How Bruce Lee Influenced Keanu Reeves’ John Wick, According To Director Chad Stahelski

 Bruce Lee posed to fight in Enter the Dragon and Keanu Reeves shielding himself with his jacket in John Wick: Chapter 4, pictured side by side.
Bruce Lee posed to fight in Enter the Dragon and Keanu Reeves shielding himself with his jacket in John Wick: Chapter 4, pictured side by side.

50 years ago, Bruce Lee’s iconic action movie Enter the Dragon made an impression on the world that’s still felt today. An iconic film with an equally landmark performance from Lee, it’s still remembered as a watershed moment in the world of martial arts adventures. Thanks to a new essay by John Wick: Chapter 4 director Chad Stahelski, we now know how the famed karate star influenced Keanu Reeves’ character in that action showdown franchise.

Through a tribute penned for Empire’s celebration of Enter the Dragon, Stahelski poured his heart out in honor of the 1973 film’s new 4K restoration. As it turns out, what he loved about Bruce Lee and his role contributed in an exciting way to Baba Yaga himself. Here’s how Chad Stahelski tied these two action icons together:

I love the action, but I’m also a sucker for his personality. Half the reason you love what he does is that you love him: the innocence and the arrogance. He projects the confidence of a young man trying to find himself. Bruce knew how to be vulnerable, and I really appreciate that about him. Many of the people who tried to imitate him came out with all bravado: ‘I can’t ever lose!’ Bruce is thinking, ‘I might lose here. I have to do the right thing.’ A lot of what we do in John Wick, the non-verbal communication, is based off of what Bruce did.

If one were to to sum up Keanu Reeves’ universe sparking character, that last quoted statement would probably be the best. Though as we saw in John Wick: Chapter 4’s ending, that same message could be translated into what was written on the supposedly late Mr. Wick’s tombstone: “Loving Husband.” Indeed, watching Mr. Wick fighting through increasingly difficult odds to avenge his slain dog, and mitigate the consequences as a result, is potentially one of the largest cases of fighting for what’s right.

On the more realistic side of the coin, you can see the same dedication Bruce Lee put into his training exhibited in Keanu Reeves’ physical training, as well as his way with weapons. Even that trademark personality that the John Wick director cites as a contributing factor to his Enter the Dragon fandom is exuded in lines like, “Yeah, I think I’m back.”

As much as Chad Stahelski talks about breaking down the fights of Lee’s epic picture, the man certainly understood all the other moving pieces that went into the mix. That’s part of why a franchise as young as John Wick became a part of the conversation over the best action movies known to humanity. But let's not forget that much as Bruce Lee's films equally cashed in on his personality and physicality, the same can be said for Keanu Reeves and the John Wick saga.

One could certainly theorize that in 50 years time, the Wick movies will be considered in the same breath as Enter the Dragon, but ultimately only the progression of history will reveal that answer. For now, you action fans can get your hand on John Wick: Chapter 4.

The film is currently available for rental or purchase, through digital or physical media. However, if you’re waiting for the movie’s streaming debut, Starz will be premiering this latest bone breaker on September 26th. Also, for those of you looking to revisit Enter the Dragon, that adventure is currently streaming for those who possess a Max subscription.