There’s a fourth Matrix movie on the way and, contrary to previous reports, the Wachowskis will be involved. That’s according to John Wick 3 director Chad Stahelski, who worked on the original trilogy.
“I’m super happy that the Wachowskis are not just doing a Matrix, but they’re expanding what we all loved,” Stahelski told Yahoo Movies UK. “And if it’s anywhere near the level of what they’ve already done, it wouldn’t take more than a call to go, ‘Hey, we want you to be a stunt guy’ and I would probably go and get hit by a car.”
Surprised, we followed up by asking if the Wachowskis were directing the new film. “I’m not sure of the overall,” Stahelski replied. “I’m not sure if Lana is.”
But they’re involved? “Yeah. And if they wanted help, I would absolutely put down whatever I was doing to help them.”
John Wick 3 is probably the best American action film since The Matrix, which is appropriate – Wick’s director and star met on the set of that incredible movie, when Chad Stahelski performed as Keanu Reeves’ stunt double for Lilly and Lana Wachowski, the filmmaking duo who made the original Matrix movies.
Someone else who may have been disappointed was Keanu Reeves. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive reveal of the project contained Yahoo Movies’ UK interview with Reeves, in which he stated he’d only be involved if the Wachowskis were. “They would have to write it and direct it. And then we’d see what the story is, but yeah, I dunno, that’d be weird, but why not?”
Armed with the new knowledge that the original directors are working on the movie, we asked Reeves how he would feel about returning to Neo, if the Wachowskis presented him with the perfect script, just to see if his feelings have changed. Sure enough, they have.
“That would be a gift,” Keanu said. “I wouldn’t say no to that. Yeah.”
As for how Reeves would approach Neo twenty years later, the actor has a process. “I think when you get to revisit a story and continue to tell a story, you’re bringing in the past and the work that you’ve done.”
“So for me, it’s about placing the emotional state of where you are into who the character is. How do they feel? How do they think? And then putting on the suit if the costume really becomes the exterior that you fill in.”
So, exciting times for Matrix fans – now all we need is official confirmation from Warner Brothers, and we’ll log back into being excited about the idea of a fourth Matrix movie.
Until then, we have the stunning John Wick 3 to keep us going. We sat down with Stahelski to discuss the making of the movie, discussing everything from how the editing style improves the action, to what it was like to work with Billions’ Asia Kate Dillon, to revealing how intensely involved Keanu Reeves is with the franchise. It makes for a very interesting, and open, read.
Yahoo Movies UK: So, John Wick 3 has the Tarkovsky theatre and Atomic Blonde has the Stalker fight scene…
Chad Stahelski: Oh, you picked all that up.
What is it about Tarkovsky that speaks to you and David?
Dave [Leitch, co-director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde helmer] and I have been friends and partners for twenty years. We have similar aesthetics for sure.
For me, it’s the depth. Every shot with Tarkovsky means something. And I come from the Wachowskis’ school of filmmaking. I spent ten, twelve years with them, over the course of five, six films.
It’s his blocking. A dolly shot with Tarkovsky means something more than just moving a camera, it has nothing to do with kinetic energy. He’s trying to invoke emotion. Very few people have tied visuals to a human experience. If that gets too deep, sorry.
You have to start somewhere. The whole concept behind John Wick when David and I started was to make smart, pretty action. I get it, it’s surreal, he kills all these guys over a puppy, and there’s fealty, and high tables, and he’s walking in the desert in a suit, and he rides horses… we get the wackiness. F**king relax, we’re having fun, you can’t call the logic police on me.
You know, it’s about art for us. I’m a huge Nietzsche fan, so when we say lines like, you know, ‘Art is pain, pain life is suffering.’ The whole purpose of life is art, I truly believe that.
I want to do cool action, I want to blow stuff up, I want to make you laugh. I want to do everything that a superhero movie does, that a Bourne does, that a Bond does – create worlds, and give you wish fulfilment.
But there’s no reason not to have a little depth to it, there’s no reason not to have that, so Keanu and I will sit down at the beginning of every film. We love Bernardo Bertolucci, we love Akira Kurosawa, I love Leone. Am I any of those people? No. Am I as good as any of those people? No.
Can I pay tribute to them? Yes. Do I understand why they make me feel the way I do? Yes. Do I understand why I love them? Yes. I try to bring that to Wick, that’s all.
How does your editing style factor in?
I love framing. The way I edit, with my editor Evan Schiff is, it’s what I call symmetrical editing. Super wide, medium, tight, tight, medium wide… If I’m going to spend millions of dollars in prep, ten times more than most directors do, with rehearsals and stunt teams, and have my camera at rehearsals, and dogs, and horses… We spend more time prepping than we do actually shooting the film. That’s why we can do the things we do, and why it looks real.
I love live performances. I like going to the ballet. I sit in that center seat, and I watch. All the action I do I try to do that, that’s why you see so many profiles and tracking shots and stuff.
I’m not against editing, I’m not against shaky cam, I’m not against any of that stuff. I just want to give you the experience of a live performance, of watching talented people do it. If you go to New York City Ballet, London Royal Ballet, or anything like that, they rehearse for six or seven months to do an hour and a half show. Have you ever seen a ballerina f**k up on stage?
No, I haven’t.
That’s the thing, so we’re just trying to give you that same sense.
My only beef with editing and camera work is when you’re trying to hide shit. If you didn’t do your homework, because you don’t know anything about f**king action, if you don’t have an editing style planned…
I guarantee you Spielberg and Nolan know how they’re going to edit before they walk on set. They have a plan. Now, do they know the exact edit? No. But they have an aesthetic they’re trying to get. Mine is, I want to suck you into this world as an observer. I don’t want you to be right there with the guy with the shaky cam, I want you to sit back, relax. and be invested in this world.
It really keys into some of your other influences, you watch a Shaw Brothers movie, and it is a bit like a like ballet, they’re doing these amazing moves, the camera’s fixed…
That’s it. It’s an opera, that’s what they’re doing. It comes from the Peking Opera, and the Hong Kong Opera, that’s why they do it. It’s a big wide shot, wide shot, but they’re not trying to just show off. Back in the day, and I’ve talked to Woo-Ping Yuen many times about this, who is one of the biggest authorities on it, they were giving you the operatic experience.
It wasn’t about the wackiness of switching perspectives in editing that hadn’t evolved yet. It was, ‘Well, why shouldn’t the movies be like the theater?’ That was their hook and I took that to be what this is.
The film also has a South Korean style, and it’s interesting hearing you talk about sort of the elements that maybe people don’t forgive the John Wick franchise for, the tonal shifts, whereas I feel that’s much more accepted in South Korean cinema…
You know, it’s a graphic novel, you can just switch. I don’t do three acts, I do two acts, and you can tell. All the movies are two acts. You know, mission or problem.
I don’t really mean it to be a cliffhanger, I’m not trying to do sequels, it’s just, you know, if you’re dealing with consequences fate like how, how the f**k you want me to end it?
Honestly, have you ever seen a happy ending in a graphic novel? You complete the mission.
You may have the biggest interview of your life and knock it off today, does that make you a world champion tomorrow? You still gotta get dressed, you still gotta earn a living, you’ve still got to fight traffic the next day… John Wick, yeah, he survived this time. but I’ve got news for you, he’s probably not going to have a happy ending.
He’ll have happy days, but Wick’s kind of f**ked. That’s how we keep it consequential.
Time is obviously a big theme in the movie, how many more of these do you think you guys can do?
Look, there’s a reason we stayed for three, there’s a reason I didn’t jump ship and go do twenty other projects, and there’s a lot out there that I really like.
Creatively, how many other studio films can you put in the Tarkovsky theatre, or Buster Keaton moves? How many do you think would put a guy in a suit to ride a horse through Brooklyn, or go to Morocco, or just f**king go ‘I’m gonna spend a million dollars on training dogs?’
How many projects do you think exist like that? Where I can do any martial art I want, I don’t have to stick to the reality of what a Navy Seal would really do, or what a super assassin from the CIA would do, or what the gravitational laws on Mars are?
I can invent my own shit. If I want to put a Tarkovsky reference, or if I want to use Vivaldi, and just f**k with classical music, I can. Keanu and I are the true authors of the world, and that’s that’s enticing.
So, we have ideas for days, are you kidding? The amount of love I have for cinema… like again if you can’t smell the Wachowski on this movie, you haven’t watched it.
But we could do a million of them, it’s not like it’s tedious. It’s not like we just phone it in, going ‘Ah, you’re just gonna kill five more guys with a gun,’ we try to make it different.
The answer to your question is I truly don’t know, my interest is there. I’d like to give it a go, but like, there’s other things I want to try too, for sure.
The same answer Keanu and I gave on number two, we’ll give on number three, and number four. We’ll take a month, we’ll sit in a room and come up with ideas. If at the end of that month – and we’re brutally honest with each other – if we look at each other…
I would go see John Wick 3, because it’s what I love, I love Mark Dacascos, I love Ian McShane, I love world building, I love horses, I love the action, I love the wackiness, I love the two-act storytelling, I don’t like happy endings…
…So if we got together and wrote a treatment for number four, and put our vision wall up on the board, and it’s a cash grab? We’d bail. And, you know, it’d go to somebody else, and they’d try and do whatever.
The answer is, we’ll see. And that’s also dependent on money, it’s a financial thing. Our budget keeps going up, we keep doing more wacky shit…
What’s good in today’s market? I live the business, and I couldn’t tell you what would make that happen. We have Avengers breaking a billion dollars. When everybody out there is a superhero fan there is no more low budget action, it doesn’t exist.
So unless you’re willing to spend seventy to a hundred million dollars on even a medium level action movie, it’s hard to compete. Look at us, when they told me I was opening three weeks after Avengers, I shit myself. I’m like ‘That’s suicide.’ And they keep telling me ‘It’s gonna be okay,’ but I have no f**king idea.
Warner Brothers are rebooting The Matrix, is that something that you could potentially be interested in? I mean, I know how much respect you have for the Wachowskis…
I will leave this open. I’m not sure now, because of the influence [they had on me]. There’s a reason fealty is a big part of John Wick, and if you come from the group I come from, the crew I come from, I think they’re some of the best people I’ve ever met in Hollywood.
I’ve got almost 30 years in the business. You don’t really get that far, and have an enjoyable life unless you’re building very, very strong bonds with the people that you spend time with. You spend more time with the crews than you do with your family, unfortunately.
I’m super happy that the Wachowskis are not just doing a Matrix, but they’re expanding what we all loved, I think. And if it’s anywhere near the level of what they’ve already done, it wouldn’t take more than a call to go, ‘Hey, we want you to be a stunt guy’ and I would probably go and get hit by a car.
Are they directing it, or…
I’m not sure of the overall.
But they’re involved.
Yeah. And if they wanted help, I would absolutely put down whatever I was doing to help them.
John Wick has always circled around the Matrix thing in casting, but this has the most direct reference. Did you feel that you had to earn the right to make that reference? I mean, I know you were involved in the original films…
Don’t kid yourself, I’m lucky to f**king be here. I know exactly my story.
I don’t have any credibility to be genius, or super creative, or artistic, I’d just like to think I’m somewhat smart in working with smart people. You watch how they do it. Casting is probably one of the most important things.
After twenty years of second unit and being with other directors, working with over 100 other directors, and it can look good on paper – cast this guy with this director – and they f**king can’t turn their engines on to go talk to him. This guy thinks he’s coming to do his own movie, and this guy’s got his own movie…
If we don’t get the right vibe from somebody right off the bat I don’t care what it looks like on f**king paper. It’s just going to hurt the film. People think directors run the show, and they really don’t. You know it’s a collaborative thing. If you’ve got people that don’t get along, they won’t f**king get along, and then you get into this Hollywood big d**k contest, who’s going to get their way?
And it’s also trust. If you’re a $20 million a show actor, and you’re making money, your livelihood is dependent on it. You get some first time director who’s telling you what to do, are you going to give up your career and take that hit for a guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing? There’s a lot of trust there.
Let’s take Wick, I go to Keanu and say ‘I know this is the script you signed on for, but I would like to make it about Greek mythology, and you’re not going to kill five people, I want you to kill a hundred, and it’s gonna be over a puppy, and we’re going to have this weird Judo stuff that’s super-slow and I’m not going to edit like everybody else is doing right now.’
Would you take that shot? Like the balls Keanu had to back Dave and I was massive, because everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you’re friends’ but, there’s being friends and there’s giving up $10 million, there’s a big f**king difference. So the trust goes a long way. You know, it’s just it’s an odd thing. I cast people who have work that I’m a big fan of. Even people I didn’t know, like Asia Kate Dillon. I was a big fan of Billions and all that stuff.
She’s unreal in this film.
She was fantastic. Her casting involved a meeting with Keanu, a meeting with me and Keanu, and a meeting with me. I called everybody I could on Billions and got nothing but incredibly positive responses about how collaborative Asia is, how great Asia is, how much Asia brings to the table, it was incredible.
That’s really interesting because I was fascinated by her performance, how precise it was, there are simple little movements are just amazing.
I’m a big fan. If you look at my casting, everybody’s a theatrical actor, everyone’s done stage work, they’re stage actors. I know you come from the Hollywood crowd, but I’ve seen actors pick up and obsessively play with a cup of tea, a cigarette… It’s what they teach in acting 101.
But Ian McShane can stand there with a handkerchief, stand there and do nothing. It’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for it, you know, you can see they’re very comfortable.
Having come from a choreography background where everything to me is dance, martial arts, gunfights, it’s all dance. So, with the camera, it’s all dance, the motion of how you look in the scene.
And a lot of times it’s not the punch or the kick, it’s the transition between that gives away if the guy’s good or bad.
In wide shots, you have to see that. When they do the fast editing, they cut out the awkward moments. But with Keanu, it’s a big wide; how he adjust the straps on the gun. how he holsters the gun, he’s fucking Fred Astaire out there.
That’s what it’s got to be, and the inconsistencies or the fractures, the failures, the oddness – that’s what makes it unique.
I try not to hide that, I want you to see for all the good and the bad, that’s the character. F**king deal with it. Then you see somebody like Asia come out, she puts on the wardrobe and the posture changes. She becomes authoritative.
We had this thing called ‘compressing the bubble,’ when you get too close when people talk? I have a friend who always gets too close, so we had Asia do that, and she’ll walk up to someone and she’ll press in, give you the eye, she’ll look, and then she’ll step back. She does everything slowly and very, very precisely.
She’s doing it for meaning, she’s not doing it to ‘act.’ But the Adjudicator is staring at you for that half second too long, taking that extra half beat to talk. You want that uncomfortable vibe, and Asia was fantastic at creating it.
And Halle Berry’s another new addition, and she’s also incredible.
If I told most people what Halle Berry had to go through, they would have laughed at me. That woman was never late for a single rehearsal. When you’re over 50, to do it at that level… I couldn’t go through what Keanu and Halle did on this. I’d have to take two or three months myself to get into that kind of shape just to go through the process, so that should say something.
Is part of why these films will never have an ending, because you don’t necessarily want to let the series go?
Just like John and his ring. I mean, I’m a big fan of TV, but take your f**king head out of formats for a second, short form, long form, or anything like that, because they always try to put you in a box – is it a TV show or is it a feature? How about we just say it’s a story?
What story have you ever been told that you loved, that you didn’t want to end? How many times did you not want to put that book down? How many times did you just put a book down and say ‘I wish they’d f**king write that again?’
I’m a voracious reader, I read five books a f**king week. Most of them suck, some of them are fantastic. And the ones that are, I’ll contact the writer and say ‘Dude, I think this is f**king great.’
But again, everything in John Wick is what I love about storytelling. So if the endings don’t end, that’s not me trying to be financially viable and set up a sequel, it’s just I don’t want it to f***king end. I don’t want to put that book down.
John Wick 3 is in UK cinemas on 17 May.