At a special screening that took place at the Los Angeles Film School, we learned more than a thing or two about one of the most anticipated action sequels, John Wick: Chapter Two. The screening was attended by select press and students, and was followed by a Q&A with screenwriter Derek Kolstad, that was moderated by Jeff Goldsmith.
After the exhilarating film complete with non-stop action, bigger fighting sequences and gratuitous head shots, we were excited to find out more about how the cult hit came about from the film’s writer. In a ‘only in Hollywood’ way, Kolstad shared his unconventional but common start in the industry.
Here are 14 things that you might not know about the story behind the film!
- Derek Kolstad actually didn’t go to film school, which is funny to share at a place where kids are. He just loved films and his mom used to get surplus movies when he was growing up when they’d get marked down. Kolstad said he just devoured anything that came his way.
- To get a sense of his sensibilities, he admitted that he saw a lot of R-rated films growing up and read a lot to learn about world building but initially was scared of horror films.
- Said he was known as the kid who’s chicken out a bunch at sleepovers because he got scared too easy. However that changed when his uncle gifted him a copy of Stephen King’s ‘It’ and that after that his fear over all things was gone because once you’ve read that book, you’ve read the scariest thing. He was 12.
- He actually didn’t know anyone in the industry. The only person in his family to have achieved anything major was his aunt Lori Wick, who’s a famous Christian romance novelist.
- Koldstad wasn’t an overnight success story. He moved to LA and continued to have a regular coroporate job similar to the one he had on East coast which he hated. In truth he’d been at this for decades and his wife continuously encouraged him to try again.
- John Wick was originally titled ‘Scorn’ and he wrote it in 3-4 days. Said that like most scripts he’d written he was about ready to put it up on his script shelf like the rest of the things he wrote but his wife kept nudging.
- In the original script, John was actually in his early 70’s, his wife long dead and his dog was old. It was more of a last hoorah sort of film for the titular assassin.
- After getting representation for John Wick, his script sold and turned around VERY quickly. It was sold in February and the film came out in November of the same year.
- Apparently it did make its way around town for two months with major directors asking for crazy changes like “let’s kill John’s family” etc and he didn’t feel it was the right fit until it made it’s way to Keanu Reeves’ desk. The actor apparently reads everything that his people approve and has hundreds of scripts stacked on it. He read it over night and called Kolstad the next day.
- Kolstad is a HUGE Keanu Reeves fan, on his desk are figures of the actor from Bill and Ted and The Matrix. So he kinda immediately said ‘Yes’ to Reeves and helped him make the changes after the actor told him he wanted to play Wick at 35 years old instead of 70. After John Wick came out, his Keanu’s were joined by an action figure of his creation.
- Of the most Hollywood things he’s experienced, he said he got his ‘I’ve made it’ moment at the airport from the drivers who usually ask people what they do and what they’ve worked on which is commonplace. He had expected not much of a reaction when he said he wrote ‘John Wick’ but that usually it gets the most reactions as drivers have repeatedly told him it’s their fave movie.
- When asked if John is really doing it all for the dog, Kolstad likes to leave it to the audience. To him it can go both ways, it could be the dog but it could also be an excuse to unleash the killer inside that he holds back in his wife’s memory by creating reasons he can justify by vengeance in order to become the Boogeyman.
- John and Helen Wick were named after his grandparents. Before the first film came out he wanted to surprise his family with that fact but the surprise carried with it some bittersweet-ness as his grandmother passed away shortly before the film’s release.
- When he writes he doesn’t create all the crazy elaborate sequences in the film. He leaves that up to the director with bare bones of where they action should be. He includes blow-blows and the use of the words ‘THUMP THUMP” and his remedy for writer’s block is playing the yes or no based game: ‘There’s a dead man in the room’
John Wick: Chapter II hits theaters this Friday!