While Keanu Reeves is as synonymous with John Wick as he is with Neo from The Matrix, the role of the vengeful assassin almost went in an entirely different direction. According to a new (and excellently titled) behind-the-scenes book, They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, Derek Kolstad’s script for the first film was originally written with a much older actor in mind. In fact, there were two names that were specifically being kicked around: Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford.
Here’s John Wick producer Basil Iwanyk described the original script in an excerpt provided to Entertainment Weekly:
“The lead was a seventy-five-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.”
Considering Eastwood is in his 90s now, it would have been interesting to see him pull off the gun-fu movies required for the film and its multiple sequels. Granted, Ford is knocking out a fifth Indiana Jones movie, so he probably would’ve fared only slightly better at John Wick’s almost ballet-like choreographed battles. (Would we still have paid to see both? You bet!)
As for how Reeves became involved, the actor’s agent was aggressively looking for projects to get him out of a career slump. When Reeves read the script, he immediately wanted in. And if you know anything about Reeves, the guy is an aggressive reader, so when something sparks his interest, you really know you got something.
“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,” Kolstad said while recalling his first time meeting Reeves at his house. “And so 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.’”
(Via Entertainment Weekly)