Another thing I was struck by is, and this is true for all the films, but especially in the beginning of “John Wick: Chapter 4,” Keanu says very little. He’s very laconic. When you’re pulling the script together, how did you approach writing what John Wick would say? And was there any conscious effort to have it be as little as possible?
Finch: [Does John Wick impression] Yeah. Keanu is an actor who has the courage not to speak. Now, he has a look that he does on film when he looks at somebody, and it basically says, “I’m going to kill you next.” He does that in person also, just to be clear. It’s really quite disconcerting. It’s like, “Please f***ing stop doing that. Please don’t look at me that way.” So yeah, he’s a guy that does not want to speak.
The joy of this franchise, again, is its non-expositional nature. He doesn’t sit there and tell you who he is, who he thinks he is, what he thinks the world owes him. He lets other people do that. He’s not concerned with that, which makes it so potent. It’s truly encompassed in that line that says he’s not the boogeyman — he’s the man you hire or send to kill the boogeyman.
Writing a scene for Keanu is an exercise in redaction. He’s going to say as little as possible. He can sell the moment and he’s going to essentially lean into the other characters to fill in that blank. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s one of the things I think that makes the Baba Yaga so dangerous. It’s the scene in the first movie where Viggo calls him and [John Wick] listens and says absolutely nothing. Then he hangs up the phone and the other guy asks, “What did he say?” and Viggo says, “Enough.” So writing for Keanu is figuring out how to craft a scene where he can have a physical presence without really saying much of anything.
Hatten: If a character tells you they’re cool, you don’t think they’re cool. But if everybody else in the movie clearly thinks this guy is something to be feared and revered and has this attitude toward him, then you as an audience member, I think, gain that attitude.
Keanu knows that better than anybody. When I first started working on these movies, I would write too much dialogue for him, but Keanu would just know, “I don’t need to say that to convey how badass and scary I am.” So it really is just letting him lead by example by how well he knows the character.
Finch: Part of that is the fact that Keanu realizes that whenever he’s shooting this movie, part of him believes he’s John Wick. John Wick knows the rules of this world. He knows the players. He wouldn’t say things, he wouldn’t stop, look at the camera and explain to an audience, because there is no audience. He’s actually living this moment. He’s embraced the fantasy, which, by the way, he drags other actors into — they become their characters, largely. Which I think is one of the reasons the movie works so well, and it does really come from him and from Chad [Stahelski].
By treating us like adults, by not stopping the film to tell us what’s going on, by making us catch up, and by letting us enjoy the moment without the background noise of exposition, he allows us to enter this world for a moment and peek over his shoulder. There’s something very gratifying about that and very satisfying. And I’ve got to say, when I watch the early cuts, I’m like, “Oh, s***, is this going to work? Because he’s not saying anything.” But it does.
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