John Wick’s Original Script Only Had 3 Kills

John Wick

Few would disagree with the John Wick series being called the best action series to come out of Hollywood in recent memory. The first film kicked things off with frenetic high body-count action scenes and its sequels only upped the ante from there. Each John Wick adventure is over the top, overly violent and an overall excellent portfolio of impressive action scenes. But it seems that was not always going to be the case.

Director Chad Stahelski recently revealed that the first film’s original screenplay only saw Wick kill a measly 3 people. For context, that would be approximately 77 fewer deaths than in the final cut, meaning that this draft would be missing over 95% of the movie’s kills. Stahelski recently explained how the film came to be so different from the original script when speaking to, saying:

“I think [Keanu Reeves] sent [the script] to me on a Friday and I read it maybe that day and thought about it over the weekend. It was much more contained. I think only three people died in the original script, two were in a car crash. It was very, very minimal, and it was slightly different. I read it, and I’d always had this idea about Greek mythology and how to tell more a fablestic kind of story, make a surreal action movie so it wasn’t so grounded and gray, just something different.”

He added that:

“People joke about [the kill count], but the way I choreograph with my guys and stuff, we just choreograph motion and set pieces and we try to get this balletic kind of dance, live performance feel to everything. It’s just when you shoot people in the head, they can’t get back up so you can reuse a stunt guy. Every time Keanu moves, he does two half circles. He’s killed five guys. So I got to keep using more and more stunt guys.”

Stahelski has directed every John Wick film released so far, which explains how they’ve all been able to maintain this sensibility, even as the number of nameless goons to be dispatched increases and the set pieces become more fantastically exaggerated. According to the director, the sequels’ constant escalation stems not from a perceived need to outdo prior films, but rather a desire to adapt to the star’s ever-advancing finesse.

“I think, just by nature, because Keanu’s gotten so much better with the choreography and the martial arts and the motion and we change weapons so much and we get bigger set pieces, that, just by its very nature, because the scene grows, the body count grows. But we don’t start off going, ‘Okay, what was in number three? How do we beat it for number four?’ We just choreograph and it happens.”

What will this mean for the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4? Stahelski has so far remained silent, but with his position in the director’s chair secured and Keanu Reeves probably having ample time to train while in lockdown, signs seem to suggest that the next John Wick outing will keep this series tradition alive and well.