How The Director Of John Wick Became Keanu Reeves' Stunt Double On The Matrix [Comic-Con]

"John Wick” franchise director Chad Stahelski has been at the helm since the very beginning, but his connection to the series' star Keanu Reeves goes back even further than most realize.

Universally hailed for its magnificent action sequences, part of the reason the "John Wick" series is so phenomenal is because Stahelski worked for decades as a stunt performer and coordinator. During Collider's Directors on Directing Panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Stahelski spoke about his early days as a stunt performer, and how it helped him to better understand filmmaking as a whole. "It gives you an inside scoop on what's going on," Stahelski said. "You get to work with all the departments, you got to see filmmaking from the trenches ... you really get to be inside and see how the sausage was being made, and it's a fantastic experience."

Stahelski's first big stunt job was on the set of "The Crow," where he served as the double for the late, great, Brandon Lee. Less than two years later, Stahelski would be auditioning for a little film called "The Matrix." As Stahelski tells it, a fellow stunt performer he had been working with approached him at 9 a.m. after working a long shift on a TV series, encouraging him to audition just a few hours later. "I still had blood dripping down me," he said. His colleague informed him the film was going to be a blend of science-fiction and kung-fu, and that he felt Stahelski's kung-fu background might make him the perfect fit for the star — Keanu Reeves.

'They gave me the job, I don't know why'

Stahelski said he showed up and a majority of the stunt performers with a kung-fu background were professional Chinese martial artists, while he showed up as a scruffy looking white guy who looked "homeless," as he was still recovering from working that morning on a TV series. He was then introduced to Keanu and spent the next few hours being pulled through the stunt man ringer, even saying he might have been concussed by the time he left. Eventually, "they gave me the job, I don't know why," he said.

Interestingly enough, his first day on set was to shoot the high-octane lobby scene where Neo and Trinity perform unbelievable feats of martial artistry combined with gun power. In one kickass moment, Neo does a one-handed cartwheel while firing a gun. Apparently the gun in the script was a small pistol, but of course on the day, the super heavy rifle just proved too tempting. Before they began shooting the scene, producer Joel Silver apparently came up to Stahelski and said, "Don't miss the f****** gun." Of course, Stahelski was being playful about it all. He said he "didn't know what he was doing," but by pure luck, he managed to grab the big gun, pull off the stunt, and that's what ended up in the movie. He joked that while he's never said it out loud, he sometimes does think about stepping in for Keanu in the "John Wick" movies for old times' sake.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" is due out on March 24, 2023.