight for that they were the proudest of, Stahelski spoke on the style of the action in "John Wick":

"The long takes in 'John Wick' ... We just didn't want to do shaky cam; we didn't want to cut away."

Stahelski would describe how difficult it became to pitch "John Wick" while staying true to what the movie was initially meant to be: a violent, action-driven revenge film with intensely choreographed fights that aren't heavily edited to cut away. This type of action was an idea Stahelski was proud of, but it was not something studios were interested in. Stahelski spoke on how exciting the pitching process usually is, until it's not:

"Usually, it's fun because you're excited about the project. You get excited about telling people about it. I always feel like, 'It's a f****** genius idea, so just give me the money.' ... But then we were asked to leave [during a pitch] because 'John Wick' wasn't a 'date movie.' So that kind of ended the pitch right there."

Fortunately, Stahelski got "John Wick" off the ground, with Keanu Reeves's portrayal of the hitman proving to be a success.

Preserving the integrity of the action

Director Chad Stahelski's vision would align with many complaints with action in modern blockbusters. The CGI and fight choreography, paired with what is known as "shaky cam" and quick cuts in editing, make for barely comprehensible and jarring fights in some modern movies. The overuse of CGI also lessens the blows in things like Marvel Studios films, with the characters not looking or feeling honest with the punches thrown. Meanwhile, the "John Wick" franchise has become one that prides itself on its action being distinct from other films. Moreover, CGI in John Wick is used for practical purposes (CGI dog poop aside), accentuating the choreography as opposed to it being the other way around.

Stahelski knew what "John Wick" needed to be for it to succeed, and in turn, he fought to preserve the integrity of the action. Although Stahelski wouldn't say who he was pitching "John Wick" to when the studio turned the film down for not being a "date movie," we can at least take comfort in how the director didn't change his pitch to suit the preference of a studio executive.

Thanks to his perseverance, couples worldwide can go see "John Wick: Chapter 4" as their next date movie when the film hits theaters on March 24, 2023.