John Wick Was Originally Scripted as 75 Years Old, Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford Considered

Try to imagine Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford in the lead role in John Wick, because that was what franchise producer Basil Iwanyk had originally pictured for the hit action movie series. Via Entertainment Weekly, new information about the original film is revealed in the new book They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

According to the book, screenwriter Derek Kolstad had originally written the John Wick character to be 75 years old. A bit similar to the FX series The Old Man starring Jeff Bridges, the story was first conceived with a much older lead character, following the titular hitman years after his retirement before he’s thrust back into the game. Iwanyk explained how he was picturing Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford for the lead role after reading that original script.

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“One of my best friends is Charlie Ferraro at UTA, who sent me this script from Derek Kolstad called Scorn. The lead was a75-year-old man, twenty-five years after being retired. It was the fun of watching Clint Eastwood kick ass. I thought, ‘Okay, there’s probably one or two names you could do this with: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford.’ Other than that, I’m not sure how I put this movie together. But the tone of the script for John Wick was subversive and really fun. It has a very clear emotional through line and a great premise for an action movie.”

The story wound up changing once Keanu Reeves got involved. Early in development on John Wick, Iwanyk just so happened to be asked if he had any action movie roles available for Reeves. While Reeves was much younger than how the character was written, he was still given the screenplay to gauge his interest in potentially starring in the film.

“My other best friend in the world, this guy Jimmy Darmody, is an agent at CAA, who at the time represented Keanu. And he said, ‘Do you have any action movies for Keanu Reeves?’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘Keanu is one of the great action stars of the last 25 years — what happened to him? What’s he been doing?’ And he was directing his movie, Man of Tai Chi, and doing 47 Ronin. We give him the script, we tell him, ‘Clearly, you’re not 75.'”

Keanu Reeves Was Quickly On Board for John Wick

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Keanu Reeves explains in the new book why he boarded John Wick. The actor said he was attracted to the story about a man who goes on a journey to “reclaim his life” after losing the love of his life. He said that he wanted to be a part of the film as they all “agreed on the potential of the project.” As Basil Iwanyk adds, the decision to ultimately go with Reeves came after he saw the actor take such a great interest in the story and said he wanted to play a younger version of the character.

“We had talked internally about actors, but it was Keanu Reeves — a voracious script reader; anything he gets his hands on, he reads — who got his talons into it and made it his own. I spent two months at Keanu’s house on the weekends working on the script. When I first went and met with him and walked into his house, and as he rounded the corner to say hello to me — it’s a nice house, it’s not ostentatious for a guy who’s worth, I dunno, billions — and I look in his office, I see he has three hundred screenplays stacked on his desk, because he reads everything that UTA, WME, William Morris sends out. He reads them all. And so to think that he read something on a Friday, in ninety minutes, and was like, ‘I want to do it.’ In that moment, before I met and really clicked with him, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do it, too.’ The first thing that Keanu said to me was, ‘Okay, Derek, I’m going to play him 35.’ And I’m like, ‘Fine.'”

We know now that the decision to make John Wick younger with Reeves in the role has paid off, as the action movie series has been incredibly successful. A fourth film is currently on the way with a scheduled release date of March 24, 2022, and a fifth film is also in the planning stages.